Columnists

2022 Jeep Wrangler 4XE sticks its finger in a light socket

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. Its destination will be paved with all-electric vehicles foreshadowed by the Wrangler Magneto concept and a slew of car-based models derived from Fiat and Peugeot architecture, but the 2022 Wrangler 4xe at least sticks its finger in the light socket.

Like regular Wrangler hybrids, the 4xe employs a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, batteries, and motors, but it can be plugged in for 22 miles of all-electric range – perfect for running quick errands or driving to work. 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 (ideal for city driving).

The 4xe is essentially a fleet fuel economy play, but with real benefits to drivers. You’re still shoving a heavy brick through the air, but now that’s done gracefully. Still a real Jeep, the Rubicon 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. Jeep did an admirable job of taming the dual solid axles, and it’s much better behaved, but 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 with icons for climate, audio, navigation, and phone plus key redundant buttons below and voice commands. 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 socket, but the iconic Wrangler was a good place to start. 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.

Storm Forward!

Send comments to Casey at AutoCasey@aol.com; follow him on YouTube @AutoCasey.


2022 Jeep Wrangler 4XE 

5-passengers, 4WD SUV 

Powertrain: 2.0-L T4, hybrid 

Output: 375 hp/470 lb.-ft. 

Suspension f/r: Solid axles

Wheels f/r: 17”/17” alloy 

Brakes f/r: disc/disc 

Must-have features: MPGs, Capability 

Fuel economy: 49-MPGe 

Assembly: Toledo, OH 

Base/as-tested price: $51,225/69,545