2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe Review

Ron Sessions, Independent Expert | Apr 27, 2021

Introduction - Find the best Jeep deals!

The 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe is the brand’s first plug-in gas-electric hybrid in North America and the first-ever plug-in hybrid version of the Wrangler. Pronounced “four-by-eeee,” not “four-ex-eeee,” the new Wrangler 4xe builds on Jeep’s 80-year experience manufacturing vehicles with exceptional off-road capability.

The Wrangler is the ideological core of the Jeep brand. Every other Jeep model – from the subcompact Renegade and luxurious Grand Cherokee to the soon-to-be-introduced full-size Grand Wagoneer – is embodied with a measure of the Wrangler’s go-anywhere character.

The new 4xe model leads the brand’s transition to electrification. It includes:

  • A turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder gas engine
  • Two electric motor/generators
  • Plug-in charging ability
  • System output of 375 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque
  • A 17.3 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion hybrid battery
  • Full-time 4-wheel drive
  • An EPA-estimated rating of 49 MPGe
  • Electric blue design accents 

Aside from the hybrid powertrain, the 4xe rolls with the same Trail-rated suspension, steering, brakes, drive axles, wheels, tires, and tough ladder frame as conventionally powered Wranglers. Gas-only 4-cylinder turbo and V6 variants of the Wrangler remain in production, and there’s a soon-to-be introduced 392 V8 performance model on the way.

Jeep says it will eventually add electrification to all North American models.

The 4xe is available exclusively with the 4-door Unlimited body style in well-equipped Sahara and off-road-optimized Rubicon trims. Later this year, a new, full-luxury High Altitude model joins the 4xe stable. 

Previously, J.D. Power reviewed the 2020 Jeep Wrangler EcoDiesel, the 2019 Jeep Wrangler eTorque, and the 2018 Jeep Wrangler. This review focuses on the Wrangler’s new 4xe plug-in gas-electric model for 2021 and how it potentially impacts the rugged SUV’s overall appeal to consumers.

What Owners Say About the Jeep Wrangler - Find the best Jeep deals!

2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe Sahara Grey Front Quarter

Photo: Ron Sessions

According to data collected from verified owners for the J.D Power 2020 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, 64% of Jeep Wrangler owners are male (vs. 51% for the segment), and the median age of a Wrangler owner is 51 years (vs. 59).

Owners say their favorite things about the Wrangler are (in descending order) the:

  • Exterior styling
  • Setting up and starting
  • Interior design
  • Feeling of safety
  • Powertrain

Owners indicate their least favorite things about the Wrangler are (in descending order) the: 

  • Driving feel
  • Infotainment system
  • Getting in and out
  • Driving comfort
  • Fuel economy

In the J.D. Power 2020 APEAL Study, the Wrangler ranked number 15 out of 15 compact SUVs.

What Our Independent Expert Says About the Jeep Wrangler 4xe - Find the best Jeep deals!

In the sections that follow, our independent expert provides an analysis of a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4xe equipped with the following options:

  • Billet Silver Metallic Clear Coat Paint
  • Cold Weather Group (heated front seats, remote start)
  • Safety Group (rear park assist)
  • Advanced Safety Group (adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, automatic high beams, advanced brake assist)
  • Cargo Group with Trail Rail System (cargo area floor mat)
  • Soft Top Window Storage Bag
  • Remote Proximity Keyless Entry
  • Premium Black Sunrider Soft Top

The price of the test vehicle came to $54,030, including the $1,495 destination charge.

Charging at Home and the Trail Head

2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe Sahara Interior Hybrid Electric Pages

Photo: Ron Sessions

Owners charge the Wrangler 4xe’s battery using a port below the driver’s side windshield pillar. Charge port LEDs indicate charging status, and a second dash-top battery-level indicator affords easy monitoring of the charging procedure at a glance. The maximum charge rate of the 17.3-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion hybrid battery is 7.2 kilowatts.

Recharging a depleted battery takes 2.4 hours with a 240-volt Level 2 charger and a longish 16.5 hours with a 120-volt Level 1 unit. The Wrangler 4xe is not fast-charge-capable. 

In case you wondered, because the lithium-ion hybrid battery is secured in its waterproof case under the rear seat, the 4xe can ford water crossings up to 30 inches deep.

You can schedule home charging, say for overnight or off-peak hours when electricity rates may be less expensive, using the Hybrid Pages in the Uconnect center screen (shown above).

Jeep is in the process of installing solar-powered Level 2 chargers at 50 major off-road trailheads, mostly in the western U.S. While it’s not the nationwide network of fast-charge Supercharger stations Tesla has built, it’s a start. Most likely Jeep will increase the number of stations once it introduces more electrified SUVs.

E Selec Modes

The Wrangler 4xe gives the driver choices on how to use its hybrid-electric power. There are three e-Selec buttons for choosing drive modes, located beneath the headlamp switch to the left of the steering column. The modes are Hybrid, Electric, and eSave.

Hybrid Mode 

Hybrid mode blends torque from the 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine and electric drive motor, but it takes the 21 miles of battery power first. Once the battery reaches its minimum state of charge, the engine also recharges the battery sufficiently to power the electric drive motor to team with the gas engine driving the Jeep.

Electric Mode

Electric mode operates the Jeep sans fossil fuel for 21 miles or until the battery reaches minimum charge. However, this doesn’t apply if the driver fully depresses the accelerator or engages in high-speed driving during the first 21 miles; if that happens, the gas engine chimes in. The system automatically defaults to Hybrid driving mode when the initial electric-only driving range is used up.

eSave Mode

With eSave mode, the 4xe operates primarily on engine power to preserve the 21 miles of electric-only range for later use. This allows you to use the electric-only range for driving in an area that doesn’t permit internal combustion engine use or for near-silent electric off-roading. 

Owners can further customize the eSave mode using the Hybrid Pages in the Uconnect center display. Selecting Battery Save uses coasting and braking to help maintain battery charge, while checking Battery Charge on the screen makes full use of eSave mode by using the engine to charge the battery.

Who or What is Max Regen?

2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe Sahara Interior Max Regen Button

Photo: Ron Sessions

Drivers can activate a Max Regen system using a special button on the lower dashboard under the audio system volume control knob. 

A regenerative braking function, Max Regen assertively slows the 4xe when the driver lifts off the accelerator. This feature is more aggressive than the 4xe’s standard regenerative braking function. Max Regen also helps to more quickly recharge the hybrid battery while you’re driving. 

Max Regen is not capable of bringing the Wrangler 4xe to a complete stop, so it isn’t a true one-pedal driving system. But it will slow forward progress to a crawl (about 3 mph), whereupon the driver must finally step on the brake pedal to bring the Jeep to halt. 

The need to depress the foot brake can surprise you the first few times due to the longer-than-expected pedal travel and effort required. In that respect, coming to a halt when using Max Regen takes some practice because using the footbrake doesn’t give a linear deceleration response.

Instant Torque On- or Off-Road

The first thing you notice when depressing the pushbutton start switch on the 2021 Wrangler 4xe’s dashboard is how quiet things are. As with other hybrids, the engine doesn’t necessarily fire up unless it’s needed for cabin heating, cooling, or charging the hybrid battery. When you pull the conventional console shifter into Drive and ease onto the accelerator, the Wrangler 4xe whirrs forward with a turbine-smooth zeal.

A satisfying dollop of torque arrives without delay, pomp, or circumstance. There’s as much as 470 pound-feet of it on tap if the driver depresses the accelerator enough to poke the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbo engine to life. On full boil, Jeep says the 4xe can accelerate from rest to 60 mph in six seconds.

Off-road driving is where the Wrangler 4xe’s electrified powertrain shines. Because an electric motor develops full torque instantly, it’s uniquely suited to power the 4xe over challenging terrain. There is no waiting for a turbo to spool up or the engine speed to reach the point where it delivers the appropriate amount of torque. Response in electric mode is linear and reassuringly predictable, great when you’re trying to maneuver the Wrangler a few inches this way or that on a climb up a tricky rock face or precipice. 

Though the 181 pound-feet of torque available in electric mode doesn’t sound like a lot considering the Wrangler 4xe’s available 470 pound-feet from combined gas and electric power sources, Jeep calibrates the drivetrain to make the best use of it. The gear reduction of the 8-speed automatic transmission (4.71:1 in first), transfer case (2.72:1 with Sahara and 4:1 with Rubicon) and differential final drive (3.73:1 with Sahara and 4.1:1 with Rubicon) provide tremendous torque multiplication for moving the over-5,000-pound 4xe calmly and predictably over challenging terrain.

Independent Expert Opinion - Find the best Jeep deals!

2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe Sahara Rear Quarter

Photo: Ron Sessions

Jeep believes the new Wrangler 4xe will be additive to its customer base, attracting a new set of buyers interested in technology. While 21 miles of all-electric range available on a fully charged battery isn’t going to wow eco-minded SUV buyers, it is enough battery operation to handle a short commute or a couple of local errands without burning fossil fuel.

Of course, any plug-in hybrid car or crossover SUV can do that. What makes the Wrangler 4xe special are its unique off-road skills that come courtesy of its driver-selectable electric propulsion.

The 4xe is still a trail-rated Wrangler with 3,500-pound towing ability and room for five passengers and their cargo, but one with extra off-road skills thanks to its selectable electric propulsion. And despite the added 600-or-so pounds of the hybrid battery, its placement under the rear seat improves upon the Wrangler’s front/rear weight balance, making it less front-heavy and more neutral-handling on the road.

Over a drive route that included stop-and-go rush-hour city traffic, 55-70 mph rural highways, and unpaved sections, the Wrangler 4xe Sahara averaged an indicated 24.9 mpg. That figure includes the initial electric-only miles. Over a total of 115.7 miles, the 4xe operated under electric power for a total of 28.4 miles, which included braking and coasting, and 87.3 miles with the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbo engine running. 

Including the $1,495 destination charge, the Sahara 4xe is priced at $48,490, and the Rubicon at $53,190. The Wrangler 4xe is available in all 50 states and is eligible for the $7,500 federal tax credit as well as some state and local credits.

Ron Sessions is a seasoned vehicle evaluator with more than three decades of experience. He has penned hundreds of road tests for automotive and consumer websites, enthusiast magazines, newsletters, technical journals, and newspapers. 

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2022 J.D. Power

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