The Jeep Wrangler 4xe may well have the broadest list of powertrain modes and drivetrain modes of any vehicle in the world. Even for veteran vehicle testers, making use of them all takes quite a bit of preparation and education. We can help. In this story, we will tell you what the drive modes do, and how you can enable them and then put them to use.
Wrangler 4xe - What’s the “e” All About?
The Jeep Wrangler is no longer an all-brawn no-brain, bare-bones, old-school “four-by-four.” Rather, it is one of America’s most popular electrified vehicles. The little “e” in the name stands for electric. The technical term is plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle, or PHEV. Jeep uses an electric drive system to augment and support the powerful and efficient turbocharged gasoline engine it packs. There are many advantages to this. Increased energy economy, lower energy costs, higher torque, and regenerative braking are all among the things that PHEVs offer any vehicle. For many Jeep owners, the 470 lb-ft of torque may be the most attractive. If you’re a Jeep lover you probably already know the 4xe has as much torque as the Hemi V8-equipped Wrangler 392.
Electrified vehicles benefit mightily from regenerative braking. In a nutshell, regen allows the electric motor to act as a generator when you slow down. That energy is then stored in your battery and is there when you want to use it to move forward. Magic. The cool-looking blue button on the center dash is the button you tap to make the regen its most powerful. Some folks call it “one-pedal driving” since you can mostly ignore the brake and slow by simply lifting off of the power pedal. In the Wrangler 4xe, it’s not quite that dramatic, but you will love the feeling.
A Primer On Wrangler’s 4X4 System and How To Use It
Jeep has a true 4x4 system in its Wrangler 4xe. You can make the rear wheels do all the work (2H) when it’s dry on road, or let the Jeep use its front wheels to help out (4A), or switch over to 4H which lets the front wheels be part of the fun all the time, or go full-whammy and use the transfer case to enable 4L, as in four low. Each added level of 4X4 steps up the Jeep Wrangler’s off-road and snow capabilities.
To enable the crawl control and hill descent control functions, you will need to know how to enable 4L. So here are the steps and we have attached a video to help you as well:
Start out in 4H. While moving, but with the engine not under load (lift off the power pedal), pull the left shift lever down. Now you are in four-wheel drive auto, 4A. Next, move the lever to the right to engage 4H. We suggest you be stopped and in Neutral. So use the right lever to move the car’s transmission to N. With us so far?. Now while in 4H, yank the left lever hard and down. Move the vehicle a bit and you will feel 4L engage. Be aware that the Wrangler is a bit difficult to move in and out of 4L when it’s super cold outside and the vehicle is also cold-soaked. Better to let the engine and drivetrain be warm when you make those moves. Now that you are in 4L you can drive around with maximum torque and at relatively low speeds. Your shifts are going to be a bit abrupt. Don’t be put off by it. OK, now that you are in 4L you can use the hill descent control and crawl control feature.
Crawl Control and Hill Descent Control
Crawl control helps you in the most extreme of conditions. The Jeep Wrangler 4xe’s version is called Selec-Speed Control with Hill-ascent and Hill-descent Control. When enabled,. The system can do things you cannot. Such as brake individual wheels many times per second. This is super handy in extreme conditions when traction is at its lowest possible point. Downhill is where the real magic happens.
Imagine an icy slope you want to descend. There is a point at which you cannot safely do so. Beyond that point, the Wrangler 4xe with Hill-descent Control can. It will walk the vehicle down the hill under control better than any human can do. Remember, you're already in 4L. This is not about letting the drivetrain engine-brake its way slowly down a slope. It’s all about traction at its extreme limits and the HDC system is amazing when you use it.
The system works uphill, downhill, in reverse, and at speeds of up to 6 MPH. You control the speeds using the right lever’s manual mode. Watch the video link above.
Hybrid - eSave - Electric Modes
Your PHEV powertrain can operate in multiple modes and they are independent of your 4X4 selections. Yes, you can operate in full electric mode in 4L. Here are the three different modes and what they do:
-Hybrid: The powertrain’s default mode enables torque from the 2.0-liter engine and also the electric motor. In this mode, the powertrain will use battery power first, then it adds propulsion from the 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 when the battery reaches its minimum state of charge. Note that you never are entirely out of battery. It’s always there for launches.
-Electric: The powertrain operates on zero-emission electric power only until the battery reaches the minimum charge or the driver requests maximum torque (such as wide-open throttle), which engages the 2.0-liter engine. This mode works as advertised. The Wrangler 4xe is an EV while operating in this mode.
-eSave: Imagine you are headed to a fun off-road or back-roads area from home and want to use your Electric drive range when you get there, rather than while you cruise on the highway. Enable Save. This mode enables propulsion from the 2.0-liter engine, and it saves the battery charge for later use. Want to add more charge while you drive? You can do so using the Hybrid Electric Pages in the Uconnect monitor’s menu.
The Wrangler 4xe can lock its rear differential with the flick of a switch when in 4L. It can also lock the front differential. This is no different than in any other conventionally-powered Wrangler with this feature.
Torque News has been fortunate enough to test the amazing Jeep Wrangler multiple times over a period of many weeks. This is unusual for media loaners, but justified by the Wrangler 4xe’s interesting powertrain and drivetrain. It takes some experimentation and practice to become familiar with all of the various ways this vehicle’s engine and drivetrain can be put to use. We won’t claim to have discovered every aspect of how it can be used. That’s up to you. We hope this comprehensive overview of the powertrain and drivetrain are helpful if you are shopping for a Wrangler 4xe.
Images of Wrangler 4xe by John Goreham. Wrangler 4xe graphics courtesy of Jeep.
John Goreham is a long-time New England Motor Press Association member and recovering engineer. John's interest in EVs goes back to 1990 when he designed the thermal control system for an EV battery as part of an academic team. After earning his mechanical engineering degree, John completed a marketing program at Northeastern University and worked with automotive component manufacturers, in the semiconductor industry, and in biotech. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American news outlets and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on TikTok @ToknCars, on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin
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