- The Jeep Wrangler Sahara 4xe gets an EPA-estimated 21 miles of all-electric range.
- The Wrangler 4xe is the only convertible vehicle with a PHEV powertrain.
- After two years, the 2021 Jeep Wrangler Sahara 4xe had several service visits.
In 2021, EVs and PHEVs weren’t easy to find. In fact, most new cars were hard to find, as the US was still in the midst of the pandemic. But, in July 2021, I found a local dealership with a Jeep Wrangler Sahara 4xe plug-in hybrid EV, and I bought it as soon as it arrived on the lot. Two years later, I’ve learned that having a Wrangler PHEV is versatile, expensive, and fun.
Why I Bought the 4xe
Before purchasing the Wrangler 4xe, I had a bare-boned black Wrangler Unlimited Sport with 90,000 miles that got about 17 miles per gallon. It was so bare-boned that it even had a six-speed manual – which kept my kids from wanting to drive it!
Ford had announced the release of the new Bronco, and I was considering switching. But, the Broncos were nowhere to be found. As a car blogger, I’d written about the Wrangler 4xe, and after hearing about the horsepower and potential fuel economy, I had to drive one. But, like the Bronco, no car dealership had any.
Getting the Call and Making the Deal
So, I waited and watched the Jeep website religiously. Only one dealership in my area ever got any, and as soon as a delivery was announced, they were sold. So, I emailed the dealership and let them know I wanted one. Eventually, I got a call that two were arriving – one in Granite Crystal and the other in Snazzberry Pearl.
The salesman told me that it was charging and to wait an hour before arriving. I couldn’t wait. I jumped in my black Jeep and headed for the dealership (about 45 minutes from my home). By the time I got there, the Granite Crystal one sold, so my only choice was the Snazzberry model.
When I arrived, it was charging – slowly. It was beautiful. Sparkly bright maroon with tan leather interior, a black hardtop, and the distinctive blue 4xe badging. I took it for a test drive and was amazed by the instant torque and speed. My black Jeep was slow – so slow that my son referred to it as “the Brick.” This new Jeep flew. I was sold.
I paid the sticker price but got a great trade-in value for my used Jeep. It was the strangest time to buy and sell cars – and this was the second car we purchased that year, as a few months earlier I bought my daughter a 2021 Honda Civic.
Installing the JuiceBox
I went all-in on “EV ownership,” and found out that Consumers Energy gave EV owners $500 rebates when they installed a Level 2 charger in their homes. I bought an Enel X Way JuiceBox 40 Plug-In, as it was one of a few options at the time. Now, Consumers Energy offers rebates on several makes and models of Level 2 chargers.
For two years, I’ve relied on my JuiceBox to charge by 4xe, and it delivers nightly. It takes a little over two hours to refill the juice, and I set the timer to start at 11:00 PM. Consumers Energy charges .008¢ per kW between 11:00 PM and 6:00 AM. My 4xe has a 17.3-kWh battery, so I spend about $1.40 charging my battery each night. To make matters better (for me), Consumers Energy gives me $10 back each month I don’t charge during the day.
Range and Cost
The EV range in my 4xe varies. Jeep claims the 4xe gets an EPA-estimated 21 miles from the 17.3-kWh battery. In the winter, the range is much shorter. In the summer, I get closer to 27 or 28 miles from the battery – as long as I stay off the highway.
Once the battery is depleted, the 4xe becomes a typical “Jeep” and gets about 19 miles per gallon from the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder. So, I figure that my $1.40 nightly charge pays for a little more than a gallon of gas – which hovers around $3.25 and $3.50.
My day job is teaching high school, and my commute is about 35 miles round trip. Unfortunately, my Jeep’s battery isn’t enough for a gas-free commute, and I can’t charge it at school. During the school year, my gas mileage is about 24 MPG. In the summer, when I only drive around town, I get about 35 MPG and rarely have to get gas.
During the school year, I gas up every other week. When I had my 2017 Jeep with a 3.5-liter V6 and a 22-gallon tank, I filled up every five days. The 2021 Wrangler 4xe has a 17-gallon tank. The small tank can be a bit annoying, especially on long road trips from Michigan to Florida.
Thoughts After Two Years
In 2017, I purchased the black Jeep because I wanted a car with a convertible top that fit my family of four. Since I live in West Michigan, I have to deal with snow – so a convertible Mustang or Camaro with rear-wheel drive were sadly out of the question. Yes, Wranglers are rear-wheel drive, but they have four-wheel drive.
The Only PHEV Convertible
When I purchased the 2021 Jeep Wrangler Sahara 4xe, I wasn’t looking for an EV or PHEV, but at the time, the innovative powertrain was intriguing. At the time, it was the only vehicle with an electric motor and a convertible top. In 2023, this is still true. In the winter, my Jeep wears its black hard top, and in the summer, it wears a tan soft top. If rain isn’t in the forecast, the top is down. This is my favorite part of owning a Wrangler.
Driving Modes & Off-Roading
I also love having the PHEV powertrain. The 4xe has a few modes: Hybrid, Electric, and E-Save. The vehicle defaults to Hybrid mode. I’ve used E-save a few times, especially when I’m on my way to trails to save the silent electric mode for off-roading. Saving the electric motor for off-roading lets you enjoy the sounds of nature rather than the hum of the engine.
The Wrangler 4xe also has a Max-Regen mode, but I don’t like it. I rarely use it since it slows down the car too much. Since I live in a suburban-rural area, I don’t encounter enough slow city roads to find it beneficial. I wish the battery-regen mode had sensitivity settings, like the Kia EV6, Polestar 2, and several other EVs.
Repairs & Maintenance
A few weeks ago, I crossed 36,000 miles. I no longer have a manufacturer’s bumper-to-bumper warranty. I still have the 100,000 miles/10-year battery warranty, and I purchased an after-market extended warranty. With so many moving parts in the PHEV, purchasing an extended warranty was a no-brainer (especially as Jeep vehicles are known for having reliability issues).
Since my 4xe has a combustion engine, I have to get oil changes. I’ve gotten them every six months, which is better than my 2017 Jeep – which needed them every 5,000 miles.
Since purchasing the 4xe in July 2021, I’ve visited the service center twelve times – including the four oil changes. I’m currently waiting for a part to arrive so I can have the suspension repaired.
The most annoying service issue is something that we cold-weather 4xe owners have to deal with – Fuel Oil Refresh Mode or FORM. This only happens when the temperatures drop, and the 4xe stops using the battery. The combustion engine takes over. I’ve visited the dealership several times for this issue. FORM is supposed to reset itself and eventually return to hybrid mode, but it never happens.
Fortunately, my dealership has people who know how to take care of the PHEV, so I know my car is in good hands at every service visit.
Should YOU Get a Jeep Wrangler Sahara 4xe?
I’ve had a plethora of nice cars during my decades of driving, but this Jeep takes the cake. Even today, as I was plugging in at a ChargePoint station, a Tesla driver was unplugging his Model Y. He had never seen a plug-in Jeep and was amazed by the size, convertible top, and PHEV drivetrain. We had a long conversation about his Tesla and my 4xe. (In my opinion, public EV charging stations have become the new water coolers.)
Barely a week goes by where someone doesn’t ask me about my Jeep and compliment me on its looks and PHEV benefits. I’ve joked that I should become a salesperson at the Jeep dealership when I retire from teaching.
Despite the attractiveness of the Jeep Wrangler, they aren’t for everyone. They are expensive to purchase and own – although the $7,500 tax credit helps. They aren’t great in the snow, despite having four-wheel drive. The soft top and hard top leak a little when I go through the car wash. The EV battery is under the backseat, so it reduces the cargo space when compared to a gas-powered Wrangler.
But, the Wrangler 4xe is a versatile vehicle that is fun to drive! I’ve driven it on trails in Northern Michigan, and I’ve gotten stuck in the sand at Silver Lake Sand Dunes. Wranglers are built for off-roading, and they practically come to life when the pavement ends, and the 4xe’s 375 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque only add to the joy.
I wish the Wrangler 4xe had a larger battery, but it doesn’t. It also doesn’t look like Jeep will be releasing a fully-electric Wrangler anytime soon, but the Recon EV is scheduled to arrive in 2024. I love having the convertible, and no other automaker is planning on releasing a convertible EV anytime soon. So, I will not be trading my Wrangler 4xe for an EV. However, in 2024, I will be adding a Kia EV6 to my garage, so I can store the Jeep for summer-only driving.
IMAGES: KRISTEN BENTLEY
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