One might argue it has taken Jeep way too long to embrace the coming age of electric vehicles, especially since Chrysler has offered a plug-in mini-van for years. But, Jeep’s electric star is about to shine as previewed by the recent all-electric Magneto concept. And while the plug-in 2022 Wrangler 4xe we have here is slightly less sassy than the Magneto, it at least sticks its finger in the light socket.
The 4xe employs a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, batteries, and motors like other hybrid Wranglers, but can also be plugged in for 22 miles of all-electric range – perfect for running to work or shops. Output is a robust 375 horsepower and 470 lb.-ft. of torque, so clawing up the side of a mountain (or launching onto a freeway) will require little effort. Fuel economy is rated 49-MPGe after plugging in and 20-MPG otherwise. Drivers choose whether they want to run as a hybrid, full EV, or save electricity for later.
Fuel economy is relative when shoving a heavy brick through the air, but it’s now done more gracefully. Still a real Jeep, our Rubicon edition has rock crawl gearing, locking front/rear axles, and disconnecting sway bars for maximum wheel articulation. Add to that skid plates to protect sensitive bits and deep off-road tires to go wherever you want. City dwellers will never use any of this, but like a good Swiss Army Knife, it’s there just in case. Jeep did an admirable job of taming the dual solid axles, but the Wrangler will still bounce over rough roads and trails.
From the trailhead, only subtle updates differentiate the 4xe from other Wrangler Rubicons. It has the same iconic seven-slat grille, snarling hood vents, beaming round LED headlamps, metal bumpers, and reinforced side sills. It radiates attitude in Hydro Blue paint. Look closer, though, and you’ll notice light blue tow hooks instead of red ones plus a charging port on the driver’s front fender. Notice unique 17” wheels and nearly indestructible Gorilla Glass windshield.
Even with hard sides, this Rubicon opens to the world quickly. Doors can be easily disconnected and removed. Wranglers are available with fully retractable soft tops and ones with removable hard panels, but my favorite is this one that retracts a full-width canvas panel to beyond the rear seats with one press of a button – perfect for enjoying some sunshine at a leisurely pace with the ability to seal up quickly when hitting the highway.
The interior is wash-out rugged, but enhanced with leather seats, stitched dash coverings, and Alpine premium audio with sound bar. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and 4G Wi-Fi ease device connections. Infotainment is controlled through an intuitive touchscreen, voice commands, and redundant buttons below. I appreciated the dual-zone automatic climate control, but would have appreciated heated seats more. Safety is enhanced with adaptive cruise, auto emergency braking, blind spot warning, and rear cross path detection.
It took time for Jeep to find its socket, but the iconic Wrangler was a good place to start plugging. The 4xe is plenty rugged, but with a debonair flair given the upscale interior and styling tweaks. Cruising through town on electric power, you can hardly believe you’re driving a Jeep. Of course, all of this comes at a price. The base 4xe starts at $51,225, but came to…hug a stout tree…$69,545 as-tested.
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