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

The 2023 Jeep Wrangler 4xe puts a plug-in hybrid powertrain in an iconic SUV. Muscle and off-road capability are combined with fuel efficiency and low running costs. Prices start at $54,765.

Elegance might not be the first word that comes to mind when you think of 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 spewing more carbon into the atmosphere as we roll past the chaparral—or scaring wildlife with engine noise. The 4xe can drive about 20 miles on just the battery.

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

The 4-door Wrangler used to be called Wrangler Unlimited, but not anymore. There is no 2-door version with this 4xe powertrain. The rest of the 2023 Jeep Wrangler lineup—with all-combustion powertrains—is reviewed separately.

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 costs from $58,595.

The most expensive variant is the Sahara with the High Altitude package, which sells for just over $60.5K. With more options it can approach $68K.

A silver lining to this tax 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 aren’t a plethora of like-for-like rivals to the standard Wrangler, competitors with plug-in hybrid powertrains are few and far between. If the main idea is to buy a PHEV SUV, but not take it off-road, Toyota TM,
-0.10%
The RAV4 Prime starts in the low $40K range. Hyundai HYMTF,
-1.12%
The Tucson Plug-In Hybrid starts in the mid-to-high $30K range. So does the smaller Subaru FUJHY,
+2.57%
Crosstrek Hybrid (which is a PHEV).

Read more: What are EV, BEV, HEV, PHEV? Here is your guide to types of electric cars

Alternatively, a combustion-only Ford F,
-2.15%
The Bronco could please many adventurers. A 4-door model costs about $35,000.

Before you buy 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.

Drive the 2023 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4Xe

Like all other Wranglers, this model has the high riding position loved by SUV owners in general and off-road riders in particular. And like other Wranglers, there’s a trade-off between things like wind and tire noise (especially with the Rubicon’s all-terrain rubber) and great off-road capability.

Heavy-duty solid axles front and rear are standard on all 2023 Wrangler 4xe versions. It’s good when it gets tough and not so forgiving on the tarmac.

2023 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe

Stellantis

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

Inner comfort

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

The rear seats have seat belts for three passengers, 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 folded. That’s a compromise of about 5 cubic feet, compared to other 4-door Wranglers, due to the extra equipment involved with the plug-in hybrid powertrain. But it is still quite spacious.

Looks: The big wheels on your car or truck cost you a lot of time

Exterior styling

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

With an eye to making life easier for drivers when encountering parking/charging/snout spots, Jeep put the charging socket on the front left fender. When you see a Wrangler in the wild, two little signs that it’s a 4xe are the electric blue tow hooks on each end.

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

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

Favorite features

1. Removable roof and doors
What’s the point of driving out into the wild and staying in a metal shell? The Wrangler 4xe SUV lets in the elements and even comes with a fold-down windshield.

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

3. Electric off-road driving only
The Wrangler 4xe can travel approximately 20 miles in electric vehicle mode. This range will be shorter over demanding terrain, but riders can still count on a couple of hours of rock climbing or dune climbing. The sealed battery also allows for a wading depth of 30 inches.

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

5. Off-Road Plus
The Rubicon version has this feature by default. It’s like a low-speed off-road cruise control where throttle, gears and traction control are handled by the system. The driver only has to concentrate on steering.

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

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Engine and transmission

Pronounced “four of E” as a play on the 4×4 term, the Wrangler 4xe features a gasoline/electric powertrain 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.

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

This 4xe is one of the most muscular Wrangler variants. The closest a gasoline-only model comes 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 up the gas tank, which happens a lot.

Charging the battery pack takes up to 2.5 hours when using a 240-volt system. That’s more like 12 hours with a 120-volt household supply.

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

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

The EPA estimates that the Wrangler 4xe can travel 21 miles on battery power alone, yielding an efficiency equivalent of 49 mpg for those miles. When operating in gas-electric hybrid mode, combined city/highway 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 motors
375 total horsepower at 5,250 rpm
470 lb-ft of total torque at 3,000 rpm
EPA combined fuel economy: 20 mpg in gas-electric hybrid mode (49 MPGe in electric-only mode)
EPA-estimated electric-only range: 21 miles

KBB’s car review methodology.

This story was originally continued KBB.com.

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