Prodigious off-road talent
Electric and hybrid modes
Not very efficient in hybrid mode
Two fresh colors
Stars & Stripes on front fenders
The 2023 Jeep Wrangler 4xe puts a plug-in hybrid drivetrain into an iconic SUV. Muscle and off-road abilities are joined by fuel efficiency and low running costs. Prices start at $54,765.
Elegance isn’t perhaps the first word that springs to mind when considering the Jeep Wrangler SUV, whose heritage dates back to the unpretentious and highly utilitarian Willys Jeep of World War II.
But the 2023 Wrangler 4xe is an elegant solution to the tricky conundrum of leaving the roads behind, reconnecting with Mother Earth, yet not emitting more carbon into the atmosphere as we trundle past the chaparral — or startling the wildlife with engine noise. The 4xe can run for about 20 miles using just its battery.
That’s because the 2023 Wrangler 4xe is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, or PHEV. And it can turn in a performance similar to a much pricier V8-powered Wrangler while driving past more gas stations.
The 2023 Jeep Wrangler Willys 4xe
The 4-door Wrangler used to be called Wrangler Unlimited, but no longer. There isn’t a 2-door version with this 4xe drivetrain. The rest of the 2023 Jeep Wrangler lineup — with all-combustion drivetrains — is reviewed separately.
2023 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4xe pricing
The 2023 Wrangler 4xe starts at $54,765, plus a destination charge. This is for the Sahara trim level. The Rubicon version is priced from $58,595.
The priciest variant is the Sahara with the High Altitude package, which retails for just over $60,500. With more options, that could approach $68,000.
A silver lining to this fiscal cloud comes in the form of a federal tax credit offered with plug-in hybrids, up to $7,500. Some states also have incentives. New York, for example, will provide $500 with its Drive Clean rebate program.
Just as there is not a bevy of like-for-like rivals to the regular Wrangler, competitors with plug-in hybrid drivetrains are also few. If the main idea is to buy a PHEV SUV, but not take it off-roading, the Toyota RAV4 Prime starts in the low $40K range. The Hyundai Tucson Plug-In Hybrid begins in the mid-to-high $30K range. So does the smaller Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid (which is a PHEV).
Alternatively, a combustion-only Ford Bronco could please a lot of adventurers. A 4-door model comes in at about $35K.
Before buying a new Wrangler 4xe plug-in hybrid SUV, check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area paid for theirs. This particular Wrangler variant is still a relative newcomer, but resale values should be robust.
Driving the 2023 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4Xe
Like every other Wrangler, this model has the high driving position loved by SUV owners in general and off-roaders in particular. And like other Wranglers, there’s a give-and-take between things like wind and tire noise (especially with the Rubicon’s all-terrain rubber) and awesome ability over rough terrain.
The 2023 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe
Heavy-duty solid axles front and rear are standard in all 2023 Wrangler 4xe versions. That’s a good thing for when the going gets tough and not so forgiving on tarmac.
Maximum torque is a strong 470 lb-ft, coming in at 3,000 rpm. A lively launch from standstill is definitely possible, as well as enough muscle to crawl up a boulder-strewn landscape. The Rubicon, named after the demanding trail, also has a front anti-roll bar that disconnects (and re-connects) automatically for maximum suspension travel over rocky surfaces.
Things are kept basic inside the 2023 Wrangler 4xe SUV. There are no little electric motors to adjust the front seats, for example. Not because of penny-pinching, but so that owners can hose down the interior if they need to and let the water flow out through the drain plugs.
The rear seats have safety belts for three occupants, but two will be more comfortable, given the narrow cabin’s tight shoulder room. Rear legroom is good, though: 38.2 inches.
Cargo space goes from 27.7 cubic feet behind the split/folding 60/40 rear seats to 67.4 cubic feet when they’re folded down. That’s a compromise of about 5 cubic feet, compared with other 4-door Wranglers, because of the extra apparatus involved with the plug-in hybrid drivetrain. But it’s still quite roomy.
Changes to the 2023 Wrangler 4xe plug-in hybrid SUV are confined to this aspect. Jeep offers two new paint choices. Earl is a silvery greenish-blue and the limited-edition Reign is a metallic purple. The front fenders also gain Wrangler decals that feature the Stars & Stripes.
With an eye to making life easier for drivers when they encounter parking/recharging/nose-in spaces, Jeep put the charging socket on the front left fender. When spotting a Wrangler in the wild, two small tell-tale signs that it’s a 4xe are the electric blue tow hooks at each end.
Available only as a 4-door Wrangler, this plug-in hybrid SUV still has the usual removable top and doors, plus a folding windshield. The Rubicon receives even more under-body protection than the Sahara.
1. Removable roof and doorsWhat’s the point of driving into the great outdoors and staying cocooned inside a metal shell? The Wrangler 4xe SUV allows the elements in and even comes with a fold-down windshield.
2. Apple CarPlay/Android AutoBecause this is 2023 and we all like some convenient technology in our cars. Standard smartphone integration is expected these days and the 2023 Wrangler 4xe provides it.
3. Electric-only off-roadingThe Wrangler 4xe can travel for about 20 miles in electric vehicle (EV) mode. This range will be shorter over demanding terrain, but drivers can still count on a couple of hours of rock climbing or dune dashing. The sealed battery also enables a fording depth of 30 inches.
4. Corning Gorilla Glass windshieldThis optional feature is three times more resistant to cracks and chips than a regular windshield.
5. Off-Road PlusThe Rubicon version has this feature as standard. It’s like a low-speed, off-road cruise control where throttle, gears, and traction control are all looked after by the system. The driver just has to concentrate on steering.
6. Other Wrangler ownersEvents like the annual Jeep Jamboree bring together a community of like-minded people. The Wrangler rises above the level of mere transportation.
Engine and transmission
Pronounced “four by E” as a play on the 4×4 term, the Wrangler 4xe has a gasoline/electric drivetrain consisting of a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine augmented by a pair of electric motors. These motors get their spark from a lithium-ion battery pack.
Total output is 375 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque. An 8-speed automatic transmission sends that to a standard 4-wheel drive system.
This 4xe is one of the most muscular Wrangler variants. The nearest a gasoline-only model gets is the V8-powered Rubicon 392, with the same amount of torque and 470 horsepower. And that’s in the $80,000 region before filling the gas tank, which happens a lot.
Recharging the battery pack takes up to 2.5 hours when using a 240-volt system. It’s more like 12 hours using a 120-volt domestic supply.
With plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles, the Environmental Protection Agency has a method for miles-per-gallon-equivalent (MPGe) calculations which takes the all-electric range into account.
The EPA estimates that the Wrangler 4xe can travel for 21 miles on battery power alone, delivering efficiency equivalent to 49 mpg for those miles. When operating in gas-electric hybrid mode, city/highway combined fuel economy is 20 mpg. Regular gasoline will do, but Jeep recommends using 91-octane premium gas.
2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine + dual electric motors375 total horsepower @ 5,250 rpm470 lb-ft total torque @ 3,000 rpmEPA combined fuel economy: 20 mpg in gas-electric hybrid mode (49 MPGe in electric-only operation)EPA-estimated electric-only range: 21 miles
KBB vehicle review and rating methodology
KBB’s Expert Ratings come from hours of both driving and number crunching to make sure that you choose the best car for you. We comprehensively experience and analyze every new SUV, car, truck, or minivan for sale in the U.S. and compare it to its competitors. When all that dust settles, we have our ratings.
We require new ratings every time an all-new vehicle or a new generation of an existing vehicle comes out. Additionally, we reassess those ratings when a new-generation vehicle receives a mid-cycle refresh — basically, sprucing up a car in the middle of its product cycle (typically, around the 2-3 years mark) with a minor facelift, often with updates to features and technology.
Rather than pulling random numbers out of the air or off some meaningless checklist, KBB’s editors rank a vehicle to where it belongs in its class. Before any car earns its KBB rating, it must prove itself to be better (or worse) than the other cars it’s competing against as it tries to get you to spend your money buying or leasing.
Our editors drive and live with a given vehicle. We ask all the right questions about the interior, the exterior, the engine and powertrain, the ride and handling, the features, the comfort, and of course, about the price. Does it serve the purpose for which it was built? (Whether that purpose is commuting efficiently to and from work in the city, keeping your family safe, making you feel like you’ve made it to the top — or that you’re on your way — or making you feel like you’ve finally found just the right partner for your lifestyle.)
We take each vehicle we test through the mundane — parking, lane-changing, backing up, cargo space and loading — as well as the essential — acceleration, braking, handling, interior quiet and comfort, build quality, materials quality, reliability.
This story originally ran on KBB.com.