2021 has been a good model year for the Jeep Wrangler. Over the past twelve months, we've seen the introduction of both the V8-powered Rubicon 392 and the plug-in hybrid 4xe. Rewind 10 years and imagine how you would have felt if somebody even suggested a comparison between a plug-in hybrid and a V8 truck or 4x4, but here we are, and it actually makes a good deal of sense. They're both new, they're both quite powerful and quite capable. But which one is better? Let's take a look.
Let's start off with the challenger (small c): the 4xe. On the plus side, you get 22 miles of 100% electric range thanks to that 17kWh battery pack, which qualifies it for the full $7,500 federal EV Tax credit. That battery juices a powertrain with a total system output of 375 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque, which makes it the second-most-powerful Wrangler offered from the factory (and tied for first in torque). The 4xe powertrain is available on the Sahara, Rubicon and High Altitude trims, which gives you several choices in both equipment and budget. Good start.
In the negative column, the 4xe loses virtually all of its efficiency benefits when you cruise long distances on the highway, and the turbocharged gasoline engine is pretty uninspiring when it's saddled with doing all of the work. Run the battery down and the 4xe becomes little more than an extra-heavy Rubicon 2.0T in the efficiency department. That's not great.
With the 392, you get 470 hp to go with your 470 lb-ft of torque, it makes amazing noises, and it's a good bit quicker than anything else in the Wrangler lineup. Jeep says it'll do 0-60 in just 4.5 seconds (vs. nearly 6.0 for the 4xe) on the way to its 99-mph top speed. It also has a fancy, hood-mounted induction system that allows it to ford more water than any other Rubicon variant, and gets a functional hood scoop to go with it.
Cons? Well, there's that 99-mph top speed, which seems like a miss for a V8 model that can really only take advantage of that power in a straight line. It also gets miserably bad fuel economy, costs a fortune ($75k and up) and is only available as a Rubicon model.
So, while I'm trying to convince you that the two are worth comparing, the reality as that they are two very different Jeeps for very different buyers. The Rubicon 392 is the apex Jeep; the one you buy to show off your superfan status. It's big, tall, loud and proud — a signal that the owner embraces a lifestyle of conspicuous consumption but with a folksy, blue-collar vibe. On the road the 4xe is the better all-around package. It feels more car-like than the 392 since it carries less weight in the nose, and it rides more like a regular Rubicon — bumpy, for sure, but more tolerable than the harsher 392. Sure, you're giving up speed and that glorious V8 howl, but they come at a hefty premium.
The 2021 Wrangler 4xe is the do-anything Wrangler. It demonstrates all of the flexibility that makes Jeep's iconic off-roader so endearing while simultaneously offering an added layer of practicality for a far more reasonable up-front premium. For $25k less than the Rubicon 392, you can walk away with a Sahara 4xe and a $7,500 tax credit, and if your commute is short enough, you may never pay a dime for gas. The future is here, and it's pretty darned good, which is not-so-coincidentally how I feel about the 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe. I called it the best all-around Wrangler money can buy, after all, and hopefully this rundown helped explain why.
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