2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe Review: A Big Change Delivers Small Results

Keep Jeep’s new plug-in hybrid Wrangler charged up, and you’ll cover many of your locally-driven miles on nothing but electricity.

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2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xeChristian Wardlaw

The Jeep Wrangler needs no introduction. Among America’s favorite SUVs, the Wrangler defines the Jeep brand and symbolizes the freedom to go anywhere and do anything at any time. Now, thanks to the new 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe’s electric mode, adventurers can hit trails or rock crawl in nearly total silence while limiting their immediate impact on the surrounding environment.

The new version of the Wrangler Unlimited four-door model is the 2021 Wrangler 4xe. It’s a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) offering what Jeep claims is 21 miles of driving range on a single battery charge. When the battery reaches its minimum state of charge, a turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine fires up to complete the journey. Used in this manner, the SUV returns an estimated 20 mpg in combined driving, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Jeep offers the Wrangler 4xe in Sahara, Rubicon, and High Altitude trim levels, with prices starting in the low $50,000 range before applying the maximum federal income tax credit and any state or local incentives. It is the first of many Jeep 4xe PHEV models to come; electrified versions of the redesigned 2022 Grand Cherokee, the refreshed 2022 Compass, and others are likely to follow.

For this review, Jeep provided a Wrangler 4xe Rubicon for evaluation. My family and I drove it from Los Angeles to Yosemite National Park and back. The test vehicle had nearly all of the upgrades and carried a price tag in the mid-$60,000 range.

2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xeChristian Wardlaw


The 4xe is essentially identical to a standard Wrangler save for these noticeable differences:

  • Bulging power port at the base of the windshield on the driver’s side

  • Blue exterior accents

  • Drive system mode buttons located on the lower left part of the dashboard

  • Unique PHEV powertrain data displays

Therefore, the 4xe retains the Wrangler’s classic design elements as well as its water-friendly interior materials. Jeep even provides floor drainage holes for this purpose. Plastic and rubber are the rules rather than the exceptions, and Jeep crafts all surfaces under the presumption the SUV’s interior will get dirty and wet. This is especially likely given the Wrangler’s convertible top, removable doors, and fold-flat windshield.

2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xeChristian Wardlaw

Climbing into and out of a Wrangler isn’t necessarily easy. Once you’re in, you’ll discover a seating position that is oddly close to the steering wheel, dashboard, and windshield. Sitting in this Jeep is like sitting up tall at the dining room table. The Rubicon test vehicle had leather seats; the one nod to civility within the cabin. To extend comfortable top-down driving well into the evening (or fall weather), heated front seats and a heated steering wheel are available.

2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xeChristian Wardlaw

Jeep tucks the 4xe’s battery under the back seat cushion, which sits high and is relatively firm but is nevertheless comfortable. Legroom is a little tight for taller people, but overall leg support is excellent.

There are some unusual controls in the Wrangler. For example, the power window buttons are on the dashboard, and the Rubicon includes numerous switches for off-roading technologies and auxiliary equipment. In addition, two shift levers jut out of the floor: one for the transmission and one for the 4-wheel-drive system’s transfer case. Although for the most part, the Jeep’s control layout is sensible using large buttons and knobs with clear markings.

2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xeChristian Wardlaw

In-cabin storage space is adequate. You access the cargo area through a swing-out tailgate and a flip-up rear window. It can present challenges in cramped parking conditions or when the Wrangler is parked on a hill.

The 4xe holds 27.7 cu.-ft. behind the back seat and 67.4 cu.-ft. of cargo with the rear seat folded down. These measurements are slightly less than a standard Wrangler Unlimited, which comes in at 31.7 cu.-ft. and 72.4 cu.-ft., respectively. The Wrangler 4xe’s standard charging cord stores underneath the cargo floor.

2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xeChristian Wardlaw


Technologically, a modern Jeep Wrangler isn’t as rudimentary as you might expect, and that’s especially true of the 4xe version.

In addition to its electrified powertrain, it offers unique data related to each of three driving modes. There is also a screen depicting gasoline, electric power flow, and usage. Park the Jeep and the instrumentation shows the estimated battery recharging time to help set expectations. A light bar on the dashboard blinks to confirm charging is active. It has five segments so you can get a sense of how full the battery is simply by looking at the Jeep.

Encased in a rubber seal, the infotainment system features an 8.4-inch touchscreen display, smartphone integration and mirroring capability, satellite radio, and nine premium speakers. The system is functional, though operating a touchscreen in any vehicle as bouncy as the Wrangler can pose a challenge. The voice recognition technology also frequently requires specific rather than natural language commands, but it works well within its confines of operation.

2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xeChristian Wardlaw

Safety technology is optional. The Safety Group upgrade equips the Wrangler with:

  • Blind-spot warning

  • Rear cross-traffic warning

  • Rear parking sensors

Separately, the optional Advanced Safety Group adds:

  • Forward-collision warning

  • Automatic emergency braking

  • Adaptive cruise control with full stopping capability

  • Automatic high-beam headlights

Crash-test ratings for the Wrangler 4xe are unavailable at the time of this review. Ratings for the standard Wrangler do not automatically apply because of the PHEV’s unique powertrain components.

2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xeChristian Wardlaw


Jeep bases the Wrangler 4xe’s drivetrain on the turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder gasoline engine and 8-speed automatic transmission available in the standard Wrangler. To this, Jeep adds a 17.3 KWh-hr battery pack, two electric drive motors, and an E-Selec system allowing the driver to operate the Wrangler in Hybrid (gas and electric), Electric (battery power only), or eSave (gas engine only) modes.

In the test drive of the Wrangler 4xe in Hybrid mode with a full battery charge, the total combined output measured 375 hp and 470 lb.-ft. of torque. Jeep says the Wrangler 4xe accelerates to 60 mph in as few as six seconds, travels an estimated 21 miles operating solely on electricity, and recharges in about 12 hours when using a standard household power outlet (around two hours using a Level 2 charger). The EPA says you can expect to average 20 mpg in combined driving after the battery reaches its minimum state of charge.

2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xeChristian Wardlaw

To test the driving range claim, we used a local route and the Electric driving mode until the battery could no longer power the Jeep on its own. At the outset, the trip computer said we had 23 miles of range. The Wrangler 4xe ultimately covered just 20 miles before the gasoline engine became necessary. Toward the end of this test, freeway driving rapidly reduced the remaining range, presumably due to the Wrangler’s poor aerodynamics. Since it came within a mile of meeting the 21-mile claimed EV range, the 20 miles was not a disappointing result.

For the first leg of the drive to Yosemite, we departed with a full battery charge. The Wrangler covered 259.1 miles, averaging 20.8 mpg and traveling 47.9 miles on electricity.

How could that happen?

When coasting, such as on the descent from California’s Tejon Pass into the San Joaquin Valley, the Wrangler 4xe’s gas engine turned off. At the same time, the regenerative braking system charges the battery pack. Between the original full battery charge, the electric assist in Hybrid mode, and instances of coasting when driving in the mountains, the cumulative effect adds up.

2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xeChristian Wardlaw

Otherwise, the Wrangler 4xe drives like any other version of the Jeep. The faster you go, the louder it is inside the cabin; at freeway speeds, you’ll need to choose between conversation and music. Stiff crosswinds threaten to divorce the SUV from the lane of travel. The steering is very light and loose on center, so driving on two-lane roads without a discernible shoulder, after dark, with semi-trucks approaching in the oncoming lane may warrant your undivided attention.

While exploring Yosemite, when the battery recouped enough charge to run short distances on electricity, the external pedestrian notification sound and the SUV’s otherwise silent running garnered plenty of attention amongst outdoorsy types. “Finding” parking during Yosemite Valley’s mid-day tourist crush was made easier by the Wrangler’s generous ground clearance, inherent maneuverability, reversing camera, and parking sensors.

Adventuring and road-tripping go hand-in-hand. The Wrangler 4xe is much better at the former than the latter. Nevertheless, this electrified Jeep served my family of four nicely. After driving over 750 miles with just one full battery charge at the start of the trip, the Wrangler 4xe averaged 19.1 mpg.

2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xeChristian Wardlaw


Jeep takes one of its first steps toward electrification with the new 2021 Wrangler 4xe. It is a rather rudimentary one that results in a short electric driving range and unusually long recharging times.

When driven as a hybrid, its fuel economy rating of 20 mpg in combined driving is almost 10% lower than the standard Wrangler’s 22 mpg for a turbocharged four-cylinder and 8-speed automatic.

Plus, the price premium for the 4xe amounts to nearly $10,000. The federal income tax credit eliminates most of that, but you’re still paying more for the novelty of running this Jeep on electrons instead of fossil fuels.

Where the Wrangler 4xe shines brightest is during the daily commute. This is especially true if you have access to a charger at work and when running local errands. Many people will be able to accomplish most of their daily driving on electricity with the charged battery. If you’re ready to explore the great outdoors, eSave mode reserves battery power and all of that instant torque for your next adventure.

Overall, Jeep’s move to electrify the 2021 Wrangler is commendable. The effort will likely influence bigger and better things in the future. Also, for now, it’s the only vehicle in the Wrangler’s admittedly small segment that offers electric driving of any kind.

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Christian Wardlaw
My first word was “car.” That’s what I’m told, anyway. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with them. The design. The engineering. The performance. And the purpose. I’m a car enthusiast who loves to drive, but I’m also most interested in the cars, trucks, and SUVs that people actually buy. Anybody can tell you that a sports car is fast. What you need to know is whether or not you should buy that new SUV, and why. My life purpose is to help you make that decision.