–St. George, Utah
I’ve always been a Jeep Wrangler fan. My dad used to stuff me into a sleeping bag, buckle me into his 1966 CJ5, and I’d fall asleep even with the doors and top off. Later I continued the tradition and bought a manual CJ7 in high school, taking it out to the desert every chance I got. I love convertibles and off-roading, and the Wrangler perfectly meshes the two into one very capable machine.
However, the Wrangler has been looking a little long in the tooth lately. This fourth generation debuted in 2018 and in the intervening years the Ford Bronco has brought the heat with stellar off-road chops, loads of technology, and an independent front suspension that makes it more agreeable to drive on the pavement.
In answer, Jeep has given the 2024 Wrangler a mid-cycle refresh that focuses not so much on capability, although there are some cool upgrades on that front. Instead the meaty improvements are in technology, safety, and cabin refinement.
|2024 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4xe Willys
|Turbocharged 2.0-liter I4 w/Integrated Motor
|375 Horsepower / 470 Pound-Feet
|30 Miles (est)
Gallery: 2024 Jeep Wrangler: First Drive
Carry On My Wayward Son
No new powertrains are introduced for 2024. The base engine is the stalwart 3.6-liter V6 with the turbocharged 2.0-liter engine as an option. The Rubicon 392 gets a 6.4-liter V8 for go-fast shenanigans while the plug-in hybrid 4xe pairs the 2.0-liter engine with two electric motors and a small battery. Buyers who want a six-speed manual transmission will have to purchase the 3.6-liter engine, although an eight-speed automatic is available. All other powerplants are only available with the automatic.
Perhaps the most important upgrade comes in the form of towing capability. The Wrangler has never been known to tow much, just 3,500 pounds. Now the body-on-frame off roader can tow 5,000 pounds thanks to a full float solid rear axle. This shifts the weight of the vehicle to the axle housing, not the axle itself. While 2.5 tons isn’t a huge amount, drivers can now easily tow an open trailer with a toy or two out to the camp ground. However, this increased tow rating only applies to a four-door Rubicon with the 2.0- or 3.6-liter engine, an automatic transmission, and 33-inch tires. Everything else gets the same 3,500 pounds of capacity.
The new Uconnect 5 infotainment system on a standard 12.3-inch screen is also a marked upgrade. The graphics are sharper and the user interface is much more streamlined than in previous years. Response times are quicker too, with pages loading lickity split with no discernable delay.
The Trails Offroad navigational feature is a great addition to Jeep’s already stellar off road pages. If you’ve used the onX Offroad app before, Trails will be familiar. Driver’s can search for over 200 pre-loaded trails, including the 62 Jeep Badge of Honor routes like Hell’s Revenge and the Rubicon Trail. Each trail gets a description as well as waypoints for visual navigation cues and difficulty ratings.
Yes, plural “ratings.” Ever been out wheeling with your pal in a Rubicon with front and rear lockers, a disconnecting sway bar, and 35-inch tires, but you’re driving a less-capable Toyota 4Runner TRD Off Road? It’s tough to find a trail that challenges both rigs without overwhelming the Toyota. To solve that, the Trails app gives a mandatory rating as well as an optional rating if applicable. Find a trail with a mandatory rating you can both drive and a higher optional rating so the Rubicon can have a bit more of a challenge while the Toyota takes an easier work around. Brilliant.
If you find yourself on a path not included in the Trails app, you can record your route, add waypoints, and a description, and save it to a USB to share with your pals. If you dig the free version of Trails Offroad you can upgrade to get 3,000 trails for $39.99 per year. However, OnX is $10 less per year and includes 3D maps that can also run on the 12.3-inch screen through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Also new for this year is the option of adding an Warn winch with an 8,000-pound capacity to the front of Rubicon models. With 90 feet of synthetic line, this winch has been developed specifically for the Wrangler. Although 8,000 pounds seems a smidge too small for a four-door Wrangler, Jeep says the winch has been thoroughly validated. However, if you wheel with folks who have full-sized rigs and want the option of helping them recover after a poor driving decision, you may want to just buy your own 10,000- or 12,000-pound winch.
And finally, after years of saying it couldn’t be done, Jeep has added side curtain airbags to the Wrangler for both front and rear passengers. The airbags are incorporated into the sport bar and while this latest model has not been tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), I wouldn’t be surprised to see safety ratings take a huge jump when testing takes place.
Electrifying The Trail
Model year 2024 sees two new trims added to the Wrangler lineup. For those looking to save some pennies, Jeep has added a new base Sport S trim to the plug-in hybrid 4xe for an MSRP of just under $52,000, including $1,795 for destination. Also on the block is a new Rubicon X trim that adds 35-inch tires and fancy heated seats/steering wheel on the gas-powered Wrangler. Rubicon X is available on the 4xe but without the 35-inch tires. Prices here range from $55,000 or so for a two-door ICE model to $69,000 in the 4xe.
When it comes to capability, the Wrangler Willys now gets 33-inch tires, a standard rear locking differential and rock rails – and I’m here to extol its virtues when combined with the 4xe plug-in hybrid powertrain. Sure, it can cost a pretty penny (nearly $55,000) but the electrified powertrain is worth it.
First off, only the Rubicon 392 can best the PHEV’s 375 horsepower, but the 4xe matches the torque output of the burly V8 at 470 pound-feet of twist – and much more efficiently to boot. You’ll get 49 MPGe combined and 21 miles of all-electric range. I can dig it.
Further, the 4xe Willys has a crawl ratio of 52.5:1. There is a lot of math that goes into that number but all you need to know is the higher it is, the more the torque will be multiplied before it hits the rocks and the easier it will be to conquer them. When the Willys 470 pound-feet of torque is multiplied by the crawl ratio, it produces plenty of chutzpah– more than a gas-powered Rubicon. Why wouldn’t I pick a 4xe.
You might come back with the fact that the Rubicon has a standard front and rear locking differentials and disconnecting sway bar and the Willys makes do with just a rear locker. The fact is, most people don’t wheel hard enough to need all the kit that comes on a Rubicon. Unless you’re headed to Moab and Hell’s Revenge every weekend, you’ll likely be satisfied with what the Willys has to offer.
As of this writing we don’t have information about the federal tax rebate for a 2024 Wrangler 4xe. However, the 2023 model was eligible for a $3,500 credit if the buyer fulfills certain income requirements. The bummer here is that the 4xe does not qualify for that coveted carpool sticker in California. Requirements vary by state, though, so be sure to check your local laws and ordinances.
In all, this mid-cycle refresh of the Jeep Wrangler is a welcome one, hitting many of the key weak points of the venerable rock crawler. Folks who need to tow now have a better option, the technology takes a leap forward and the side curtain airbags make the Wrangler safer to boot. Its poor on-road manners are well-known, but it's a compromise drivers seem to be willing to make.
Wrangler Competitor Reviews:
2024 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4xe Willys