Suddenly the après-ski fun is just a minor matter! Helene Fischer fervently trumpets her hit “Atemlos durch die Nacht” from the glass pavilion and the crowd rocks more or less rhythmically to the pop singer’s sounds. Only a couple looks through the window, stunned. Both almost solidified into pillars of salt. The young man is still holding the glass jar with a clear liquid in his hand. The vessel just doesn't make it to the mouth. The woman is the first to regain her composure. Beams, gives us both thumbs up and waves to us. Just a few moments later, her companion is back among the living, puts down the liquor and jumps up and down for joy.
Actually, Tina Turner's title song "We don't another Hero" from the Mad Max apocalyptic epic "Beyond the Thunderdome" would be the more suitable musical accompaniment for this scenery. We feel like an Alpine end-time warrior. Because we are sitting in a Jeep Wrangler 4Xe that is missing some not entirely insignificant components. Taking off your helmet to pray is not enough. In addition to the roof, which we took out in no time, the doors have also been removed. So we took off the jacket too. As we pass under a chairlift, some of the skiers shake their heads in amazement. Finally, Mrs. Holle is shaking out her pillows vigorously. Very strong!
No matter, we want to cut our way through the snow masses of Kühtai in the jeep. At an altitude of 2,000 meters, a good half hour's drive from Innsbruck, in Austria's highest ski resort. Since we don't drive on public roads, we don't need to replace the doors with brackets including clickable exterior mirrors. Definitely casual in the summer to dress up in front of the ice cream parlor. Maybe not such a good idea in the Tyrolean snow. After just a few meters, the self-proclaimed end-time warrior mutates into a snowman at the wheel. If you do it right and above all steeply up the mountain.
The job isn't a bad one, as the PHEV Wrangler doesn't have any spikes or even snow chains on it, just all-terrain tires with winter approval. The four-wheel drive has to ensure that we don't get stuck. The narrow, winding bends and the snow depth of more than 1.20 meters limit the use of the traction-promoting barriers in curves or sharp changes of direction, otherwise the radius in the search for grip-providing ground would be too large. As long as you go straight on four wheels when climbing to the summit, the climbing master's four-wheel tricks help. A sensitive foot on the accelerator is required so that the off-road American's all-wheel drive technology can develop its full effect when it goes astray. However, we can't make any progress at a turtle's pace. We only climb steep hills with a lot of momentum. Slipping would be disastrous.
So the all-wheel drive has to constantly provide propulsion. There is enough power: the four-cylinder Wrangler 4Xe combustion engine produces 200 kW / 272 hp. There is also a 107 kW / 145 hp electric motor that is integrated into the eight-speed automatic transmission and guarantees electric all-wheel drive. Together, this results in a system output of 280 kW / 380 hp and a maximum torque of 637 Newton meters. They are also necessary because the Wrangler Xe, weighing a good 2.2 tons, is anything but lightweight. A belt-driven starter generator ensures the battery doesn't run out of juice. That would be fatal in the middle of the slope. The battery has a capacity of 17.3 kilowatt hours, which should be enough for 44 kilometers. But cold is the natural enemy of the Stromern and we are happy that there is always enough energy to dig through the white splendor with the traction of the four wheels. So we can concentrate on what's important. Due to the torque that is immediately available, you have to be even more sensitive with the accelerator pedal in electric mode than is the case with the version with a combustion engine. The same applies to the steering movements. Less is sometimes more. The snow and the mountain do not forgive mistakes. Anyone who overdoes it will inevitably fail.
We are approaching the highest point of our extraordinary adventure. There's not much left of the man behind the wheel's martial appearance these days. A mixture of snow and water has turned the seat into a paddling pool and the flakes are now swirling so hard that we can only keep a clear view with ski goggles. But practice makes perfect here too. We have become familiar with the difficult traction conditions and can also manage the last section before we head back, which is no less tricky. But we manage that too and at the very end we stop by our après-ski heroes again. They still wave happily at us, but they look much more pitiful than at the beginning of the trip.