2024 Jeep Wrangler Willys 4xe

Road Test: 2024 Jeep Wrangler Willys 4xe

With the Jeep Wrangler Willys 4xe variant of the small Jeep, Stellantis continues to have some of the longest product names in the business.

2024 Jeep Wrangler Willys 4xe

As well as the longest-serving. “Willys” (actually, Willys-Overland) was one of the companies that built Jeeps for the US Army in World War II, along with such as Ford, and American Bantam, which had developed the original prototype. Jeep eventually became part of Kaiser-Nash, then American Motors, which ended up in the hands of Chrysler, which became Stellantis.

The current Wrangler is the more-or-less direct descendant of the CJ (Civilian Jeep) which in turn was the demilitarized version of that WW2 vehicle.

Thus endeth the history lesson.

Despite the several remakes in its history, the 2024 Jeep Wrangler retains much of the look and personality of the original.

Only the “Willys” part of its nomenclature history makes it onto this vehicle. But it is joined by several other badges, including a couple of “Trail-Rated 4×4” logos, and an “electric 4-wheel drive” sticker on the tailgate.

What’s that? An “electric” Jeep?

2024 Jeep Wrangler Willys 4xe engine
2024 Jeep Wrangler Willys 4xe

Well, sort of. The Jeep Wrangler Willys 4xe is referred to as a “plug-in hybrid”.

The 2.0 litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, also used in non-Hybrid Wranglers (270 horsepower at 5,250 rpm; 295 pound-feet of torque at 3,000 rpm) is supplemented as deemed necessary by a pair of electric motors. One, built into the transmission, adds 100 kW of power to the proceedings. The second, the so-called “eTorque” belt-start generator/motor, is bolted to the side of the block in place of an alternator. This instantly and quietly adds 39 lb-f. of torque to the launch of the vehicle on initial throttle tip-in, then turns itself into a generator, contributing up to 33 kW to recharge the battery pack located in the rear of the vehicle.

The power/torque numbers from these various sources are never completely additive because they are developed at different rpm levels. Jeep gives total powertrain output as 375 horsepower at 5,250 rpm., and 470 lb-ft at 3,000 rpm.

In other words, lots. Sufficient for a 0 to 100 km/h time a tick under 6 seconds.

A 17.3 kWh lithium-ion battery stores enough juice to permit roughly 48 kilometres of all-electric driving, with up to a 20% drop in cold weather. I got about that range during my test when plugged overnight into a 110-volt circuit, at near-zero temperature. Incidentally, a raging blizzard jammed up the door to the charging port. Maybe that needs an electric heater…

When the electricity is used up, it relies mainly on the gasoline engine.

2024 Jeep Wrangler Willys 4xe

“Mainly” on the engine? But if the battery is depleted, how can it not rely “entirely” on the engine?

Good question. In attempting to answer it, I tried accelerating gently. It stayed in pure electric mode until 115 km/h, then the engine cut in. I lifted, and the engine kept running. I coasted down to 85 km/h, then re-accelerated back to highway speed. The engine was still running.

Oddly, the range number kept going down as the instrument panel showed the battery was being charged.

At some points during this test, the battery was showing as “<0” charged (Huh? “Less than zero” charged??) and the tach indicated the engine wasn’t running either. No engine, no battery to power the motor. But the road speed was showing as 53 km/h. So, what exactly was motivating the truck? Any sufficiently advanced form of technology is indistinguishable from magic…

Actually, it turns out there is reserve capacity built into the battery, so even if it says it’s depleted, it isn’t.

All this urge feeds into an eight-speed autobox, thence into the dual-range part-time four-wheel drive transfer case, with rear-wheel drive high, four-wheel drive high, and four-wheel drive low ranges. Just like the non-“electric” Wrangler.

2024 Jeep Wrangler Willys 4xe dash
2024 Jeep Wrangler Willys 4xe

Shifting into the various ranges can sometimes be hard to do. You have to be in Neutral and stopped, but you may have to rock the truck back and forth, switching from Drive to Reverse, to un-bind the gears.

You can manually shift the transmission by pulling the lever to the left, then back to upshift, forward to downshift, the way it should be but so often isn’t. There are no shift paddles on Wrangler.

Now, about the electric gubbins. Research has shown that the typical driver covers about 40 – 50 km a day, so hybrids like the Jeep 4xe should be able to handle most people’s day-to-day driving needs electrically. Of course, you have to plug it in overnight, every night (versus filling a gas tank once a week for five minutes) to get about 500 km of total range. Hm-mm…

How does all this translate into off-roading, presumably an important feature for any Wrangler buyer? The 4xe’s massive torque makes it ideal for boonie-bashing, provided you don’t use up all the juice just getting there. Things might become a bit weird if all of a sudden you lose much of your torque at a critical moment. To cover this, you can flick a button to switch the drive mode to “e-save” which runs the Jeep on gasoline only, keeping your battery charged until you get to the tricky bits. One problem solved, provided you plan ahead.

2024 Jeep Wrangler Willys 4xe center dash
2024 Jeep Wrangler Willys 4xe

The other available drive modes are “hybrid” (the default setting) which switches between gasoline and/or battery power according to its own logic; and “electric only”, presumably for inner-city or daily commuting use.

Several graphics can be called up on the bright clear instrument panel which attempt to show where the power is coming from (engine or either motor) and which axle it’s going to. They were never entirely clear to me; further experience would surely help. But again, if you are off-roading (whether on purpose or not, ho ho…) you probably should be looking where you are trying to go, not at the dashboard.

If you’ve done any serious mud-plugging, or even driving on dirty roads, the rear-seat passengers are going to get their pants dirty when they get out because the rear door doesn’t open very wide, and they will brush right against the black plastic fender flares. Don’t ask.

Other specific off-road features include the axle locker, for those really tough situations. A row of four “Aux” switches on the centre console provide wiring to easily connect things such as auxiliary lights, a winch, or an air pump compressor, all handy things to have in such conditions.

2024 Jeep Wrangler Willys 4xe

I didn’t get to try any off-roading this time. I’m ready when you are, Jeep.

The eJeep is some 300 kg heavier than the non-Hybrid, and weight is always the enemy of performance of any kind. The big battery takes away a bit of the cargo area depth, and also eliminates the auxiliary cargo space hidden under the rear seat in non-hybrid Wranglers. There are also various weird whirring and humming noises you typically hear in electrified cars, when driving and re-charging. You’ll get used to those.

The 4xe is offered only as a four-door. The two-door’s wheelbase is almost half a metre shorter, which doesn’t allow room for the big battery.

Willys Wrangler gets a few changes for 2024, mainly larger tires – B. F. Goodrich All-Terrain T/A K02 “Baja Champion” LT 285/70 R17 M/S-rated on my truck. Bigger IS better here, especially when off-roading, because they bring more ground clearance. They also necessitate larger fender flares, and help the vehicle ford up to 75 cm of water. No, I didn’t actually try that this time either.

2024 Jeep Wrangler Willys 4xe

Despite these chunky tires, this Wrangler rode better than I remember from my last test. The classic comment “firm but not harsh” applies. It’s well-damped, and the sharper edges are nicely rounded off.

You can pretty much disassemble significant parts of a Wrangler in your driveway, taking off roof, doors, etc., to give you that wide-open feeling. Maybe in summer; not at 2 degrees Celsius like when I was testing it.

Once all buttoned up, it’s decently quiet, apart from some road noise from those tires, and wind noise from the brick-like frontal area. My tester was rattle-free.

The interior is decently crafted and well-equipped. Heated steering wheel and seats are always much appreciated (see “2 degrees Celsius”, above).

The front seats offer decent comfort and room, and are adjustable for reach, rake, and lumbar support. You pull on a strap to adjust seat back angle rather than a lever, which again takes some getting used to. Cloth upholstery is always preferable to leather, especially here where the added grip of the rugged fabric helps keep you positioned during off-roading.

2024 Jeep Wrangler Willys 4xe

The front seats are well off the floor, giving more foot room for rear-seat riders. There are three seat belts back there, but any middle rider better be skinny. The rear seat back is split-folding, and its headrests can be easily folded down to improve rearward visibility for the driver if nobody’s back there.

The spare tire is mounted on the tailgate in Jeep tradition, which does compromise that rear view a tad.

The tailgate is hinged on the right side and opens door-like more than 90 degrees. The rear window just lifts up – no latch, no prop rod; it just stays up. The rear wiper/washer and defroster are especially handy for muddy trails. The nice clear back-up camera not only helps when reversing into a parking spot, but is also useful in off-roading should you need to back  out of a dicey spot, although it’ll probably be all muddy by then.

The left side-view mirror can’t be adjusted far enough out to be of any use, so minus one cookie to Jeep. There are bad reflections in it at night, possibly made worse by the flat door glass.

2024 Jeep Wrangler Willys 4xe

The headlights don’t go off when you switch the car off. Two more cookies, gone.

Now, off-roaders tend to be a conservative lot. Some I’ve driven with don’t even like Hill Descent Control because it allows newbies to be almost as good at this critical skill as the so-called experts. If this hybrid-electric vehicle can attract dyed-in-the-wool off-roaders, maybe the concept has a chance.

But at what cost?

According to Stellantis, the 4xe Willys starts at $64,995, less $2,500 in government bribes, which brings you to $62,495.

The 4-door non-hybrid Willys starts at $57,490, so with the eJeep model, you’re about $4,275 behind at the start.

But to get as close as you can get to equivalent power and torque in a non-Hybrid Willys, you’d have to tack on 4 grand for the Pentastar V6 and autobox transmission, meaning you’d only be $280 in the hole. You’ll have 90 fewer horsepower and a substantial 210 lb.-ft. less peak torque than the eJeep, but at least you know you won’t run out of that extra urge after 48 km.

2024 Jeep Wrangler Willys 4xe

According to the Natural Resources Canada web site, the average fuel costs are: $3,335 for the non-Hybrid 2.0 litre, $3,364 for the Pentastar V6 (a surprisingly small extra cost over the 2.0 litre four, I think), and $2,392 for the 4xe.

If you drive the way NRCan thinks you will, you’ll save $943 a year over the 2.0 litre, and $972 over the V6. Which means if my math is correct, the eJeep would pay for itself in about three months. After that, it’s about an extra grand a year in your jeans.

In Québec, that $2,500 government gift becomes $7,500, which changes the situation markedly. Mind you, if I lived in Québec and my neighbour bought an eJeep, I figure I’d get to drive his truck one day a week since my taxes had paid for 1/7th of it.

So, is the eJeep a good deal? On the surface, it certainly seems so. There were some reliability issues with the e-business in the early years, largely resolved now. You may be restricted to your dealership for maintenance and service, as few independent shops will be able to deal with the electric stuff. And as battery/motor technology evolves, you may end up with a bit of an orphan.

At least, Jeep is giving you an interesting choice.

2024 Jeep Wrangler 4xe Hybrid 4WD

Base Price – $62,495 ($64,995 list, less $2,500 in government grants).
Price as tested – $75,740, including Freight/Destination charge ($ 2,195) and Air Conditioning tax ($100).
Configuration – Front engine, selectable rear-wheel drive high range / four-wheel drive high range / four-wheel drive low range.
Engine – 2.0 litre turbocharged 16-valve inline twin-cam four cylinder.
Power / Torque: 270 hp/295 lb-ft
Electric components: “eTorque” belt-start generator/motor, electric motor built into the transmission.
Combined engine/motor output – 375 hp/470 lb-ft
Transmission –  8-speed automatic with manual shift option.
Fuel (Capacity) – Regular (65.1 litres)
Fuel Economy / electricity usage (NRcan ratings):
gasoline (L/100 km): City 11.6; Highway 11.9; Combined 11.7
electricity (Le/100 km): 4.8
annual fuel cost : $2,392
Competitors: Wrangler 4xe is pretty much first in a field of one.
Website: Jeep Canada

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