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When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

A silver 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe is shown from the rear off-roading in a desert.

How the Jeep Wrangler 4xe Handles and Drives

Are you thinking about the Jeep Wrangler 4xe and how good of a vehicle it is? If you’re already well-versed in the capability of a gas-powered Wrangler, the 4xe has a number of excellent reasons to give electric driving a whirl—or a whoosh, as Jeep likes to suggest—to see just how fun electric driving can be. Before you race out to your local Jeep Wrangler 4xe dealer, you might want to consider the differences in how your driving life could change when you switch to a hybrid. It’s not the money that should be the major decision consideration since you get a sizable tax credit for the hybrid if you qualify, but the way your driving habits may shift.

Power and Capability

Before we get into the charging and fuel efficiency, the Wrangler 4xe deserves to be given its fair shake in terms of its ability to charge up rocky mountain sides like the rest of its Wrangler stablemates. The 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four engine is paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission and generates 375 horsepower with 470 lb-ft of torque. That torque measurement matches what you get in the most powerful Jeep engine available, the V8, though it bears mentioning that the power actually comes from the combination of gas and electric power when the hybrid system is in use. Even so, the 4xe is the second-most powerful engine in the Jeep lineup.

So, if you want to achieve that ambitious six-second zero to 60 time, then you must have both gas and electric power at hand, and you also must have the four-wheel drive mode engaged. In the case of the 4xe, however, that shouldn’t be an issue since the four-wheel drive mode is the default, unlike the rest of the Wranglers. You do get a low-range transfer case with the 4×4, and it allows for serious rock crawling, even in electric-only mode. Jeep has talked up the electric mode as being a great way to silently creep through the wilderness, and the 21 miles of electric-only driving range should make it possible for several hours of trail riding.

Jeep offers the 4xe in three trims, two of which offer a 2.72:1 ratio, and the Rubicon trim offers a 4.0:1 gear ratio. In terms of trail riding, it may take time to get used to the feel of the low-speed crawl in the 4xe, especially if you’ve been driving a gas-powered Wrangler for a long time. Once you adjust to the difference in sound feedback and pedal feel, you’ll appreciate the power when the torque allows the 4xe to climb up boulders and steep inclines with goat-like ease. Even with the electric battery packs tucked up under the rear seats, Jeep encases them in water-tight confines so you can still ford water up to 30 inches just like any other Wrangler. One plus to the EV Wrangler is the improved comfort of its tendency to absorb uneven terrain even better than its gas-powered counterparts.

A close up shows the 4xe logo at a Jeep Wrangler 4xe dealer.

Charging and Actual Gas Mileage

It will take adjustment to get used to driving a hybrid like the Wrangler 4xe, as you do need to be aware of its driving modes and how they function in order to get the best capability and fuel efficiency. Driving the 4xe doesn’t need to be complicated, but it does require some forethought to your driving day if you want to benefit from the savings of owning an EV. Having the combination of the gas-powered engine and the 17.3 kWh lithium-ion battery is the best of both worlds: gas power for driving distance and electric power for torque and fuel savings. If you drive daily and you can keep the driving range within the 21 miles available in electric mode, that will offset the cost of driving on the gas-powered engine.

Unfortunately, the gas engine is rather thirsty if you rely on that alone. Though Jeep provides an estimated fuel efficiency number of 49 MPGe, that can be confusing. Because you get a range of 21 miles with zero gas, that is combined with the range that comes from gas power to arrive at a number that can be deceiving in how it actually works in daily life. For long trips, when you must use the gas engine, it only gets 20 MPG combined, which is lower than most of the other Jeep gas-powered engines. The way this really comes out in the wash is to use the electric mode as much as possible for city driving, especially for errands or driving to work, and then when you drive out to the trails on weekends, the hybrid mode can be saved for trail time.

Utilizing regenerative braking can help restore battery life, particularly when in driving situations where you need to brake more often. Highway driving won’t provide much in the way of regeneration, though even decelerating will capture some energy to charge the battery. With the two motors in use, you get a total of 370 miles of driving range, an average number in comparison to other Jeeps. What’s heartening about the hybrid is that a projected 42 percent less gas will be used by Jeep 4xe owners when rated against the fuel use of gas-powered Wranglers over the course of a year.

The 4xe can be charged at home with a regular three-prong outlet (called level one, which is the standard charge cord—the level two costs extra), but it can take up to 12.5 hours if the battery is depleted. With a fast-charging outlet installed, it will take about 2-2.5 hours to charge. Good news: Jeep is installing charging stations at trail heads across the US, though it may take time for those to be readily available, especially if you live in the boonies because you love riding trails where no one else is competing for the crawl space.

Handling and Using Driving Modes

A major difference between the 4xe and the gas-powered Wranglers is the shift in stability. The 4xe is actually heavier than the typical Wrangler by about 500-700 pounds, and much of that weight comes in the form of battery packs that are fitted up beneath the rear seat. By adding this weight to the back end, the 4xe has improved control when cornering, more responsive steering (especially at highway speeds), and is less likely to be blown around when confronted with a windy day. In other words, the extra weight provides a better foundation for keeping the center of gravity lower, so the 4xe Jeep handles more confidently. An added bonus of the 4xe is less noise on the highway and a more comfortable cabin than most other Wranglers.

Understanding how to use the driving modes may take some experimentation to learn how to make the most of each mode in your own Jeep use, but the three modes available offer a range of options. Using hybrid mode basically allows the computerized system to choose how to utilize the fuel available, typically using the electric power first. Electric mode simply means you drive on battery charge alone unless you press the accelerator all the way to the floor. The e-Save mode will function as a hybrid, though it does so by consistently recharging the battery in order to maintain a full charge. This mode allows you to then use the battery for trail riding if you prefer, and you can set the 4xe to engage its more robust power regeneration in e-Save mode.

Battery charge can be used for driving until it drops to one percent, at which point it switches to gas automatically. Like a cell phone, the lithium-ion battery cannot be completely depleted because the onboard systems prevent the driver from doing so. This means you don’t need to worry about damaging the battery system if you drive in electric mode and run out of charge—the 4xe will simply switch systems.

A grey 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe is shown from the front driving through a tunnel.

Adapt and Enjoy Nature Even More

It may take some planning to change how you drive, from remembering to plug in when you get home or park at work to considering which drive mode is best for where you’re driving, but the 4xe offers Jeep owners a chance to enjoy an even closer connection to the places you drive. Without the noise of the gas engine, you will hear nature around you more keenly when you drive with your top and windshield down as true Wrangler drivers are wont to do.

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