Nissan Frontier and Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe
A YEAR IN REVIEW
I was fortunate to get behind the wheel of several pickups, SUVs, and performance cars in 2022. However, two vehicles stand out as the best ones I tested throughout the year. These vehicles are the new Nissan Frontier and the equally new Jeep Wrangler 4xe PHEV. Both left a lasting impression on me for reasons beyond legroom and comfortable upholstery.
Testing the new-gen Nissan Frontier Pro 4X at the ranch allowed me to discover that this modern truck is an old soul where it matters most. Moreover, the Jeep Wrangler 4xe Rubicon plug-in hybrid 4×4 managed to forge through my deep-rooted personal opinions and create a path for me to see the tranquil benefits of stealth off-roading.
NISSAN FRONTIER PRO 4X
On the dirt roads near my home, the Nissan Frontier Pro 4X proved it could handle the work and make it fun, too. Its 3.8-liter V6 (standard on all trim levels) produces 310 horsepower and 281 lb.-ft of torque with a nine-speed automatic transmission to send power to the rear wheels. Offroad-focused trim levels like the Pro and Pro 4X offer on-the-fly selectable four-wheel-drive via a dial on the dashboard. On dirt roads, the mid-size truck was happy to spin its rear wheels and produce Foghorn Leghorn-size rooster tails with a trunk bed full of ranching supplies.
One aspect that left a positive impression on me was how quick the 2022 Nissan Frontier pickup truck feels. On paper, the Frontier Pro4X sprints from zero to 60 mph in the seven-second range, depending on its body style and drive setting. But in the real world the sensation feels snappy as the truck’s nine-speed gearbox runs through its gears in rapid-fire secession.
The Pro4X package has all-terrain tires and Bilstein off-road shocks to absorb the road’s imperfections. Other features I enjoyed on the new Nissan Frontier was its Fender sound system, its traditional pull-down gear shifter, its manually operated parking brake and the integrated LED lights in the trunk bed that can illuminate a moonless night.
The few things I didn’t like about the Frontier were nitpicky, like the lack of color in the solid black interior and a desire for a better exhaust note from its V6 engine.
The Nissan Frontier is available in 12 variants with two and four doors and an optional long bed. Off-road-focused variants like the Pro X and Pro 4X come only in the crew cab configuration. Pricing starts at $32k for a 2023 Nissan Frontier King Cab S.
The Pro 4X comes equipped with off-road goodies like front and rear stabilizer bars, Bilstein shocks, electronic locking rear differentials, skid plates for the truck’s oil pan, fuel tanks, and a two-speed transfer case. The 31.6-inch (265/70R17) all-terrain tires improve the truck’s ground clearance to 9.4 inches. In addition, the Frontier offers a 360-camera view and a forward-facing camera to see the trail ahead when shifted into 4LO.
JEEP WRANGER RUBICON 4xe
The 2023 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe ride quality was notably comfortable while driving over loose gravel, dry dirt roads, and off-road trails overgrown with greenery. At low speeds I could embrace the North Face jacket-wearing lifestyle envisioned by marketing teams and listen to the sounds of nature as the Wrangler 4xe moved silently through the Texas wilderness.
The Jeep Wrangler 4xe features a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. On its own, the turbo four-banger cranks out 270 horsepower. However, with the aid of electric motors, the small two-liter engine’s total power output rivals naturally aspirated V8s with 375 hp and a whopping 470 lb.-ft of torque.
For comparison, a 2022 Dodge Challenger R/T 5.7-liter HEMI V8 offers 375 hp and 410 lb.-ft of torque. Moreover, the 4xe produces the same torque figures as the supercharged 6.4-liter HEMI V8 in the top-tier Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392.
Tire spinning levels of turning force are sent to the rear or all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission to a set of heavy duty Dana 44 axles. In terms of its role as a city commuter with off-road prowess, the Jeep Wrangler 4xe is an example of having your cake and eating it too. In addition is a max towing capacity of 3,500 pounds.
When I gave the throttle a boot full, the electrified torque propelled the SUV forward with confident brutality. The perk was enjoying the V8 levels of torque without the regret of seeing the fuel gauge drop like a bad stock tip. According to Jeep, the Wrangler 4xe achieves a combined 20 mpg using gasoline only and up to 49 mpg combined with electric and gasoline.
In addition, the SUV’s battery pack is sealed behind a waterproof casing, allowing the Jeep Wrangler 4xe to safely cross through 31.5 inches of water. Thus, the Jeep Wrangler 4xe can keep up with its ICE variants without compromising performance. The plug-in charge port on the Wrangler 4xe is located at the top of the front fender near the windshield. Jeep engineers designed the charging port to be strong enough to hold the windscreen when it’s folded down.
When the Wrangler 4xe is in its default Hybrid Mode, it uses its gas engine and electric motors to provide maximum performance and efficiency. The combination of its hybrid drivetrain allows the compact engine to deliver surprising amounts of power and acceleration thanks to instant torque provided by the electric motors while delivering an estimated range of 370 miles.
In eSave Mode, the Wrangler 4xe favors using the turbocharged 2.0-liter gas engine to save the battery’s life for later use. This mode helps charge the battery using the Max Regeneration feature, which remaps the Jeep’s gas pedal to work similarly to regenerative braking or “one-pedal driving.” As a result, when the driver takes his or her foot off the gas the Wrangler 4xe slows down without using the brake pedal.
The last setting is Electric Mode, which works even when the battery is at 1%. This drive mode will run the Jeep solely on battery power. According to Jeep, the Wrangler 4xe can run for up to 21 miles on all-electric power, making it convenient for running short distant errands around town or silent off-road cruising. Pricing for the standard 2023 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon starts at $47K and $61K for the Wrangler Rubicon 4xe. However, the entry-level Jeep Wrangler Willys 4xe starts at $54K.
I want to thank Jeep, Nissan, and every automotive manufacturer who allowed me to test their products over the past year. Thank you.