The 4xe (pronounced "four by E") sandwiches a 270-hp turbocharged inline-four between a 44-hp motor connected through the accessory belt at the front and a 134-hp motor taking the place of the transmission's torque converter at the back. The motors draw power from a roughly 14.0-kWh lithium-ion battery stashed under the rear seats. Whether the 4xe is running in Electric mode or as a hybrid, torque is routed to the wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission and a transfer case that offers rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive (4WD Auto), and high- or low-range four-wheel drive for the off-road crowd.
An Electric mode remaps the accelerator so that the gas engine kicks on only if you flatten the right pedal. Annoyingly, if you always want to start out driving electrically, you'll have to switch into this mode every time you start the 4xe. But you probably won't, because driving that way, you're moving a 5318-pound brick with just 134 horsepower. That's enough to keep up with traffic, but treating the 4xe as an EV doesn't have the same fun, torque-rich punch we've come to associate with electric driving.
If you can tune out the powertrain's hiccups and awkward pauses, you'll find that the 4xe drives like any other Wrangler. There's enough slack in the steering, squish in the suspension, and imprecision in the all-terrain tires to hide the effect of all of that extra weight on the dynamics. Turns out there is an advantage to a numb and vague chassis after all.
Wrangler buyers are used to making those compromises. For years, Americans have happily paid a premium for a vehicle that's loud on the highway, thirsty at the pump, and cramped inside in order to own the ultimate do-anything vehicle. As with any other Wrangler, the 4xe can be a family SUV, a convertible, an off-roader, and a daily driver. It can tow 3500 pounds, and it can ford 30 inches of water as easily as it rolls over a curb in the Piggly Wiggly parking lot.
But the 4xe's clumsy powertrain strikes us as a compromise that few people should tolerate, especially given the $10,705 premium over a V-6 Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon. (Many buyers will be eligible for a $7500 credit on their federal taxes, but even that doesn't balance this equation for us.) Most Jeep shoppers will be better served by accepting that, at least for now, a simpler Wrangler is a better Wrangler.