Over a year ago, Jeep confirmed that it would produce a plug-in hybrid version of the Wrangler. Now we get a look at what appears to be just that. It's completely undisguised except for a thin strip of vinyl around the hood and fenders that would seem to be hiding a charging port and some testing equipment.
The spy photographer that caught it said that, when following the truck, it was running in EV mode until around 25 mph. Sounds like it's probably the PHEV to us.
Arguably better news than finally seeing the PHEV is that nothing about the regular Wrangler seems to have been sacrificed to create it. We can't see a single styling change, not even to bumpers or fenders for better aerodynamics. Mechanically, it still has solid axles front and rear, so whatever powertrain has been developed should be hooked up to an existing Wrangler four-wheel-drive transfer case, rather than using an electric motor to drive a pair of wheels like with the Compass and Renegade PHEV models.
We're left to guess at exactly what sort of powertrain the Wrangler plug-in will use, and our money is on a version of the Pacifica Hybrid's 260-horsepower V6 engine and motors. Since that system uses a version of the Pentastar V6 already used in the Wrangler, it should be relatively easy to package. The Pacifica Hybrid with its 16-kWh battery can drive up to 33 miles on a charge, but we expect the Wrangler will have a shorter electric range due to weight and substantially worse aerodynamics. That could be offset somewhat if Jeep uses a larger battery, but that could lead to packaging issues as well as additional cost. Regardless, overall mileage should be greatly improved compared with non-hybrid Wranglers.
Jeep said that the Wrangler plug-in will launch in 2020. It will likely cost a fair bit more than a basic Wrangler, considering the fact the base Pacifica Hybrid is about $13,000 more than a base non-hybrid version. Some of that is probably due to equipment differences, but the hybrid powertrain will still probably command a premium of a few grand.