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2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe: Lessons learned in a week-long test

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The last time I drove a Jeep Wrangler, I averaged 14.8 MPG in combined driving. I may have even used the word “dismal” to describe the Wrangler’s fuel economy and stated it isn’t really a great city vehicle – even if it can maneuver the heck out of a parallel parking space. But that changes with the new Wrangler 4xe.

During the test period, I took a road trip and volunteered for the Chicago Marathon. So, I had a nice mix of highway and city driving and learned a few things along the way.

Since we already have a first-drive review, I’m not going into the weeds on powertrain, but I do want to share those lessons learned after living with the vehicle.

Lesson 1: Actual electric range

In its September 2020 press release, Jeep states the all-electric range for the Wrangler 4xe is “up to” 21 miles. And when I was done charging the test vehicle it would show anywhere from 24 to 26 miles of electric range.

The vehicle’s estimated range is going to be based off past driving habits, and since I’m not the only person who’s driven the vehicle, I knew going into it that range wouldn’t be accurate.

But what I did get was pretty close to Jeep’s original estimate during my marathon volunteer day: about 20 miles. It included a short stint on a highway and a maze of city streets littered with stop signs and lights.

And I didn’t try to hypermile.

So, I imagine, if I didn’t hop on the highway at all or was a little gentler on the throttle, I probably could have done a lot better.

At the end of the day, my overall fuel economy wad 23 MPGe, which is a far cry from 14.8 MPG, and I consider that a huge win – especially considering I had about 400 highway miles on the tester.

Wrangler 4xe

Lesson 2: Charge time for the Wrangler 4xe

I don’t have a level 2 charger at home because I rent. So, I’m stuck with a 120-volt jack in my garage. As we saw with the Mustang Mach-E, that meant it would take more than three days to charge that battery.

But one of the benefits of this being a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle is the smaller battery, which means shorter charge times. When I plugged it in, it gave me a charge time of 12 hours 55 minutes to go from 0 to 100%, and I found that to be accurate.

If you work a 9-to-5 job, this is plenty of time to charge overnight and be ready to go the next morning with a full charge.

Now, if I’d had a Level 2 at-home charger, it would have taken a little less than 2 hours to complete the charge.

Lesson 3: No one-pedal driving

Anyone who is familiar with electric vehicles is probably familiar with the concept of one-pedal driving. But the quick gist is this: when you lift off the accelerator, the regenerative braking kicks in without hitting the brake and can slow the vehicle to a complete stop.

This doesn’t have that.

But what Wrangler 4xe does have is a really stout regenerative braking system – if you want it.

The default is to coast and operate like a regular gas engine vehicle. But if you RTFM (which I did), you find there’s an unintuitively depicted button on the dash with a battery and arrows that you can press to activate the max regen feature.

In addition to pushing more brake energy back to the battery, it also helps slow the vehicle considerably with the accelerator lift.

What I love most about this button: You select it once, and it stays on – no matter how many times you turn the vehicle on or off.

Wrangler 4xe

Lesson 4: Battery reserve

I never understood why more PHEVs don’t let you reserve the electric range for things like city driving or stop-and-go traffic. You know, in situations where you use the most fuel.

Thankfully, the Wrangler 4xe does have this option. So, if you’re doing some city driving then a lot of highway driving, you can use the electric drive mode during inefficient city driving, then switch over to save mode when you’re at a constant speed on the highway. When you hit the surface streets again, you can drop back into EV mode.

I think that’s pure brilliance.

The bottom line on the Wrangler 4xe

I know a lot of people like the Wrangle 4xe for the quiet off-road commune-with-nature EV mode, which is nice and all, but this city girl appreciates the fact that in a normal test week, I could probably go all week without a drop of gas.

The dismal fuel economy, which was a huge detractor for the Wrangler, is now a moot point.

OK, yes, the premium for the 4xe, which bases as a Sahara trim, is $11k over the regular Wrangler Sahara. And, yes, it might take some time to recoup that cost, but not having to stop at a gas station in Chicago, like ever, is priceless.

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Jill Ciminillo

Jill Ciminillo is the Managing Editor for Pickup Truck + SUV Talk as well as a Chicago-based automotive writer, YouTube personality and podcast host, with her articles and videos appearing in outlets throughout the U.S. Additionally, she co-hosts a weekly radio show on car stuff for a local Chicago station. Previously, Jill has been the automotive editor for both newspaper and broadcast media conglomerates. She is also a past president for the Midwest Automotive Media Association and has the distinction of being the first female president for that organization. Jill is also currently a juror for the North American Car, Utility and Truck of the Year (NACTOY).

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