Jeep Wrangler PHEV preview
At the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show, held in Las Vegas, a Jeep Wrangler 4x4 was seen plugged into the mains. This was the first visual confirmation that a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) version of the rough-and-tumble off-roader was inbound, although exact details on the part-electrified Jeep are thin on the ground. Nevertheless, it promises to be a usefully clean and low-tax model in the Wrangler line-up, which already includes 2.0-litre petrol and 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine options.
What will its rivals be?
Difficult to say, as the Wrangler doesn’t really have any direct rivals in its normal form. It is a proper, focused off-roader, with a ladder-frame chassis, locking differentials and a bias towards travelling on the rough stuff, with a sacrifice of some on-road civility as the pay-off. SUVs are not considered direct rivals, as they have more road-focused chassis, and even the Land Rover Defender – an all-new model of which is due in for 2020 – has been considerably gentrified. The two most obvious mechanical competitors on sale today are neither remotely comparable in size or price: there’s the much cheaper, much smaller Suzuki Jimny; and then the outrageously pricey but highly desirable Mercedes G-Class. There are plenty of plug-in hybrid SUVs, of course, such as the long-serving Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, but these are not anything like as capable off-road as the Wrangler.
Any tech info?
Nothing concrete as yet. Both the Compass and Renegade Jeeps, which are smaller, crossover-type vehicles, will be the first models from the American brand to get plug-in hybrid technology, but both of those will use a 1.33-litre turbocharged petrol engine with electric augmentation, for outputs of either 190- or 240hp. That drivetrain is not likely to be significantly powerful enough to move the much-larger Wrangler about, especially in its preferred off-road terrain, so we expect the 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that is already seeing service in the Wrangler to be the one to gain electrification. As this already delivers 270hp and 400Nm in production guise, the additional outputs of the hybrid system would be most welcome.
What will the range be like?
It's likely that the PHEV Wrangler will be a ‘one-spec’ model to slot into the existing portfolio, which already contains the aforementioned 270hp petrol version and the 190hp/450Nm turbodiesel. It is feasible that the PHEV will be available in both the short- and long-wheelbase body styles of the current Wrangler, however.
High, although tempered by the fact that Jeep’s parent company, FCA, has no background in PHEVs. It has recently announced the Fiats 500 and Panda will gain mild hybrid drivetrains, while the two smaller Jeeps mentioned above are already in the pipeline as full PHEVs. The Wrangler PHEV needs to balance eco-concerns over fuel economy and emissions claims, along with the sort of accessible torque that will suit such a serious off-roader. If Jeep can get this compromise just right, it should be an excellent PHEV 4x4.