Listen to the sounds of nature crunch under rubber with the Jeep Wrangler 4xe Rubicon PHEV.
You never realize how loud an engine is until you get out in nature and hear its roar echoing off rocks and through the trees. Suddenly, that nice off-road drive you planned feels so much more intrusive.
That’s what I loved about the Jeep Wrangler 4xe (pronounced four-by-e, the same way you would pronounce 4×4) Rubicon plug-in hybrid. It was the first time I’ve used a vehicle outdoors and felt like I’d fully immersed myself in nature rather than disturbing it. And knowing you’re not going to leave a large emissions footprint in the process is even better.
What Makes This Jeep Special
The Jeep Wrangler 4xe is a plug-in hybrid vehicle, which means that its traditionally gas-powered engine is supplemented by a 17 kWh electric motor that can provide either a hybrid or an all-electric drive. Select electric mode, and you can travel an EPA-estimated 21 miles—although I managed 23 with a light right foot. If you’re towing or driving faster, you’ll likely use more.
You can also pop it into hybrid mode to manage 48 mpge. That measurement basically means that, with your gas engine supplemented by an electric motor, you can travel the equivalent of 48 mpg.
All told, you can travel about 400 miles on a tank of gas and a fully-charged battery. But if you travel fewer than 20 miles a day, you can manage to avoid touching the gas tank for weeks at a time.
To fully charge your battery, you’ll need to use the dedicated charge port to plug your 4xe into a charger for 2.5 to 12 hours, depending on the type of charger you have. Opt for a Level 1 charger, the kind you’re most likely to have at home, and you’ve committed to a lengthy recharge. Go for a Level 2, and you’ll take advantage of the quicker recharge time. PHEVs can’t yet use the Level 3 chargers, known as the “fast chargers.”
And those are just the basics. Jeep included a ton of awesome features and bits of technology to its first electrically-supplemented vehicle, creating a quiet and efficient product you’ll love. It includes:
- Scheduled charging, so you can take advantage of cheaper, off-peak charging rates. You can plug your 4xe in any time, but it won’t start charging until it has reached the time you’ve selected in the infotainment system.
- One-pedal driving, which means you can accelerate by pressing the accelerator and decelerate by lifting off pressure.
- Maximum regeneration mode, which slows the car even faster when you lift off the accelerator, which means more power goes back into the battery.
- E Selec modes, which are the 4xe’s drive modes: Hybrid, Electric, and eSave
- Selec-Speed Control, which allows you to use the manual shift settings to control your speed when ascending or descending hills.
- Electronic sway-bar disconnect, which makes off-roading all the easier.
Off-Roading Is a Whole New Experience
Now, if you’re in the market for a Jeep Wrangler 4xe, you’re likely already wondering about its off-road capabilities. Lots of folks have been asking how well an electronically-assisted power system compares to the conventional gasoline ones when it comes to a demanding off-road course. And the answer is: it does damn well.
Dan Fry, the technology integration manager for the 4xe, said that, since off-roading is by nature a low-speed event, Electric mode is perfectly suited for off-roading. You’ll benefit from the battery-generated instant torque, which applies power to your wheels to quickly get you through an obstacle without any of the delay that accompanies a traditional combustion engine. Be warned, though: that immediate rush of power can come as a surprise if you’re used to the slow burn you get from a gas engine. You’ll have a learning period, but it won’t take long.
And because you’re not traveling at high speeds or hauling a ton of equipment while you’re on the trail, you can crawl around for up to four hours using nothing but electric power.
You’ll want to use that electric power, too. I’ve only been off-roading once before, but I have to say that it was a whole new experience to do so without the engine sounds making a bunch of disruptive noise. I could hear the slosh of water as I forded through a 30-inch deep river. I could hear the skid plates underneath the car scraping against the rocks, plus the tires squeaking over slick sections of rock. Plus, I could easily hear guidance from our off-road guides, which is great for a beginner like me. It’s tough to communicate over a loud engine—unfortunately, it also meant those guides could hear me cheering myself on as I took on challenging obstacles! And yes, you can remove both the roof and the doors for an even more immersive experience. We weren’t able to do so on our press trip, but that was okay, since it was unseasonably chilly in Texas.
And if you run out of battery on the trail, that’s okay—Jeep has you covered with its trailhead charging. The company is indeed adding solar-powered chargers at the heads of the best trails across America as part of Jeep’s Badges of Honor program. Sign up for that app, and you can earn both virtual and real-life badges each time you take on a historic off-road run. Charging at the trailheads isn’t rapid, but if you’re making a day of your adventure, you won’t mind.
But It’s Just as Good for the Commute
Just because your 4xe is capable of majestic off-roading feats doesn’t mean this machine is only good for one thing. In fact, you can make the most of your commute with the 4xe by doing your city driving in electric mode. Jeep did a great job of showing it off during my test drive, and I have to say, I managed to traverse through Austin proper, the suburbs, and even some of the more rural bits of town before my gas power kicked back on.
That swap, too, is pretty seamless. You might notice that your car gets a little louder and that you can feel the car rumbling underneath you a little bit more, but it isn’t jarring in the slightest. But if you’re using this to get groceries or head to work, you may not even have an opportunity to feel it!
To make the most of your city driving, you’ll want to activate max regen mode via a handy blue button just underneath the infotainment screen. This means you can take advantage of one-pedal driving in order to recharge your battery. Take your foot off the gas with this mode engaged, and the Wrangler 4xe will slow down much more rapidly than your conventional gasoline vehicle. That’s because the slowdown generates energy that the battery can harness and store for later use. It’s all about efficiency: you want to soak up as much power as possible at every moment. Nothing need go to waste; after all, it’s that little kick of stored energy that’ll help you travel a mile or two further on electric power.
All the Specs (and What They Mean)
Now, let’s talk about the specifications for this vehicle, along with what they mean, since things can get a little confusing if you’re not familiar with the electric car dictionary!
- Jeep Wrangler 4xe Sahara starts at $47,885
- Jeep Wrangler 4xe Rubicon starts at $51,695
- 77.2:1 crawl ratio
- Turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with two electric motors
- 21-mile all-electric range
- 400 mile total range, including electric power and a full tank of gas
- 48 mpge, or the equivalent of miles per gallon you earn that also takes into account the electric power
- 17 kWh Lithium-ion battery, which produces the electric power
- 370 horsepower
- 470 lb-ft of torque, which will help with towing; the electric motor alone makes 181 lb-ft of torque, which provides instant get-up-and-go
- 3,500-lb towing capacity
- 1,500 lb payload
- Level 1 Charging time: 12 hours
- Level 2 Charging time: 2.5 hours
- Android Auto/Apple CarPlay
- Four USB ports throughout the car that can each be used to control the radio
- Soft-top option
- Blue accents to let you know it’s a PHEV
Who Is the Jeep Wrangler 4xe For?
- Small families that love adventure
- The eco-friendly adventurer
- Young couples that strive to have fun
- A single person who works a demanding job but also wants to unwind outdoors
- Both Jeep lovers and those open to being converted to the Jeep way of life
What I Loved Most About the Jeep Wrangler 4xe
- Silent ride when off-roading
- Scheduled charging features
- Luxury feel with practical uses
- Instant torque
- Tons of drive option flexibility
- EV save mode, which lets you save your electric power for later and run entirely off of the gas engine until you get there.
- Seamless transition from electric to gas
- There’s a square indent in between the cupholders; it perfectly fit my cell phone, but it’s also designed to store your key!
For the Musically-Minded
While I’d totally understand if you didn’t want to disturb the nice silence you get with a car running on electric power, you’d be remiss not to take advantage of the gorgeous sound system with the playlist of electric pop I put together for my drive.
Full disclosure: Jeep invited me to drive the Jeep Wrangler 4xe in Austin, Texas. All opinions are my own.