The Hybrid Jeep Wrangler Could Be the Cheapest Version

The plug-in-hybrid Wrangler should be a game-changer for Jeep, without adding much cost for buyers.

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The times, they are a-changin’. The Jeep Wrangler, one of the automotive world’s most notorious gas guzzlers, is going green. Jeep has announced that it will debut plug-in hybrid versions of the Wrangler, Compass, and Renegade at CES 2020 in Las Vegas this month.

The three vehicles — all united under the brand’s new “4xe” hybrid branding — will spearhead a movement that will see every Jeep model offer a plug-in hybrid variant by 2022.

So far, Jeep has provided no 4xe-specific powertrain details. That said, the Wrangler already shares its 3.6-liter V6 with the Chrysler Pacifica minivan, so porting over the Pacifica’s 3.6-liter V6 plug-in hybrid powertrain — which gets 32 mpg combined and offers 33 mpg of pure electric range — seems like a natural move.

Pricing for the 4xe cars remains unclear as well. The Pacifica’s hybrid system bumps the starting price from $33,745 to $39,995 –though the Pacifica is also eligible for a $7,500 federal tax incentive, which makes the effective cost of the hybrid lower than the gas version. That federal tax rebate could be the Wrangler 4xe’s trump card; as in the minivan, it could offset the price of the plug-in hybrid hardware. Theoretically, it could even make the PHEV model the cheapest Wrangler.

Adding hybrids to the strong-selling Jeep lineup is a necessary step for FCA, which has been lagging behind other automakers when it comes to meeting increasingly-stringent fuel emissions standards. Bringing average fleet-wide emissions down was a major reason for FCA’s merger with PSA; prior to that, FCA paid Tesla to pool its fleet in Europe in a bid to avoid emissions fines in 2019.

The $64,000-when-fully-loaded question is: will Wrangler buyers accept a hybrid? Probably. The off-roading icon does have a strong enthusiast base that drives some corporate decision-making, like adding a diesel engine. But a base that may be skeptical of a hybrid has become less important as the Wrangler has become a more mass-market family vehicle. Nine out of 10 buyers opt for the four-door version that was once sacrilegious. A similar percentage choose the once-anathema automatic transmission. If anything, the increased fuel efficiency from the hybrid will probably increase the car’s appeal.

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