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Kelley Blue Book: What it’s like to drive the plug-in electric Jeep Wrangler 4xe, off-road and on

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Pros

Prodigious off-road talent

Muscular drivetrain

Electric and hybrid modes

Cons

Not very efficient in hybrid mode

What’s new?

Two fresh colors

Stars & Stripes on front fenders

The 2023 Jeep Wrangler 4xe puts a plug-in hybrid drivetrain into an iconic SUV. Muscle and off-road abilities are joined by fuel efficiency and low running costs. Prices start at $54,765.

Elegance isn’t perhaps the first word that springs to mind when considering the Jeep Wrangler SUV, whose heritage dates back to the unpretentious and highly utilitarian Willys Jeep of World War II.

But the 2023 Wrangler 4xe is an elegant solution to the tricky conundrum of leaving the roads behind, reconnecting with Mother Earth, yet not emitting more carbon into the atmosphere as we trundle past the chaparral — or startling the wildlife with engine noise. The 4xe can run for about 20 miles using just its battery.

That’s because the 2023 Wrangler 4xe is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, or PHEV. And it can turn in a performance similar to a much pricier V8-powered Wrangler while driving past more gas stations.

The 4-door Wrangler used to be called Wrangler Unlimted, but no longer. There isn’t a 2-door version with this 4xe drivetrain. The rest of the 2023 Jeep Wrangler lineup — with all-combustion drivetrains — is reviewed separately.

The Jeep Wrangler 4xe

Jeep

2023 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4Xe pricing

The 2023 Wrangler 4xe starts at $54,765, plus a destination charge. This is for the Sahara trim level. The Rubicon version is priced from $58,595.

The priciest variant is the Sahara with the High Altitude package, which retails for just over $60.5K. With more options, that could approach $68K.

A silver lining to this fiscal cloud comes in the form of a federal tax credit offered with plug-in hybrids, up to $7,500. Some states also have incentives. New York, for example, will provide $500 with its Drive Clean rebate program.

Just as there is not a bevy of like-for-like rivals to the regular Wrangler, competitors with plug-in hybrid drivetrains are also few. If the main idea is to buy a PHEV SUV, but not take it off-roading, the Toyota
TM,
-0.76%

RAV4 Prime starts in the low $40K range. The Hyundai
HYMTF,
+2.70%

Tucson Plug-In Hybrid begins in the mid-to-high $30K range. So does the smaller Subaru
FUJHY,
-0.61%

Crosstrek Hybrid (which is a PHEV).

Learn more: What is EV, BEV, HEV, PHEV? Here’s your guide to types of electric cars

Alternatively, a combustion-only Ford
F,
+0.15%

Bronco could please a lot of adventurers. A 4-door model comes in at about $35K.

Before buying a new Wrangler 4xe plug-in hybrid SUV, check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area paid for theirs. This particular Wrangler variant is still a relative newcomer, but resale values should be robust.

Driving the 2023 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4Xe

Like every other Wrangler, this model has the high driving position loved by SUV owners in general and off-roaders in particular. And like other Wranglers, there’s a give-and-take between things like wind and tire noise (especially with the Rubicon’s all-terrain rubber) and awesome ability over rough terrain.

Heavy-duty solid axles front and rear are standard in all 2023 Wrangler 4xe versions. That’s a good thing for when the going gets tough and not so forgiving on tarmac.

The 2023 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe

Stellantis

Maximum torque is a strong 470 lb-ft, coming in at 3,000 rpm. A lively launch from standstill is definitely possible, as well as enough muscle to crawl up a boulder-strewn landscape. The Rubicon, named after the demanding trail, also has a front anti-roll bar that disconnects (and re-connects) automatically for maximum suspension travel over rocky surfaces.

Interior comfort

Things are kept basic inside the 2023 Wrangler 4xe SUV. There are no little electric motors to adjust the front seats, for example. Not because of penny-pinching, but so that owners can hose down the interior if they need to and let the water flow out through the drain plugs.

The rear seats have safety belts for three occupants, but two will be more comfortable, given the narrow cabin’s tight shoulder room. Rear legroom is good, though: 38.2 inches.

Cargo space goes from 27.7 cubic feet behind the split/folding 60/40 rear seats to 67.4 cubic feet when they’re folded down. That’s a compromise of about 5 cubic feet, compared with other 4-door Wranglers, because of the extra apparatus involved with the plug-in hybrid drivetrain. But it’s still quite roomy.

See: Those big wheels on your car or truck are costing you big time

Exterior styling

Changes to the 2023 Wrangler 4xe plug-in hybrid SUV are confined to this aspect. Jeep offers two new paint choices. Earl is a silvery greenish-blue and the limited-edition Reign is a metallic purple. The front fenders also gain Wrangler decals that feature the Stars & Stripes.

With an eye to making life easier for drivers when they encounter parking/recharging/nose-in spaces, Jeep put the charging socket on the front left fender. When spotting a Wrangler in the wild, two small tell-tale signs that it’s a 4xe are the electric blue tow hooks at each end.

Available only as a 4-door Wrangler, this plug-in hybrid SUV still has the usual removable top and doors, plus a folding windshield. The Rubicon receives even more under-body protection than the Sahara.

Related: The pros and cons of plug-in hybrids and your guide to buying one

Favorite features

1. Removable roof and doorsWhat’s the point of driving into the great outdoors and staying cocooned inside a metal shell? The Wrangler 4xe SUV allows the elements in and even comes with a fold-down windshield.

2. Apple CarPlay/Android AutoBecause this is 2023 and we all like some convenient technology in our cars. Standard smartphone integration is expected these days and the 2023 Wrangler 4xe provides it.

3. Electric-only off-roadingThe Wrangler 4xe can travel for about 20 miles in electric vehicle mode. This range will be shorter over demanding terrain, but drivers can still count on a couple of hours of rock climbing or dune dashing. The sealed battery also enables a fording depth of 30 inches.

4. Corning Gorilla Glass windshieldThis optional feature is three times more resistant to cracks and chips than a regular windshield.

5. Off-Road PlusThe Rubicon version has this feature as standard. It’s like a low-speed, off-road cruise control where throttle, gears, and traction control are all looked after by the system. The driver just has to concentrate on steering.

6. Other Wrangler ownersEvents like the annual Jeep Jamboree bring together a community of like-minded people. The Wrangler rises above the level of mere transportation.

Don’t miss: The most and least reliable car brands, according to Consumer Reports

Engine and transmission

Pronounced “four by E” as a play on the 4×4 term, the Wrangler 4xe has a gasoline/electric drivetrain consisting of a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine augmented by a pair of electric motors. These motors get their spark from a lithium-ion battery pack.

Total output is 375 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque. An 8-speed automatic transmission sends that to a standard 4-wheel drive system.

This 4xe is one of the most muscular Wrangler variants. The nearest a gasoline-only model gets is the V8-powered Rubicon 392, with the same amount of torque and 470 horsepower. And that’s in the $80,000 region before filling the gas tank, which happens a lot.

Recharging the battery pack takes up to 2.5 hours when using a 240-volt system. It’s more like 12 hours using a 120-volt domestic supply.

With plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles, the EPA has a method for miles-per-gallon-equivalent (MPGe) calculations which takes the all-electric range into account.

Read: Your complete guide to MPGe, the electric equivalent of miles per gallon

The EPA estimates that the Wrangler 4xe can travel for 21 miles on battery power alone, delivering efficiency equivalent to 49 mpg for those miles. When operating in gas-electric hybrid mode, city/highway combined fuel economy is 20 mpg. Regular gasoline will do, but Jeep recommends using 91-octane premium gas.

2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine + dual electric motors375 total horsepower @ 5,250 rpm470 lb-ft total torque @ 3,000 rpmEPA combined fuel economy: 20 mpg in gas-electric hybrid mode (49 MPGe in electric-only operation)EPA-estimated electric-only range: 21 miles

KBB’s car review methodology.

This story originally ran on KBB.com

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