Lots of longtime Jeep fans questioned the introduction of the new Wrangler 4xe package simply due to the fact that they don’t like the idea of change. The 4xe package is the first Wrangler drivetrain to offer all-electric driving, which is really what makes it special. The Jeep brand already offered a mild hybrid package for the Wrangler, but that system doesn’t offer any all-electric driving. The electrification system of the 4xe improves the fuel economy capabilities of the turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, but the real advantage is 21 miles of all-electric driving. Not only does that make it a great commuter vehicle, but it also leads to a very unique off-roading experience in near-silence.

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I recently had a chance to spend a day driving a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe on and off-road, and I have come to one very clear conclusion.

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Anyone who is buying a new Wrangler Rubicon and who does not plan to get the 392 model should seriously consider the 4xe. It is the most fuel friendly Rubicon and it is the quickest Rubicon shy of the 392 model, while still offering all of the off-roading ability that you expect from a Wrangler Rubicon. There is really no downside to the 4xe package and while some people may expect it to cost more, it actually costs less than the non-4xe Rubicon thanks to EV tax credits.

On-Road Drive

My seat time in the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe began in downtown Austin, Texas, with a fully-charged battery and 21 miles of all-electric driving range. 21 miles doesn’t seem like a whole lot in the era of EVs that will go hundreds of miles on a single charge, but 21 miles of range will satisfy the needs of many commuters. When driving in Electric mode, the Wrangler 4xe is surprisingly quick to accelerate up to the speed limit, but it is really strange driving a Jeep Rubicon model that makes no engine noises while in motion. All you can hear is the grumble of the tires against the pavement and the soft whirr of the electric drive system.

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I ended up driving 20.9 miles before the battery power reached 0, at which point the Wrangler 4xe switched into Hybrid drive mode. In that mode, the gasoline engine runs much of the time, providing power to the wheels while also charging the battery. As a result, the engine cycles off at points in the driving cycle when there is little torque demand, such as cruising down the highway. In Hybrid mode, the Wrangler 4xe feels a great deal like any other modern Jeep powered by the turbocharged 4-cylinder, except the 4xe is a bit quicker thanks to the added input of the electric drive system. Basically, it drives like a non-hybrid model, with occasional periods of electric driving to help improve fuel economy numbers.

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In terms of on-road manners, the Wrangler 4xe rides identically to a non-4xe model on the street, so if you are considering a Rubicon for a daily driver, the 4xe offers the same ride quality as non-4xe models.

Off-Road Electric Driving

The midpoint of my on-road drive was a ranch where we would be doing our off-road testing. It rained all morning, so the footing was wet and muddy, with deep streams and slippery rock piles.

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The path that we took would be completely impassable for most SUVs, but it is was just another day at the office for the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. The one difference is that my Jeep had time to charge before hitting the trails, so I was able to drive the entire thing on electric power.

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I drove through a deep stream, I covered miles of muddy trails and I climbed an array of rock formations, including some very large, very steep obstacles, without using a drop of gasoline. The biggest difference is that the electric drive system is more responsive than a gasoline engine, so when you ask for power, you have that power right away.

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There is no waiting for the engine RPM to get up to the point of making enough power to climb the hill; the electric system provides full torque as soon as you touch the throttle. Once you have gotten a feel for the throttle response, the Wrangler Rubicon 4xe is a great off-road toy in any conditions.

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Pricing

At the top of this piece, I mentioned that the Wrangler Rubicon 4xe costs less than the non-4xe models with similar features. The 4xe package adds $6,000 to the bottom line, but this package applies to the $7,500 federal tax credit, effectively making the 4xe $1,500 less than the non-4xe models. In some cases, there are also local tax incentives for buying an electric vehicle, so in areas like California, you can save even more money by buying the Rubicon 4xe.

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If you are planning on buying a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, you should be considering two packages – the 392 model or the 4xe model. The 392 packs monster V8 power, but it is expensive and the fuel economy numbers aren’t ideal for a commuter vehicle. On the other hand, the 4xe is the next-quickest with impressive system power levels, it is the most fuel-friendly model and it offers all-electric driving without any compromise in capability. That makes the 4xe the best of the non-V8-powered Wrangler Rubicons.