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2021 Jeep Wrangler (hybrid!) still best off-road

The 2021 Jeep Wrangler Sahara 4xe.

The 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe, the new hybrid trim, is available as a four-door in three high-end offerings: the premium Sahara, more premium High Altitude, and Rubicon, geared toward off-road excursions.

The 4xe (pronounced “four by E”), engine combines a 270 horsepower turbocharged inline-four-cylinder with a 44-horsepower motor connected through a front-end accessory belt. A 134-horsepower motor replaces the transmission’s back-end torque converter.

The 2021 Jeep Wrangler Sahara 4xe.
The 2021 Jeep Wrangler Sahara 4xe.

The motors draw power from a 14.0-kWh lithium-ion battery located under the rear seats. Whether the 4xe is in electric mode or running as a hybrid, torque is routed to the wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. A transfer case offers rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive (4WD Auto), and high-or low-range four-wheel drive for off-road use.

In its luxury role, the Sahara features upgrades from other trims. Eighteen-inch aluminum-alloy wheels with gray-painted accents, color-keyed fender flares, optional LED front headlamps with daytime running lamps (DRL’s) and premium cloth seating surfaces. Touch sensors are located on all door handles for the Sahara equipped with the Remote Proximity Keyless Entry option.

2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe entends versatile lineup

Additional options include leather-trimmed seating surfaces, a stitched vinyl dashboard, and Keyless Enter-‘n’-Go. When equipped with leather-trimmed seats, the Sahara includes a stitched vinyl dashboard panel similar to the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

The 4xe edition achieves a combined 20 miles per gallon with its gas engine and a 49 MPGe rating. The electric-only range is 22 miles and the total range is 370 miles. Recharging the Jeep 4xe at network trailhead chargers takes about 2 1/2 hours. The process extends to 12 hours at a 110-volt home wall outlet.

Acceleration is satisfactory, but the Jeep is far from a fine-tuned performance machine. With its emphasis on off-road ruggedness, the Wrangler has road limitations. It doesn’t accelerate well on inclines and passing requires a concerted effort.

Jeeps at their best are for drivers who like to experience the fullness of the experience. Bumpy roads, great, if you like that sort of thing. Wind rush through the soft top and soft side and with accompanying vinyl windows? Absolutely, and bring it on. It’s part of the Jeep heritage that defines fun.

The review Sahara featured the soft top/side option and all remained since off-road trips or safaris weren’t part of the itinerary.

As manufacturer literature details, the soft siding and soft top choices cost less than the hardtop. They’re easy to remove and to re-attach. They’re also versatile — half down to top up with rear side and tailgate windows removed.

Disadvantages beyond increased noise include less security protection, less protection from outside elements which also may mean window scratches and other durability issues. When the top and soft windows are down and stored, cargo areas are diminished and more difficult to access if other items are also stored.

As a hybrid, there’s one additional downside. The battery is stored beneath the second row of seats, further limiting the storage capacity.

The Jeep brand is iconic and driving fun and off-road versatility are keys to its enduring success. The 4xe’s MSRP is $47,955. With options, the review vehicle was priced at $54,240. It’s available as a plug-in hybrid for a $7,500 federal tax credit and other state rebates may also apply.

Buy the Wrangler, add some outdoor equipment to your vacation arsenal and head off the grid. It’s what Jeep is all about. But keep the family sedan for road travel.

The spirit of adventure won’t be the same, but decisions over wheel configurations and vinyl versus metal windows and roofs aren’t required. It’s a better option for the asphalt jungle.

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