September 28, 2023

Go-anywhere attitude gets greener with Jeep Rubicon 4xe

Hybrid tech maintains expected off-road capabilities

The brain trust at Jeep is in the process of doing what every automaker on the planet must figure out – how to move from gas-exclusive to some form of electric-powered vehicles. Of course, the added curveball for the iconic off-road brand is maintaining its capability when the vehicle leaves the pavement.

While the all-electric Jeep models are due next year, several plug-in hybrid variants are labeled as 4xe. My recent 2023 Wrangler Rubicon 4xe test drive opened my eyes to the huge strides Jeep has made in introducing electric power to some of its most popular vehicles.

Hybrid promise

For those who may be a bit nervous about going all-electric (range anxiety is the biggest deterrent to attracting buyers to EVs), the hybrid technology offered on the Jeep Rubicon 4xe gives you peace of mind knowing you have the clean, emission-free quiet of electric, but also the gas-powered capability as a backup.

The Jeep Rubicon 4xe I tested was rated at 21 miles on battery power alone. That’s not going to win any EV range competitions, but it is something if you spend a lot of time just shooting around town in your Jeep. No gas stops feel just as nice in this 4xe as they do for any Tesla.

Jeep looks

The Jeep Rubicon 4xe looks just like a normal gas-powered Rubicon, except for the distinct neon blue accents on the hood, rear tow hook, and front-end tow hooks. Adding to the distinction, my tester featured a clear-coat hue called Earl (first introduced on the Jeep Gladiator Farout concept), a bold gray shade comprised of subtle hints of aquamarine. The color sounds weird, but the Earl color got a lot of compliments the week I had it.

My tester also featured the X Preferred Package that included Nappa leather seats, 12-way adjustable power seats, heated seats and steering wheel, Alpine premium audio system, remote start, steel rear and front bumpers, and an off-road camera.

Making the Rubicon 4xe look like it is an iconic Jeep were the full-size spare tire mounted on the back gate, the front-bumper-mounted winch, and the huge fender flares shrouding the massive off-road rubber. It’s a great look and Jeep enthusiasts can embrace the 4xe as looking like any other previous Rubicon.

Hybrid power

The 17 kWh battery can be charged in around 2.5 hours on a Level 2 connection. There are three convenient buttons to the left of the steering wheel that switch between the primary drive modes. The Hybrid setting is the 4xe’s default, which automatically decides the amount of gas and EV power blended to get you moving; the Electric setting locks the Rubicon into battery power only; and E-Save leaves you driving on gas power only, reserving the battery’s charge for later.

Jeep’s plug-in hybrid system is comprised of a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine mated to the first (of two) electric motors that deliver power to the road, as well as serve as a generator to charge the battery from the gas engine.

The second electric motor is mated to the 8-speed transmission. It’s responsible for both power and the Wrangler 4xe’s regenerative braking. The 4xe delivers 375 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque, making it one of the most potent Wranglers available. Regardless of whether you’re in Hybrid, Electric, or E-Save mode, you still get all the 4-wheel-drive flexibility.

Overall, I felt the 4xe did a great job of blending the gas and EV power. There’s really not a lot of get-up-and-go, but Jeep owners really are not tuned into such things as much as they want the capability to get through lousy trails and weather. The torque on the 4xe is terrific.

Familiar cabin

Sitting in the rich Nappa leather seats, you are comfortable in the front and rear rows. Jeep enthusiasts will recognize the cabin as just another Jeep, nothing too different for the 4xe. One constant is the road noise in the cabin, it’s loud, but that’s due in part to the big tires. Click it over to all-EV and things are definitely a bit quieter.

There’s a big 8.4-inch touchscreen in the center stack that runs Uconnect 5 and features large, tactile buttons and knobs for climate control. Infotainment is a little clunky but intuitive and easy to use. My tester featured Android Auto and Apple CarPlay with both USB-A and USB-C ports in multiple places.

There’s a regular shifter for the standard 8-speed automatic, alongside a second shifter for moving between 2H, 4H Auto, 4H Part-Time, N, and 4L drive modes. In regular snow conditions, you’ll probably want to stick to 4H Auto, which leaves the Wrangler to decide when to engage four-wheel drive depending on road conditions.

The Rubicon trim gets a red panel of additional controls in the center console to manage the front and rear locking differentials, and the sway bar. There are also four auxiliary buttons, which can be hooked up to accessories like light bars.


The Wrangler 4xe starts at $54,735 (plus $1,795 destination), the Rubicon trim you see here kicks off at $60,980, my tester added the $595 clear-coat Earl exterior paint, a $3,295 Power Top, $1,995 winch, and the $8,500 Rubicon X Preferred Package to bring the final total to $76,935.

Jeeps have always been proud of their lack of refinement in the cabin and the overall driveability day to day, but I’m here to tell you that electrification makes the experience much better.

• John Stein is a freelance journalist based in Chicago. He has more than 25 years of experience driving, testing and writing about the automotive industry, its latest innovations, and vehicles.