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Is the 2021 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4xe a Good Car? 5 Pros and 4 Cons

jeep-wrangler-unlimited-sahara-4xe-2021-14-angle--exterior--rear--red.jpg 2021 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4xe | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

Without tallying them up, it’s probably safe to say the Jeep Wrangler has gone through at least as many powertrains, versions, trims and stripe packages as any other vehicle on the planet. So, it only stands to reason that a plug-in hybrid version would come along sooner or later — the Wrangler Unlimited 4xe.

Related: 2021 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4xe Review: Not Bad, Just Confusing

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Good news for the Jeep faithful is that the Wrangler Unlimited 4xe goes green — or greenish — without sacrificing any of the off-road prowess that’s so much of the brand’s identity. Whether fans care about going electric is another question. What may resonate more with those buyers are the green vehicle tax credits and financial incentives of a plug-in Wrangler.

As for everybody else, the jury is out. The 4xe may have the traditional virtues of any other Wrangler, but it also has the same drawbacks. It’s noisy, somewhat awkward to get in and out of, and traveling in a straight line on pavement requires constant correction.

For Cars.com’s complete evaluation of the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4xe, visit the link above to read Brian Normile’s complete review. For a quick look at what works and what doesn’t, read on. Here are five things we like about the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4xe and four areas that need improvement.

Things We Like 

1. Smooth Electric Power

jeep-wrangler-unlimited-sahara-4xe-2021-04-angle--exterior--front--red.jpg 2021 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4xe | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

We didn’t have an opportunity to venture onto the trail with the Wrangler Unlimited 4xe, but we did get to experience the instant, smooth and abundant power delivery and torque of its electric motor. That’s something any off-roader knows is a beautiful thing on the rocks and mud. With a combined 375 horsepower and 470 pounds-feet of torque on tap from the electric motor and four-cylinder gas engine, the 4xe isn’t lacking for grunt. 

2. Better MPG Than Your Average Wrangler 

The Wrangler 4xe gets an EPA-estimated rating of 49 mpg-equivalent in combined city and highway driving when operating under gas and electric power. That’s not too shabby, especially by Wrangler standards. It’s also substantially better than the 22 mpg combined rating for a gas-only four-cylinder Wrangler, or the 21 mpg rating for a gas-powered six-cylinder model. But once you deplete the battery, the 4xe’s combined rating drops to just 20 mpg: That’s the penalty for hauling an additional 800 pounds or so of batteries and related hardware. 

3. Quick Acceleration, Passing Power

jeep-wrangler-unlimited-sahara-4xe-2021-11-charging--exterior--red.jpg 2021 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4xe | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

The previously-mentioned 375 combined powertrain horsepower and 470 pounds-feet of torque can be handy on-road as well as off. Jeep says the 4xe accelerates from 0-60 mph in 6 seconds, which is pretty impressive given its size and added powertrain weight. That’s also more than enough power for drama-free highway merging and passing, and the hybrid powertrain switches seamlessly between electric and gas power. 

4. Power Modes for Any Occasion

The 4xe offers several driving modes, one of which is electric-only operation. In Electric mode, the range is an EPA-estimated 21 miles. That’s obviously not tremendous, but it is sufficient for a lot of commuters, and it’s especially impressive for a vehicle with a 5,100-pound curb weight. You can also choose E-Save, which extends battery range by using only the four-cylinder engine. The default setting is Hybrid, which uses both electric and gas power. 

5. It Looks Like a Jeep 

jeep-wrangler--unlimited-sahara-4xe-2021--01-dynamic--exterior--profile--red.jpg 2021 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4xe | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

The greenest of Jeeps looks pretty much like, well, any other Wrangler, and that is a good thing. A big part of the Jeep mystique is the rugged looks, whether you’re a fan or not. As is often said, most Jeep owners rarely use even a fraction of the SUV’s capability in the rough stuff, whether or not they bother going off-road. This one is no exception; it just gets better fuel mileage — just make sure to keep that battery charged.    

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Things We Don’t Like

1. Fewer Flavors Than Other Wranglers 

In spite of all the choices available to other Wrangler buyers in terms of powertrains, two- or four-door body styles, lots of trim levels and even a pickup truck in the form of the Gladiator, those who opt for the 4xe don’t get a lot of options. To get the plug-in hybrid powertrain, you have to settle for a four-door Unlimited only, and even then, the 4xe can only be had in three premium trims: the Sahara we tested, High Altitude and Rubicon. Our Sahara rang in at a not insubstantial $56,380 including destination. However, that’s before the $7,500 federal tax credit currently available and any other state and local credits. 

2. Less Than Ideal On-Road Manners 

jeep-wrangler-unlimited-sahara-4xe-2021-03-cockpit-shot--dynamic--front-row--interior.jpg 2021 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4xe | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

For better or worse, the 4xe rides and handles like any other Wrangler, which is to say not all that well — at least on the road. The steering requires constant correction, and the ride is clumsy if not harsh. Add to that a noisier cabin than many other more conventional SUVs, and the 4xe would not be our first choice for extended trips. The good news is that its added weight doesn’t seem to make things any worse than a conventional Wrangler. 

3. Uninspiring Powertrain Sound

The four-cylinder gas engine sounds tinny and strained under power, and unhappy about its lot in life. Worse, it’s extra loud due to the Wrangler’s relative lack of sound-deadening materials compared to competitors. But another plus about using electric power is that, at least for the first 21 miles, you don’t have to listen to the engine. 

4. Interior Issues

jeep-wrangler-unlimited-sahara-4xe-2021-52-backseat--interior.jpg 2021 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4xe | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

Inside, the 4xe loses about 4 cubic feet of cargo space with the backseat up compared to other Wranglers, and 5 feet with the rear seatbacks folded. The reason is the battery pack is mounted under the rear seat, which intrudes into the cargo area. It also prevents the rear seatback from folding completely flat. Other than that, the interior of the plug-in version is largely the same as you’ll find in any Wrangler. The excellent infotainment system does get a few powertrain-specific menu additions.

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