2023 Jeep Wrangler Willys 4xe Review: Quick Take
|Engine:||2.0L I4 Turbo + PHEV|
|Output:||375 hp, 470 lb-ft|
|US fuel economy (MPG/MPGe):||20/49|
|CAN fuel economy (L/100KM / Le/100KM):||11.7/4.8|
|Starting Price (USD):||$56,530 (inc. dest.)|
|As-Tested Price (USD):||$66,990 (inc. dest.)|
|Starting Price (CAD):||$62,190 (inc. dest.)|
|As-Tested Price (CAD):||$71,015 (inc. dest.)|
A good deed turned into a refresher course: that’s how I ended up driving the 2023 Jeep Wrangler Willys 4xe.
Flash back a week ago. Jeep had brought the new-for-2023 Willys trim of its Wrangler 4xe to the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada’s (AJAC) annual EcoRun challenge. EcoRun shines a spotlight on, well, the eco-friendly vehicles available to consumers. And the plug-in Wrangler is the best-selling PHEVs out there. At the end of the event, instead of loading the SUV onto a truck in Kelowna, British Columbia, I’d be driving it back to a dealership just outside of Vancouver.
As luck would have it, I’d then be driving the entire 2024 Wrangler lineup days later, in Utah.
While you’ll have to wait another week to hear about that, we here at AutoGuide thought it was important to get in a quick refresher on the current Wrangler 4xe. Here’s what I gleaned from my 250-mile (400-kilometer) road trip.
New PHEV Entry Point
The Willys 4xe arrived late on the scene last year, for the 2023 model year. It brings the price of the plug-in lower—if only slightly—to $56,530 ($62,190 CAD) including destination. While only slightly cheaper than the existing Sahara, the Willys offers a flavor that’s more in keeping with the Wrangler’s vibe. No 20-inch wheels here; you’ve got chunky 17s wearing 32-inch Bridgestone mud-terrain tires. The Willys also adopts the Rubicon’s shocks (and the resultant ride height increase) and a rear limited-slip differential. Throw in some retro-tastic styling cues, like the black-out nose and the “Electric 4 Wheel Drive” decal out back, and coat the rest of it in stand-out Punk’n paint, and the Willys 4xe looks excellent.
There are no other visual changes; Jeep is saving those for the ’24 model. But again, this is the Wrangler we’re talking about: even small children can draw it from memory.
As is the case with the exterior, the 4xe’s cabin is essentially the same as that of the gas-powered Willys. The simple and short dashboard harkens back to the original Jeeps, with a light dusting of modern tech in the shape of the central, 8.4-inch touchscreen and driver information display. A gaggle of buttons below take a bit of getting used to, but good on Jeep for sticking to physical controls here, with chunky rotary dials that can be handled with gloves.
The Willys isn’t some stripped-down workhorse, though. The AC is super-effective, and the cloth seats even come with heating for the front folks. The view out that upright windshield, with the high-clearance fender flares framing the shot, is easily as iconic as the Porsche 911. It’s a feel-good perch that’s hard to match.
The four-door Unlimited body style has quickly become the main seller for Wrangler, and it’s easy to see why. The second row is as spacious as a RAV4, though taller folks will be mindful of the body frame.
Uconnect 4 is still one of the more user-friendly infotainments out there, even though this iteration is slow and unpretty. The Wrangler’s Off-Road Pages app remains a great companion piece, providing quick access to details like pitch and roll, the current drivetrain setup, and accessory gauges.
Choose Your Own Adventure
The 4xe offers buyers an additional level of control over the electrified powertrain. There are three E-Selec drive modes: Hybrid, Electric, and E-Save. The first two are pretty self-explanatory. Hybrid is the great all-rounder, and the default, unlocking the full 375 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque when requested. The 4xe isn’t a hot rod—that’d be the Rubicon 392 and its Hemi V8—but it’ll scoot to highway speeds in around 6 seconds. You know, before aerodynamics take over. The hand-off between propulsion systems isn’t the smoothest out there, but to this writer, that’s not a problem. For the Grand Cherokee maybe, but the Wrangler need not be too refined.
Electric cuts power to just 134 hp and 181 lb-ft, but you’d be surprised at how able the Wrangler remains in around-town driving. Officially it’ll do 21 miles (34 kilometers) on a charge, but I saw the estimate creep upwards with careful throttle use.
E-Save allows the driver to hold onto all those electrons for later deployment. Except not. Sorta. Ish. When activated, E-Save will prioritize the 2.0-liter gas powerplant as much as possible, sure. But keep a close eye on the gauges and you will see the electric motors offering a hand here and there, especially at low speeds. It’s unlikely to ever affect the remaining charge percentage, since the 4xe will build it back up via regenerative braking, but it’s noteworthy nonetheless.
This granularity makes it easy to plan ahead to maximize the different propulsion systems. I’d stick to E-Save heading up some of the mountain passes outside Kelowna, then swap to Electric on the ride down, essentially coasting while regaining charge. Even with a tight schedule to get the Wrangler back in time, and starting with 1-percent charge, I averaged 11.0 L/100 km (21.4 mpg).
Hook the 4xe up to a 110-volt outlet and you can recharge the 17.3-kWh battery pack in 12 hours. Plug into a 32-amp Level 2 setup and you can be done in a little over two hours.
Not The Handful It Once Was
The Wrangler has something of a reputation as a wanderer. The same hearty platform that makes it such a beast off-road can have it feeling vague and unwieldy on tarmac. Yet my return trip would only cover asphalt. Oh yeah, and despite the images, it all took place in a downpour right up until the final 30 minutes before the dealership.
But you know what? The Wrangler 4xe was a fine road trip companion. Yes, its noisy inside, especially with the constant dings of raindrops on the three-piece Freedom Top. But surely that’s what the bass-heavy sound system is for. The tiny steering corrections to keep it pointed in the right direction blend into the background, too. Those chunky tires give the Wrangler a squidgy ride that didn’t beat me up over the nearly five non-stop hours we spent together, either.
The adaptive cruise control works well, keeping the right distance from the car out front, and the blind-spot monitoring never misses a beat.
Verdict: 2023 Jeep Wrangler Willys 4xe
With its smattering of options, this particular 2023 Jeep Wrangler Willys 4xe rang in to the tune of $71,015 CAD including destination, or about $66,990 in the US for an equivalent build. Don’t forget that it may be eligible for federal and state/provincial incentives, however.
The 4xe remains a hugely appealing variation of the best-selling off-roader. It’s easy to use, quick when you need it, and yet capable of exploring nature in near-silence—something its cross-town rival simply can’t do. The Willys brings the point of entry closer for more people, while staying true to the Wrangler’s rough-and-tumble roots. You can possess your sugary confection, and also consume it.
How much does the 2023 Jeep Wrangler Willys 4xe cost?
The Willys is the most affordable Wrangler 4xe model, starting from $56,530 ($62,190 CAD) including destination.
What is the full range of the 2023 Jeep Wrangler Willys 4xe?
The official figures are 21 miles on a charge (34 km), 49 mpge (4.8 Le/100 km) combined, and 370 miles (595 km) on a full tank and battery.
What is different about the 2023 Jeep Wrangler 4xe?
This year’s model has no visual changes, but maintains extra convenience features over the equivalent gas-only model.
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- More affordable trim
- Control over PHEV setup
- Off-roady bits without hardcore Rubicon
- Still pretty pricey
- Cabin tech starting to age
- Occasionally rough driveline