In the middle of the last century, General Electric and Westinghouse corporations teamed up to create an ad campaign that touted the benefits of domestic electricity and, more specifically, to hawk electric household appliances.
Seasoned citizens might remember its mid-'50s campaign slogan: "Live Better Electrically."
Now, in the 21st century, Jeep, figuring better late than never, is embracing that philosophy -- with, perhaps, an addendum: "Live Better Electrically . . . In The Dirt."
For 2021, the off-road-ready Wrangler adds a plug-in model -- one that jettisons the famous "4x4" badge in favor of a more PC "4xe" moniker. Those three little characters declare this new plug-in hybrid Wrangler is both a real Jeep and a green vehicle.
Although the 2021 Wrangler is offered in myriad trims, 4xe at launch can be had in just two -- the ritzy Sahara or the awesomely capable Rubicon. Being Jeep Wranglers, each boasts standard 4WD, a two-speed transfer case with low-range (plus an all-wheel drive mode in 4xe), Dana 44 solid axles at both ends and truck-tough body-on-frame construction. Rubicon -- including its 4xe incarnation -- adds locking differentials, an electronic front-sway-bar disconnect, a grinding 4:1 crawl ratio and beefier 33-inch tires for unmatched trail talent.
So, yeah, 4xe is an off-roader, including an ability to ford water up to 30 inches deep.
"Uh oh," you might think, "electricity and water?!! (gulp!)" Don't panic, says Jeep. All 4xe electric-drive components are sealed and waterproofed.
So go ahead, start up that rugged 4WD trail in pure electric power. Your trail spotter can be Reddy Kilowatt!
(Yeah, Reddy Kilowatt. Look him up!)
4xe drivetrain components consist of a turbocharged gas four-cylinder, two electric motors and a 17-kWh, 400-volt battery pack, all managed by an eight-speed automatic. The result: 375 total-system horsepower and an astounding 470 lb.-ft. of total-system torque -- more than the Wrangler diesel!
In addition, Wrangler 4xe provides three "E-Selec" driver-selectable drive modes of Hybrid (blends gas/electric power sources), Electric (electric only) and E-save (preserves electric power for later use).
We drove a Sahara 4xe and did better than the EPA expected -- twice.
Starting out with a 100-percent drive-battery charge, we managed 22 miles in pure electric-mode -- 1 more than the 21-mile range EPA figures, and enough for some folks to get to and from work in the daily commute. Then, for an additional 180 miles, we drove in gas/electric hybrid mode, during which we realized 23 mpg -- 3 better than the EPA figures, and awfully good for a truck-tough vehicle that can virtually climb a tree in the outback.
A bonus: around town, with all that electric-motor torque, we greeted 60 mph in about 6 seconds.
On the road, 4xe is a Wrangler -- stiff ride, cabin noise, truck-like handling from its trail-tough recirculating-ball steering and loads of fun with its open-top demeanor.
Beyond electrification, our Wrangler Sahara 4xe was, indeed, a Sahara, meaning its standard equipment included power windows, locks and (heated) outside mirrors, automatic headlamps, dual-zone auto climate control, push-button start, cruise control, 8.4- inch infotainment touch screen, premium audio system with satellite radio receiver, rear-view camera and more.
Our loaded version added, among other perks, optional goodies like heated front seats, Adaptive Cruise Control and a three-piece body-color hardtop.
Of course, all this 21st-century electric motivation, techno wizardry and passenger pampering doesn't come cheap. Starting at nearly 50 grand, our nicely optioned Sahara 4xe rang the register (before an available $7,500 federal tax credit) at $56,380.
For a Wrangler! It almost makes me miss the old days of leaf springs, flapping rag tops and manually locking front hubs.