Jeep Is Cranking Up Its Plug-In Hybrid Game With The 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe And 2023 Jeep Wrangler Willys 4xe

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If you’re curious about what Jeep is showing at the Detroit Auto Show, which is going on right now, the answer is: plug-in hybrids. In addition to expanding its Jeep Wrangler 4xe lineup to include the more basic “Willys” trim to act as the entry-level plug-in hybrid Wrangler, the Stellantis brand has announced that, roughly 30 years after the shattered glass-filled debut of the first-gen Grand Cherokee, a plug-in hybrid is coming.

I’m not going to lie: I don’t care much about the plug-in hybrid Jeep Grand Cherokee, nor do I really care that the Wrangler’s now going to offer a slightly cheaper-trim version of the plug-in hybrid that’s been available for a few years now. But these are both quite popular models, so I’m sure some of you are interested in buying an expensive Jeep that can drive 25-ish miles in all-EV mode.

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First, we’ll briefly talk about the Jeep Wrangler Willys 4xe: It’s basically  the new lowest-trim for the 4xe Wrangler, though it’s based on the Willys found in non-plug-in hybrid vehicles up to this point (Rubicon 4xe, High Altitude 4xe, and Sahara 4xe were the only plug-in hybrid Wranglers that Jeep offered before). With a 2.0-liter turbocharged “Hurricane” inline-four, along with two electric motors (one on the accessory drive and one in the transmission), the Jeep makes up to 375 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque. And with a 400-volt, 17-kWh battery pack, it offers 21 miles of fully-electric range is possible, per EPA estimates.

Though it’s now a new lowest-trim plug-in hybrid Wrangler, the Willys 4xe (which I assume comes only as a four-door) still comes in at an MSRP of $53,995. So it ain’t exactly cheap, even if it’s the base model 4xe.

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The Grand Cherokee 4xe is the very first electrified Jeep Grand Cherokee, which is exciting. Like the Jeep Wrangler, horsepower is 375 and max torque is 470 lb-ft. Similar to the Wrangler, range isn’t amazing, at 25 estimated fully-electric miles driven per charge. Jeep doesn’t have a price for a 4xe Grand Cherokee, but it does say that the 30th Anniversary Edition package — which includes the plug-in hybrid powertrain — costs $4,700.

I know we already alluded to this early today, but I think now is a great time to quickly peek back at the Jeep Grand Cherokee’s 1992 debut. The vehicle was a larger-than-life machine — essentially a Jeep Cherokee XJ, but made bigger and more comfortable thanks to a coil-sprung rear axle and absurdly cushy seats, and styled in a way that was quite fashionable in the early 1990s. It shot itself into the marketplace, and into our hearts, on that fateful January day when Maximum Bob Lutz drove a ZJ Grand Cherokee through a glass window and into the Detroit Auto Show’s Cobo Center.

I’ve heard so many rumors about this from a friend from my engineering days at Chrysler. He claims the Jeep was a coveted five-speed stick-shift (like my own); that the Jeep had impacted part of the staircase to the auto show, leading Chrysler to alter a stair and/or add a slight lift to the Jeep; and that the glass was actually real since the fake stuff had broken in-transit. I don’t know that I believe any of these are true, but they’re fun rumors from Chrysler oldtimers. Lutz actually wrote about this moment on Road & Track, so if you want a real account of what went down, definitely read that.

It’s amazing how much the Grand Cherokee has changed over time. From a dual-solid axle off-roader to a fully-independent plug-in hybrid, the vehicle has taken a technological 180 in the last 30 years, and yet, in the grand scheme of the car market, it still holds the same position: It’s a decent luxury SUV, found in large quantities in nice suburban neighborhoods. The Grand Cherokee has never been a crappy machine (when new); pretty much every generation launched to positive reviews, and that’s impressive for a 30 year-run.

Here are a few photos from the Detroit Auto Show floor, courtesy of Mercedes Streeter:

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All other photos: Jeep 

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36 Responses

  1. I must not understand plug-in hybrids very well.

    Is the method of operation for a PHEV supposed to be “I drive as far as I can fully-electric, then switch to fully-ICE as soon as the battery is exhausted”? That’s apparently how the 4XE works. So you get 32 miles of electric, then you’re in a regular Wrangler after that and the engine does not charge the battery in ICE mode.

    1. Not quite. The method of operation for a PHEV is supposed to be:

      Most people drive short distances most of the time, so they can drive in all electric mode for a huge % of their drives and not use any gasoline! But – if you have to take a road trip or do a longer drive you have an ICE that can keep things going – no range anxiety!

      The problem with most PHEVs on the market is that the electric motor isn’t powerful enough to let the vehicle function as an EV. The Grand Cherokee for example only has 134HP in it’s electric motor. It weighs about 5500lbs. That’s not enough HP for that weight.

      The Audi Q5 PHEV definitely had enough power to function as an EV, but it was pricey. The Rav4 Prime also has a big enough motor, but lots of PHEVs dont.

      1. Totally disagree. My X5 PHEV only has like 100hp from the electric motor and it is completely fine around town on electric only. I drive fairly considerately – usually first away from traffic signals, keep my speed up, can pull out into small gaps. I drive it more or less like I drive my e46 330. In my opinion 100hp, with the right gearing, works just fine even in a big, heavy BMW SUV.

      2. Keep in mind, the power band for electrics means at low speed they’re a lot zippier than you’d expect for the power:weight, since it’s the equivalent of driving around an ICE at 4500RPM all the time.

        Granted at 149HP for 3500lbs it’s quite a bit better than the Grand Cherokee even on paper, but the Volt is genuinely quick from 0-30. I’m betting the GC in electric mode is not fast, but isn’t nearly as glacial as it looks on paper.

    2. So, kind of. There are 3 modes.

      Electric: You force it to run in Electric only, and the gas motor will only fire if you floor the accelerator

      Hybrid: Prioritizes Electric, but if you pass about 40% throttle or exceed a certain KWH usage, gas motor will fire to assist.

      E-save: It will run the gas engine and save your electricity for later. This also has a submode, accessed through the settings. You can set it to Save battery, or to actually CHARGE the battery, at the expense of fuel mileage.

      There’s also a couple neat tricks that most journalists never got to figure out, such as the “M8 method”
      Anytime you move the gear selector to manual, the gas engine fires and will stay on until you move i back to D. Whats neat though is doing this is the most efficient way to drive long distances, becuase both systems are working together to propel the jeep.

      On a trip from Canton Ohio to Pittsburgh and back (about 150 miles) I averaged 38mpg using M8 and electric charge never droped below 20 percent battery life.

      It may not be the most efficient hybrid, but the amount of user control over the systems makes it extremely rewarding if you involve yourself. I even figured out a way to get my 4xe Rubicon (rated for 21 miles) to get about 27 miles of electric range, with my best effort getting 31 total miles of electric range, by kicking the gas motor on for every steep hill on my drive to work, and switching back to electric once I topped each big hill.

      I also used a whopping 3 tanks of gas over about 4,000 miles.
      In a 375hp brick on 33″ tires.

      I just ordered my Willys 4xe lol

      1. For the Rubicon, what speed did you go to get 27 miles of electric range? How long can it go at 70 mph without using gas?

        I thought about getting a Wrangler 4xe, but decided against it since my commute was 35 miles of highway driving, and I want my commute to be all electric (I bought a used Leaf instead). I now have a shorter commute (5 miles one way), so a 4xe might work for me.

        1. It was a mix. I live right on the very edge of the appalachian foothills, and my job is located more where it’s flat, so my commute is a wierd one. 75 percent of it is windy twisting backroads with LOTS of elevation change, and 4 or 5 long hills. I’d say I average about 45-50 mph, and i tried to stay under that to minimize wind drag. The last 4 or 5 mile stretch on the way to work is flat highway and traffic goes about 60. This is where I would switch to gas. In reverse, on my way home I would leave work using gas only and run it in gas until I got to the backroad portion, and then get home on electric.

          At 70 mph on flat ground, I would say you’ll have 20 miles of pure electric. I WORKED for all that extra range, coasting as much as I could. using max regen to the fullest, etc.

      2. And this is the source of my confusion – I’ve seen Youtube videos showing people taking the 4XE on the highway in Hybrid mode and showing it using electric drive only for 32 miles, depleting the battery then it switching to ICE, and not having any battery capacity left when they get off the highway.

        I would have thought that highway driving in hybrid mode would have the vehicle prioritizing ICE when cruising at low RPMs where it is most efficient and saving full electric for when accelerating since that’s where it is most efficient.

        1. So, It does a pretty good job of figuring out whether it should be burning gas or using battery. But low speed stop and go driving and anything under 40mph or so is where the electric mode is at it’s most efficient. Carrying speed against the wind resistance and long hills use a LOT of electricity, so thats where I would typically switch the gas motor on and let the gas motor give some extra power.

  2. I can confirm that “the WK was pretty well acknowledged to be crap.”

    I own a 2007 WK Jeep Grand Cherokee. But like a mangy old dog with one eye and a terribly gimpy leg, I just cannot bear the thought of putting him down because he just keeps limping back home…in the rain.

    That’s the thing people have with Jeeps I guess. They are generally pieces of inefficient, overly priced, uncomfortable, non-reliable pieces of undeniable crap. But they refuse to just ever fade away.

    Ain’t that right David?

  3. The key to the success with the 4xe is two-fold: One, they didnt have to make it as driver-involved, but they did. For a fuel economy nerd, its a blast.

    You have so many different ways you can drive it. Should I run Hybrid and let it do it’s thing? or should I Force it in and out of electric tactically? Should I use E-save to save the electric, or use the electric and run it in esave/charge and use some gas to build battery back up? Your daily commute turns into a game. Every time you shut it off a trip report comes up on the screen, showing you total miles traveled in electric, miles in gas, trip totals, like it WANTS you to play against yourself, and see how much farther you can go, how much more efficiency can you squeeze out of this brick. In that way, it becomes a very interesting little game that you get to play to yourself.

    Second, and most importantly: The $7500 rebate on these things makes them an absolute no-brainer.

    When you lease one, that $7500 goes right on the lease as a capitalized cost reduction, effectively acting as a down payment. Back when these first came out and Jeep hadn’t screwed with the money factors, we were leasing people $60,000 Rubicon Wranglers for like 500 a month. If your commute allowed it, you could save a ton of money in fuel.

    I went from paying 380 a month and burning 250 a month in gas in a beat up JK to a $520 payment and an almost nonexistent fuel bill. It was amazing. I sold it after 3 months to carvana for a $4,000 (!) profit, and I have seriously been kicking myself ever since.

  4. These make so much sense to me – the electric mode handles the bulk of your daily drive, and the ICE let’s you use it like a jeep. Wish the electric range was a bit better, and that these weren’t so expensive, but overall it’s a pretty nice package.

    Minor rant, Jeep’s badging with “Willy’s” or “Rubicon” written on the hood looks so bad (to me).

  5. Not thrilled with the Willys. Was hoping for a base 4xe wrangler (or gladiator) in the mid 40s to replace our current JT. At 54k, it’s not worth it. Heck, we’re having a hard time justifying a jeep over a Bronco now.

    1. I kind of wish they would make the 2 door in the 2004-6 LJ style and length. currently that is the one model people really want more of, and it would be a great base for a Gladiator with less rear overhang(departure angle) and only 2 seats.

  6. The secret of the Grand Cherokee’s continuing success is simple. Don’t. Fuck. Up. The. Recipe.

    It’s that simple. It was ALWAYS the most technologically advanced of any Jeep product, from day one. It was the first with the overhead console LCDs. It was the first with Infinity stereos. It was the first with heated seats. It was the first with suspension advancements.
    And past that, it’s the simplest recipe there possibly is: it has to be ‘luxury’ in the current context, and it has to be able to off-road like a Jeep.
    And that’s why it has and continues to rack up awards and be an overwhelming success. They’ve completely redesigned it 5 times, four of which were completely new platforms. From scratch. ZJ to WJ was a clean-sheet, WJ to WK was essentially clean-sheet, and WK2 to WL is clean-sheet.

    And year after year after year it has been the top selling mid-size SUV, period. And you really do not begin to understand how many of these they sell and why it’s held as absolutely sacred above all other Jeep products without exception.
    In the past 30 years, they have had only 7 years where annual sales were below 175,000 units. 2006 to 2012; leading into the Great Recession, and the Cerberus ownership. Averaged over it’s lifespan, they sell over 197,000 Grand Cherokees a year.
    Wrangler, in contrast, only first broke 175k units in 2014. And only 3 years between 1983 and 2014 saw sales of over 100,000 units. It’s the ‘don’t change this because marketing’ model. But it is not the “fuck this up and you will never work in the industry again” one.

    1. I mean the recipe changed a bit over the years hence the lack of solid axles. we call the guy with one that tries to wheel it with real jeeps the White turtle. it hange front and rear tires on flat surfaces and gets yanked up 30 degree slopes. Trail Rated My ass

    2. At one time in the late 90s HALF of Chrysler’s profit was from the Grand Cherokee. HALF. It’s insane how important that one vehicle has been to the money-making engine that is the Jeep brand.

      I will say – the WK was always the shittiest one. So much Daimler cost cutting and ridiculous decisions to accommodate sharing with the truly ML of the time. If you drove the 2 generations of ML back to back it was night and day, and that’s because the second’s platform was done by Jeep.

    3. That is very well put. Through the TJ generation the CJ/Wrangler was the icon but could never pull family duty and was not easy to live with a a daily driver. If you had a family and wanted a Jeep, the GC was the way to go. Of course the 4 door JK changed the math a bit but probably doesn’t take many sales from the GC.

  7. “The Grand Cherokee has never been a crappy machine (when new); pretty much every generation launched to positive reviews”

    This is less impressive than it sounds when seemingly 90+% of new car reviews are positive.

    I also thought the WK was pretty well acknowledged to be crap, like most of the Daimler/Cerebus era designs.

    1. We owned a Commander for a few years, and aside from the boxy body was basically a WK underneath (the dashboard was a WK dash with a more squared off cap). Biggest pile of garbage I’ve ever owned with lots of electrical gremlins… but it had that sweet, sweet 5.7l Hemi that put a smile on my face every time I mashed the gas pedal.

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