2021 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4XE
MSRP: $51,025 As Tested: $54,030
The biggest change in the history of the Jeep Wrangler was the addition of a four door version. First launched in 2007, sales of the four door models (known now as Wrangler Unlimiteds) soon swamped the traditional, two doors for one simple reason – more interior room. If you’re doing hard core off-road, two door Wranglers are the way to go, because smaller beats bigger on the trails. But, Wrangler four doors are more practical on-road, which is where the majority of Jeeps spend the majority of their lives. The latest wrinkle to the Wrangler line is also about addition – more mpg’s. Stoutly built, with brick-like aerodynamics, these Jeeps weren’t designed with mileage in mind. But, the new, hybrid-powered 4XE gives Wrangler buyers an option with more respectable fuel economy. Starting prices for the 4XE (MSRP $51,025) are noticeably steeper than the gas powered Wrangler Unlimited (MSRP $32,570). Buyers may be able offset some of the difference by taking advantage of federal, state and local incentives available to Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle buyers, such as the current, $7,500 federal tax credit.
The 4XE is a PHEV, driven by a combination of a turbocharged, 2.0L four cylinder, gas powered engine, combined with an electric motor. The motor is powered by a battery that can be recharged by plugging it in, as well as by regenerative braking. Total powertrain output is 375 horsepower @5,250 rpm, and 470 lb.-ft. of torque @ 3,000 rpm. It’s rated to tow up to 3,500 lb. The RightNow nature of the electric motor’s torque makes the 4XE brisk off the line, with plenty on tap for passing. Hybrid driving modes allow the driver to choose where/when to use their electrical power, and a max mode can be engaged for a more aggressive level of regenerative braking. The EPA estimates a total driving range of 370 miles, of which 21 is all-electric. I tallied 29 miles per gallon overall, in a week’s mixed driving. Many drivers have days when they don’t travel more than 20 miles. So, if you can get yourself into the habit of plugging in every night (a full charge takes 12 hours at 120v, or 2 hours with 240v), you can stretch a tank of gas a long way. Built to be highly competent off-road, Wrangler’s are more challenged on road. However, the four doors are far more practical than the two’s, and the latest Unlimited has a comfortable ride.
Wrangler Unlimited’s interior is also a lot more refined than it used to be, and big enough to seat four adults, with some accommodations. Cargo capacity ranges from 27.7-67.4 cu.-ft. With rear seatbacks down, it’s a split level load floor, and the opening in back is a side-swinging gate, with separate window above. The standard Sunrider soft top allows you the option of open air travel. Removing/replacing the top is a manual operation. The available hard top is a snug choice and provides the quietest cabin. Finally, the optional, power, retractable Sky roof is a good, sun/snug compromise.
If you never venture off-road, other models in Jeep’s showroom (Renegade, Compass, Cherokee…) may suit your lifestyle better. But if off-roading is your thing (or you just like the cool, outdoors vibe) Wrangler is hard to beat, and Unlimited’s added space means room for your crew. The new, hybrid 4XE adds another choice for buyers: a touch of technology that boosts the Jeep’s green factor.
A 40 year resident of the Capital District, Dan Lyons has been reviewing new cars for publications for nearly 30 years. He is the author of six automotive books, and photographer of more than 200 calendars.