Jeep Wrangler 4xe: The Great Electric Adventure

By Marc Bouchard | Tuesday 29 June 2021 | BlogOn the road

If you’d ever told me that I’d be driving an electric vehicle over dunes, I’d never have believed you. However, it is now possible, and almost without noticing the difference, thanks to the Jeep Wrangler 4xe.

Of course, we’re not talking about a real electric vehicle. Rather, we’re talking about a somewhat timidly electrified version of the traditional Jeep Wrangler. While it’s a plug-in, it only offers about 40 km of all-electric range. That’s better than nothing, you might say, but it could well become more important in the coming years.

Still, this plug-in version is efficient. So much so, that I was able to maintain an average of 8.1 L/100 km despite my various adventures behind the wheel. And it’s not easy to do so, either. Jeep enthusiasts and owners are probably green with envy, as the regular average is much higher than that.

An adventurer

Let’s put things into perspective: the Jeep 4Xe, in my test drive, was a Rubicon, the one that always tops the list for off-road capability. The electric drivetrain we added to it didn’t change its capabilities. It still has a Roc Trac gearing and Trail Rated qualification that make it almost impervious to off-road failures.

As proof, I went for a walk in a sandpit (thank you Carrières Saint-Dominique) and, without hesitation, he cleared almost all the obstacles. I would dare say that only the ones that scared the driver did not succeed in being crossed, which says a lot about the capabilities of this Jeep.

Effective tires

Let’s just say that the Jeep Wrangler is equipped for rough trails. It has BF Goodrich KO2 tires capable of taking it to the greatest extremes. After all, this is a Wrangler Unlimited. Like all self-respecting Jeeps, it has a 4-wheel drive with manually selectable high and low ranges. The lockable differential and the ability to disconnect the anti-roll bars to increase suspension travel also help it get over, literally, any obstacle.

As for the tires, while they are noisy on the tarmac, they proved to be impeccable on rougher trails. And, to my surprise, they dominated the most challenging dunes, biting at the right time while evacuating material quickly enough to avoid getting stuck.

A heavyweight

Still, there are some notable differences in driving with this electric explorer. The weight of the 17 kWh batteries, housed under the rear seat, does add to the weight. But it’s more the instantaneous availability of torque that changes the way it behaves. Remember, in soft sand, the slightest hesitation can lead to an involuntary stop. The same is true in the other direction, however: too much acceleration may cause the drive wheels to dig in, making the exit more dangerous.

In short, you have to know how to balance out the electric motor’s propulsion. But you quickly get used to it. However, when the 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder engine takes over, you’re behind the wheel of a traditional Jeep Rubicon… and an exceptional one off-road. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again without hesitation: driving in rough conditions is just as satisfying, if not more so, than driving a powerful car on a track. And the Rubicon, as electrified as it is, is exactly the vehicle to do it.

On the road

The Jeep’s 375 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque make acceleration worthy of mention. This makes the Jeep 4xe a vehicle that is more than capable of taking over on the road, without hesitation. It

It’s indeed a bit choppy and noisy, but it’s a Jeep in all its glory. It even adds a power sunroof, which can be opened without a struggle at the touch of a button. All the comforts, including the Uconnect system, are in order.

If it weren’t for a few different coloured sconces, an extra hatch for charging (which is done on household outlets or a regular charging station, but not a 2.5-hour fast one), no one would be able to tell the difference between the electrified version and the regular one.

For Jeep, this is a first step in the electric direction. A 100% electric version would eventually be in the works. For the Jeep enthusiast, however, this is a more than interesting alternative in terms of capabilities and fuel economy. The 4xe is also available in other models than the Rubicon, which reduces the off-road attributes a bit, but lowers the purchase price considerably.

So, yes or no to the Jeep Plug-In Hybrid? The reality is that a Jeep is still a Jeep as soon as it is unplugged!

About the Author

Marc Bouchard is passionate about cars... and many other things. He started out as a general journalist and has been working on cars for the past twenty years. We see him on TV, hear him on the radio and read about him everywhere. Often called upon as an expert analyst.

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