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Jeep Wrangler vs. Jeep Wrangler 4xe

1. Introduction

Premiering for the latest model year, 2021, the 4xe is the plug-in hybrid version of an already iconic nameplate. While it hardly seems groundbreaking for a vehicle so rooted in the 1940s to be powered by electricity, this is a drastic move from traditional convention which could prove a monumental failure or a smashing success. Consider this to be a deviation from a classic, perhaps a deviation which may decide the nature of all future Wranglers. (Wei, 2023)(Gohlke et al., 2022)(Lotko2022)

It was perhaps inevitable that licensing a vehicle after the iconic warhorse of World War II would result in producing a kind of overgrown Tonka toy. That's much what the Jeep Wrangler is, a toy compared to modern SUVs, even down to its removable doors and roof, open bodywork and rugged utilitarianism. Well, at least it was that until the present, second generation of Jeep Wrangler, called the TJ by fans, which was produced from 1997 to 2006. This was the watershed, the move to a more refined and comfortable vehicle which also has the virtues of the original. As the model evolved into its current generation, known as the JL, for 2018 to present day, while the original formula has remained in place, capturing the magic that made the old classic models so loved has always remained a distinct effort. Now, in its fourth generation, Jeep has tried something bold.

1.1. Overview of Jeep Wrangler

Jeep Wrangler is not just a vehicle, it’s more than a robust 4x4 vehicle. The high versatility of Jeep Wrangler can be seen in its ability to be customized based on the owner's intended use. Some use it for off-road adventures, where heavy off-road modifications can be done without sacrificing comfort and ease of access to parts. There's no need to worry about finding expert opinions. With its international level of comfort for a small SUV, there's no problem using it for daily urban commuting. This is because the Wrangler is relatively easy to maneuver in traffic (unless equipped with huge off-road tires) and its small size is great for parking and negotiating narrow city streets. Jeeps are always synonymous with the farm vehicle lifestyle and good fuel economy at an affordable price. With its huge internal space, it can be used as a farm vehicle, and the Wrangler Unlimited is classified as a light truck compared to other brands of compact SUVs. The high durability and easy access to parts in Malaysia make owners smile, as it is relatively cheap to maintain. A good example is the 4-speed automatic transmission, which can be fixed by just using a spanner and opening the transmission oil pan because the transmission solenoid is placed outside the transmission oil pan. (Mohsan et al., 2022)(Welling & Hanover)(Tan & Yeh, 2021)(Khalatbarisoltani et al.2023)(Telli et al.2023)

Jeep Wrangler, which is the benchmark of compact SUV, offers the lifetime experience of owning a freedom machine and the desire to seek adventure. The legacy started in 1941 when the first Wrangler was initiated and it will continue until the end of time. Wrangler consists of four generations which are YJ, TJ, JK, and the latest JL from 2017 until the present. It comes with eleven different models and multiple editions for each year. Alternatively, you can experience the thorough evolution of the Jeep Wrangler with its 2018 full model change, with slight modifications on the exterior and a total revolution on the interior. The upgrade from the previous generation of Wrangler is intended to preserve the classic Jeep look and make significant improvements for a modernized appearance.

1.2. Overview of Jeep Wrangler 4xe

There are now three main modes of operation with the 4xe. Hybrid mode is the default, combining the gasoline engine and electric power. Electric mode uses only battery power, conserving the remaining charge for later use. Save mode uses only the gasoline engine, reserving battery power for later. An E Selec mode on the Selec-Trac full-time two-speed transfer case gives drivers access to various configurations for all-weather and off-road conditions. The new 4xe is offered on both the Sahara and Rubicon models, combining efficiency with the same legendary 4×4 capability, increased fuel economy, improved climbing, and more efficient off-roading. With instant torque provided by the electric powertrain and the ability for quiet, slow-speed rock crawling with the electric motor, this opens up new opportunities for the Wrangler when off-roading in the great outdoors at a campsite, water-fording excursions, or simply adventuring in the great outdoors without the disturbance of a loud engine. With the benefit of a cleaner, electric fuel source, Wrangler 4xe has been tested on some of the world's toughest off-road trails to ensure world-class capability and is now the first SUV to wear the "Trail Rated" badge to also offer an electric-only mode. Wrangler 4xe is expected to be in showrooms early 2021.

The plug-in hybrid version of the time-honored Jeep Wrangler blends classic style with eco-friendly operation, without sacrificing any of the off-road capability that makes the Wrangler famous. It's an evolution of the earlier mild-hybrid eTorque Wrangler, with improved fuel economy and a bit of all-electric driving range. The 4xe uses a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine making 270 horsepower, coupled with an eight-speed automatic transmission and two electric motor generators. A 400-volt battery stores the captured energy and uses it to increase performance. The first electric motor is attached to the engine and works as a generator. The second motor is mounted directly on the front of the engine and provides torque to the wheels.

2. Performance Comparison

Engine Type: Standard Jeep Wrangler 2.0L I4 DOHC DI Turbo Engine, which offers 270HP @ 5250 RPM and 295LB-FT Torque @ 3000-4500 RPM. The new 4Xe Hybrid Jeep Wrangler comes with the 2.0L I4 DOHC DI Turbo Engine as well, offering the same horsepower and torque. It also offers a 17KWH Lithium Ion Battery along with an Electric Motor to offer the hybrid technology. This adds 375HP @ 4500 RPM and 470LB-FT Torque @ 3000-4000 RPM, which is a substantially increased power output that will no doubt increase its performance. With the added hybrid features to the 4Xe, it comes with the 8 Speed Auto 850RE Transmission with Fuel Saving Technology, and Electronic Start/Stop. An idea of its performance can be seen with its 0-100 KM/H time of 6 seconds. This is a far cry from Jeep's very own original Willy's Jeep in the 1940s, which had a 60HP engine and could do 40-60 MPH before it self-destructed. The 4Xe will be more geared towards motoring, it seems! Step away from the blue rust bucket, did. Engineers are constantly looking at ways to increase fuel efficiency on a vehicle, not only for how it affects the environment and how much money it can save the consumer, but also for the fact that as technology advances, many new engines are offering incredible performance on much less consumption than what was once thought possible. Diesel and hybrid engines are the obvious choices when it comes to saving fuel, but economy petrol engines are still giving out good returns in modern times. When comparing the 2.0L turbo engine in a 2-door manual Jeep Wrangler (10.6L/100KMS) with a 4-door auto version (9.9L/100KMS) to the 2-door 4Xe (EV) engine (3.3L/100KMS), and the 4-door 4Xe (EV) engine (4.1L/100KMS), you can see a massive difference in fuel consumption. With the increased MPGs on the 4Xe, it still offers great performance and gets more miles to the tank doing it.

2.1. Engine Specifications

Two engines are available: 3.6-liter V-6 and 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. Both pair with a standard six-speed manual and optional eight-speed automatic transmission. The V-6 can be fitted with an eTorque 48-volt mild hybrid system in Sahara trim. A turbo 3.0-liter diesel V-6 is planned for the future. The 4xe will be exclusively four-cylinder with a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and electric motors. The traditional Wrangler has a wider engine choice than the 4xe, and both have different configurations. The premium engine between traditional and 4xe is comparable in power and torque to the V-6 in the regular Wrangler, with additional electric power. The 4xe has more engine power than any of the traditional engines in the Wrangler version. The 4xe has a lesser choice of engines but the biggest advantage of efficiency. An electric motor delivers ultimate performance, better responsiveness, and trail-rated. An E Selec electric drive mode. Eco mode uses only the electric power for low energy consumption. Hybrid mode uses the combination of electric and gas propulsion. The battery can reserve the electric power for later use at the designated time, to conserve electric energy for city driving. Finally, an exclusive Max regen that uses the maximum regen brake setting to slow the Wrangler and enhance the on-demand electric torque requirement.

2.2. Fuel Efficiency

Contrarily, the Jeep Wrangler 4xe actually has no information or numbers released on its fuel efficiency just yet. A lot of information and specifications of the 4xe vehicle have been released through dealer playbooks and orders being up for taking, but no fuel efficiency stats have been fully described. It might also be that the fuel efficiency has not been tested and optimized, as the vehicle is slated for release in Q1 of 2021. Any test drives of the vehicle thus far have been unable to pinpoint a solid number of what to expect. The most suspected reasons for unknown fuel efficiency would have to be the bimodal automatic transmission. Coming with the PHEV engine, a four-cylinder in-line engine with an 8-speed automatic transmission, it is understood that by using electricity, the propulsion should be possible without fuel, and the ability to switch from the high voltage to the low voltage system should save on energy for the internal combustion engine. This being said, the PHEV engine may still consume more fuel running the engine for frequent and sustaining high acceleration situations. With it being an 8-speed, this type of transmission had previously been known to have higher fuel consumption due to higher RPM, which has less to do with the model and more to do with the type of transmission itself. A solution to this, however, would still be the spreading efficiency of the transmission itself and the implementation of low-range gearing to the electric part of the engine. More testing will be required to know how much effect this will have on high torque over small time period situations.

The Jeep Wrangler 4xe is unique among vehicles in its segment by combining the high torque, low-speed crawling ability, and the ability to drive in an electric-only mode for emission-free commuting and off-roading. The Jeep Wrangler 4xe will be the most efficient Wrangler Jeep ever, and it is estimated to deliver an approximate 50 miles per gallon equivalent. When the 4xe goes on sale, it will be the most fuel-efficient Jeep to date. This is the perfect platform to build an efficient off-roading machine. The vehicle was not only designed to be efficient on the pavement and off-road but also in the manufacturing of the vehicle itself. This is why the vehicle has an electric mode, to reduce emissions, energy waste, and fuel consumption in day-to-day commuting to more challenging off-the-grid traversing. With the addition of the electric motor, the available 2.0L turbocharged I-4 engine with ESS has been upgraded with a belt-driven starter/generator to the PHEV engine with better efficiency and output. With the vehicle having both on and off-road capabilities, the routing of torque to the driveline should offer better fuel efficiency and acceleration, while the ESS provides more reliability than the conventional Start/Stop system.

2.3. Off-Road Capabilities

An additional strength, common in all Jeep models, is approach, breakover, and departure angles. The 4xe, Sahara 4xe, and Rubicon 4xe have angles of 41.8, 22, and 35.6 degrees respectively. These numbers, coupled with high ground clearance and short wheelbases, will allow all 4xe models to glide over obstacles while reducing the risk of getting hung up or suffering undercarriage damage. New electric power steering and familiar Anti-Lock 4-Wheel Disc regenerative brakes are sure to provide precise handling and promote confidence while descending.

The new 4xe will be available in three different trims: 4xe, Sahara 4xe, and Rubicon 4xe. The base model 4xe and Sahara 4xe are both Trail Rated, while the Rubicon 4xe is to be the "most capable Wrangler ever". Whether obtaining a Trail Rated badge or not, all 4xe Wranglers are fully equipped to take on any off-road challenge. All 4xe models come standard with Selec-Trac two-speed transfer case, full-time 4x4, and heavy-duty Dana 44 axles, front and rear. This combination will provide optimal grip whether on the highway during a rainstorm, deep in a muddy trail, or crawling over rocks. The Rubicon 4xe takes it a step further by equipping heavy-duty Dana 44 axles with Tru-Lok locking differentials and the Rock-Trac two-speed transfer case. This higher level of drivetrain quality will further decrease the chances of getting stuck while increasing overall traction. Step aside and let the new 4xe pass on by.

3. Features and Technology

Comparing the comfort features of both, they both, 2021 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4xe and Sahara 4xe 4dr SUV 4WD (2.0L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid 8A), offer automatic A/C. But the latter has air filtration and rear HVAC with separate controls, with an additional feature of 1 12V DC power outlet compared to only 1 provided in 2021 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4xe.

In addition, 2021 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4xe boasts additional climate control, remote start, smart device remote engine start, a heated steering wheel, and a keyless access card key for the key fob for all doors.

Regarding interior features: 2021 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4xe has a leather steering wheel, vinyl/fabric bucket front seats, manual tilt/telescoping steering column, manual air conditioning, etc. On the other hand, 4dr SUV 4WD (2.0L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid 8A) has more features, including a leather/metal-look steering wheel, front side airbag, A/C, ABS, heated mirrors, power door locks, AM/FM stereo, keyless entry, adjustable steering wheel, leather seats, etc.

2021 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4xe has seating for 5 members and 4x4 driveline with 8-speed automatic w/OD and auto-manual transmission. On comparing the standard features of Sahara 4xe 4dr SUV 4WD (2.0L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid 8A), both have very identical provisions for 4G LTE WiFi-Hot Spot and Garage Door Transmitter. The base engine of Sahara 4xe 4dr SUV 4WD (2.0L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid 8A) is Intercooled Turbo Gas/Electric I-4, 2.0 L/122, and that of Wrangler Unlimited is Gas/Electric I-4.

Interior and comfort comparison between 2021 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4xe and Sahara 4xe 4dr SUV 4WD (2.0L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid 8A):

3.1. Interior Features

Seats: The 4xe interior features black seats with accent stitching and hybrid badging on the battery-powered SUV. Each Jeep Wrangler 4xe comes with the Jeep Badge of Honor. The hybrid variant showcases information on the 4xe specific features in the Wrangler's cabin. All-weather premium floor mats come standard. Rubicon 4xe has the option for leather trim.

Instrument panel design: The 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe has Uconnect technology that features a 7-inch or 8.4-inch touchscreen. The 7-inch display is standard on Jeep Wrangler Sahara 4xe and Rubicon 4xe (optional on Wrangler Sahara) and the 8.4-inch display is standard on Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4xe and Rubicon 4xe models. Both displays are part of the Alpine Premium Audio System bundle. Wrangler 4xe models with the 8.4-inch display can also opt for the available Advanced Safety Group package which includes Forward Collision Warning Plus and Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop.

3.2. Infotainment System

The Rubicon comes equipped with a state-of-the-art infotainment system as standard. Featuring a 7.0-inch display on the base level, this system comes fitted with next-generation Uconnect technology. It is a genuine advance on previous versions of the system and will add significant value to your Wrangler. The system includes some attractive standard features such as Apple CarPlay compatibility, Android Auto integration, and SiriusXM support. These are all displayed in high-resolution on the touch screen interface and could be a significant selling point for some consumers. However, it is worth noting that your freshly updated navigation applications and streaming services may be wasted on the car, as the available 4G LTE Wi-Fi Hotspot is not available in the UK and Europe, and the available 8.4 NAV system is only compatible in North America. Both Sahara and Rubicon models also come with a premium option to increase screen size to 8.4 inches. As a rather vague idea of premium, the price of this upgrade is yet to be known, but could be cause for consideration depending on what the definition of 'premium' equates to. One downside to the infotainment system is the lack of perceived customer satisfaction with the system's touchscreen responsiveness, which is particularly an issue when the vehicle is in off-road conditions. 4xe models come with an 8.4-inch display screen, which acts as a much larger canvas to the infotainment system. This allows for much ease of use and is a benefit to an already efficient plug-in hybrid. Unfortunately, upgrade options are rather limited, given the marque's bias to off-road capabilities. Although noise-canceling technology is included, a nine-speaker Alpine premium audio system can still be added to enhance sound in Sahara models.

3.3. Safety Features

In comparison to the traditional Wrangler, the new 4xe model is built with much more advanced safety features. The new 4xe model comes standard with the safety group feature that is available on the traditional Wrangler. In addition, it also has advanced multistage airbags to help protect the occupants and seat-mounted airbags. Standard in the Wrangler 4xe are also advanced driver assist safety features. These include an anti-lock 4-wheel heavy-duty disc brake system and advanced brake assist. Parking your vehicle uphill and downhill just got easier and safer with the new 4xe model, as electronic stability control is standard. To ensure vehicle occupant safety in the unfortunate event of a collision, the Wrangler 4xe has an occupant restraint controller and a safety cage. With the integration of a new hybrid system, there is potential danger with high voltage and hybrid component batteries. To prepare and protect first responders in the event of an accident involving a 4xe model, there are high voltage battery precautions, an emergency fuel system shut off, and an audible safety alert. The safety features found in the new Jeep 4xe model are certainly of a higher standard and more advanced than the old traditional Wrangler.

Safety has always been a priority for Jeep in all their vehicles. The traditional Jeep Wrangler comes equipped with standard safety features, including advanced multistage front airbags, which help provide occupant protection by matching airbag output to impact severity. Other safety features include supplemental front seat-mounted side airbags to provide thorax protection for drivers and front passengers. Making the Wrangler even safer is the implementation of an available side-supplemental airbag feature known as the safety group. This additional feature can provide added security in the event of a side impact. The traditional Wrangler also comes standard with a center high-mounted stop lamp (incandescent) which helps alert drivers when stopping, door-mounted sun blockers for the first and second rows to assist in protecting against harmful UV rays.

4. Pricing and Availability

Forth is to address the availability and delivery options of the two cars. In discussing the Wrangler 4xe, the official website is very vague, only saying "It will soon be available with the same legendary 4X4 capability features, Open-air Freedom, and more Cargo space." This is frustrating for potential buyers as the PHEV model has been available for European buyers since March of 2020 and the details of the American release have been consistently postponed. This postponement is rolling over into 2021 and as PHEV technology improves, American consumers may opt to purchase a different PHEV SUV instead of the Wrangler 4xe which will cut into the sales of Jeep's PHEV model. When comparing this to the standard Jeep Wrangler, buyers are given a very straightforward answer. With a plethora of dealers across the country and an online configurator, a customer would have no issues finding or ordering a model. Jeep has its cars readily available for stock which is easily accessible and the quality of the product is guaranteed; two things that are not clear when looking at the 4xe model. So, it is evident that as things currently stand, the availability of the standard Wrangler and the PHEV 4xe models are not on par and this trend will continue given the delay of the American 4xe release. This is not good for the sales of the PHEV model as some consumers will revert to the original SUV due to lack of information and limited access to the 4xe.

4.1. Price Comparison

The price comparison between the two vehicles is as follows: the starting MSRP for the Jeep Wrangler is $28,295, and the starting MSRP for the Jeep Wrangler 4xe is $47,995. The price difference is justified by the new technology in the 4xe. It can also be due to the fact that this is a newer vehicle to the Wrangler and had a lot of research and development behind it. The price point for the 4xe is actually one of the lowest-priced plug-in hybrid electric vehicles out there. It is much cheaper than the more luxurious electric vehicles such as a Tesla Model X (with a starting price of $85,000) and the Land Rover Range Rover PHEV (with an eye-watering price of $93,000). Statistics have shown that the most expensive Jeep Wrangler sold usually costs around $50,000. In that case, it is only a $5,000 difference between the Wrangler and the most expensive 4xe. An extra $5,000 for a more fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly vehicle is relatively low. Both vehicles are eligible for government incentives and rebates, including the federal tax credit, a tax credit specific to your state of residency, and possible local incentives. The tax credits range and are not guaranteed. The federal tax credit for a plug-in hybrid is anywhere between $2,000 and $7,500. This is not factored into the calculation but will provide an additional cushion if you're leaning towards the 4xe and will close the gap between the two vehicles' pricing.

4.2. Availability and Delivery Options

The Jeep Wrangler 4xe will be available starting in 2021. It is scheduled to be released in the 4th quarter of 2020. This too-far-in-advance release will allow the buyer to have the option to wait and secure the exact Jeep of their choice. The Jeep Wrangler (unlike the 4xe) offers custom orders that allow the buyer to build and order their vehicle exactly to their specifications. Unfortunately, there is no solid release date. Instead, production is set to begin in 2019. After your build date, you may have to wait a while to receive your vehicle. Often times there are delays in production and it is hard to predict when your vehicle will actually arrive at the dealer. With the 4xe being released after it's built, it will be easier to time the purchase and delivery of the vehicle. This will be especially helpful for those who need a replacement vehicle, don't want a long-term rental, or are receiving a tax credit that could only be used toward the new vehicle. High demand and limited production of the 4xe could result in difficulties acquiring the vehicle without paying over MSRP. This has been an issue for some with the new Jeep Gladiator. Normally, going for the previous year's model vehicle can save you money, but in this case, the 4xe could be a wiser financial decision due to its tax credit incentives.


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Jeep Wrangler vs. Jeep Wrangler 4xe

The Jeep Wrangler and Wrangler 4xe both carry the iconic Wrangler name and rugged off-road capability. The 4xe model, however, integrates a plug-in hybrid system, offering improved efficiency and the ability to run on electric power alone for shorter trips, making it a great choice for eco-conscious adventurers.