Updated: Mar 31, 2022
Publisher's note: Normally, the cars you read about here at MikeHagertyCars.com are loaned to us by the press fleets of the various manufacturers for several days. Seven is typical. Occasionally, we'll get a longer period of time, and sometimes it'll only be three or four days. Our "30 Minutes With" series features cars we spent half an hour driving during the just-concluded Western Automotive Journalists Media Day in Half Moon Bay, California.
Needless to say, these are quick drives and brief impressions that we hope to be able to flesh out with a full review of the vehicle at some point in the near future.
Media Days is a driving program, with journalists taking cars from the staging area at our host hotel, the Aristocrat, down Highway 1 to Highway 84, onto Stage Road (named for the former stagecoach stop still---but barely---standing on the corner), past the historic (since 1889), socially-aware and only-in-Northern-California funky San Gregorio General Store, through some marvelous twists and turns that lead back to Highway 1 and ultimately back to the hotel.
At the hotel, support teams from Page One Automotive and DriveShop sanitize the vehicles as they return while journalists choose their next vehicle from a total of 27 cars, trucks and SUVs provided by their manufacturers. This goes on for eight hours on day one, minus a 90-minute lunch break, and for three hours on day two. For me, that was enough time to drive 11 vehicles that I hadn't driven yet.
My fourth drive of day one was in the 2021 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4XE.
Unless you're looking very carefully (and know where to look), this looks like any other Jeep Wrangler Unlimited (the four-door model of Wrangler). Hint: This side is not where to look.
"4XE", you see, is Jeep speak for 4X4 and "electric". In this case, a plug-in hybrid.
The 2021 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4XE combines a 2.0-liter gasoline engine and two electric motors. Combined, it makes 375 horsepower---a leap of more than 100 from the purely gasoline-powered 2019 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara I reviewed on the old TireKicker site two summers ago.
It can be driven on pure electric power for up to 25 miles before switching to a hybrid of gasoline and electric. The EPA combined fuel economy estimate in that mode is 49.0 miles per gallon.
The driver can ask for one of three modes---pure electric, hybrid and a mode that relies solely on the gasoline engine, saving the electric charge for when it's needed most. In that mode, though, you're looking at 20 miles per gallon combined.
Of course, for the 25 miles of pure electric range to be there, you have to actually plug in the vehicle---and there are some fairly depressing early statistics regarding just how infrequently Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) owners in the United States actually remember or bother to do that. Those who don't are missing out on a feature they paid money for. Not good, not smart.
Think of it this way---if you use your Wrangler 4XE as a commuter, you live 12 and a half miles or less from work and you charge it at home every night, you could save the fuel in the tank and the money in your wallet (not to mention the emissions from the tailpipe) when you drive it for pleasure use on the weekend (and that would only be after the first 25 miles of pure electric driving, because you'd charge it every night, right? Right.).
The base price of the 2021 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4XE is $47,995. The standard features list is a long one, as the Sahara is a top trim level, so I'll just refer you to the window sticker at the end of this review.
Our tester included a little over $4,500 in extra-cost options including the Billet Silver Metallic clear coat paint ($245), the Cold Weather Group ($995), the Safety Group ($995), the Advanced Safety Group ($795) the Cargo Group ($195), a soft top window storage bag ($75), remote proximity keyless entry ($645) and a premium black Sunrider soft top ($595).
With $1,495 destination charge, the as-tested price of the 2021 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4XE is $54,030. That's only $2,015 more than the 2.0-liter gasoline-powered 2019 Wrangler Unlimited Sahara from two years ago---but with an extra 107 horsepower plus the ability to keep gas in the tank indefinitely using all-electric power for short drives.
Because of a lack of charging at the event site, I can't tell you what the 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4XE is like in pure electric mode (beyond the extra horsepower of the hybrid powerplant, it very much drives and rides like a Jeep Wrangler), so I've booked a full week in the same exact vehicle. Look for a full review here in early October.