US off-road icon Jeep appears to be having an each-way bet on what will drive its future vehicles, teasing fans with images of a plug-in hybrid Wrangler barely a day after it showed off a gas-guzzling V8.
A video of the upcoming Jeep Wrangler plug-in hybrid was posted on Instagram, and shows the vehicle gliding silently on an off-road track, without any sound of a combustion engine running.
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Jeep calls its Plug-In Hybrid (PHEV) powertrain '4Xe', and is set to join a growing portfolio of engines that power the iconic off-roader.
Along with the long-serving 3.6-litre petrol V6, the Wrangler currently also has the option a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol (not available in Australia), a 2.1-litre turbodiesel (available in Australia) and a 3.0-litre turbodiesel V6 (US market).
The Wrangler 4Xe also joins already confirmed Jeep plug-in hybrid models, the Renegade 4Xe and Compass 4Xe. Although, the traditional off-road underpinnings of the Wrangler makes it a unique platform in the Jeep (and FCA) range.
The Wrangler is a big (and important step) for the brand to make good on its promise of electrification across the range by 2022.
A Wrangler 4Xe has already been displayed at CES, with the charging port located behind the front wheel arch.
Details of what the hybrid driveline will be remains unconfirmed. It could use a version of the 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 as used in the Chrysler Pacifica people-mover (which is sold in the USA), which has an electric-only range of 51 kilometres.
The Jeep Wrangler 4Xe could also use a plug-in version of the more advanced 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, which offers more torque and more efficiency, in comparison to the petrol V6.
The Jeep Commander, which is made for the Chinese market, currently uses a 2.0-litre PHEV drivetrain, which uses a 13kWh lithium-ion battery pack for around 70 kilometres of range.
What’s undoubtedly important for the PHEV Wrangler is that it doesn’t dilute the brand's off-road capability or heritage. With a hybrid electric drive system, the Wrangler 4Xe could offer some capability advantages over a traditional internal combustion drivetrain.
A plug-in hybrid Wrangler 4Xe could also pave the way for a fully electric Wrangler, some time in the future. And according to Mark Allen, Jeep’s design boss, it could be the best Wrangler off-roader yet.
“I truly believe that if we do an electric Wrangler, sometime in the future, that would actually be a better Wrangler,” he said in a recent interview with CarAdvice.
“It would be more capable off-road. It has the ability to do things that we can't do now,” he continued.
“If we do something like that, it shouldn't be a compliance play because to me, it doesn't really matter where the power comes from,” he said. “Just that it goes to all four wheels. That's what's important.”
When asked about any chance of a Wrangler 4Xe (or V8, for that matter) coming to Australia, Jeep Australia told CarAdvice they couldn't comment on future models.
MORE: Everything Jeep