The trend of globalization is nothing new in the auto industry, having been the modus operandi over the better part of the past decade, especially on the part of the Detroit Three, which have been trying to rationalize their global models onto common platforms. One of the major exceptions to this has been Chrysler's Jeep brand, which made its mark with proudly American designed-and-styled vehicles that happened to be sold overseas. The 2014 Cherokee is the first of the new "global" Jeeps drawing upon the resources of the newly official Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. The 2015 Jeep Renegade (not the Jeepster) is the second, and is even more worldly in its appeal than the stylishly cosmopolitan Cherokee.
Unlike the 2014 Cherokee, with its rounded, curvy styling, the Renegade is proudly square and upright. While it certainly has some traditional Jeep styling cues like round headlights, and square taillights that evoke the style of the CJs and the Wrangler, it's not exactly your traditional Jeep in appearance. Imagine a beefed-up and lifted Kia Soul, and that's the bigger theme. The Soul comparison is in no way meant to demean or belittle the Renegade's credentials. The Soul is the best-selling model in its class, and was surely considered by Chrysler in the design of the Renegade. Although very small by current Jeep standards, the Renegade's dimensions are actually very close to those of the "original" XJ Cherokee, with an almost identical wheelbase and overall length.
Depending on the market, the Melfi, Italy-built Renegade will come with a total combination of 16 different powertrain configurations, including four gasoline engines and two diesel engines. For the North American market, we get just two choices: a 1.4-liter MutiAir turbo with a six-speed manual or a 2.4-liter naturally-aspirated TigerShark I-4 with a nine-speed automatic. One of the optional engines in Europe we'd love to see stateside is the MutiJet II 2.0-liter diesel with between 138 and 167 hp (depending on transmission) and 258 lb-ft of torque. This little gem also boasts a stout 3300-pound towing capacity. The highest-rated U.S. model is 2000 pounds with the 2.4 and automatic.
The Renegade may be small dimensionally, but it's big on features. The interior gets an available 7-inch Uconnect touchscreen center display, HD Radio, and Bluetooth connectivity. Jeep has dubbed the interior theme of the Renegade "Tek-Tonic," which is supposed to embody the intersection of soft and tactile forms with functional details. The soft-touch dash top adds an upscale feel, while the dash-mounted grab handle echoes the rugged theme shown in the Wrangler. The center climate system vents were inspired by performance goggles. The gauge cluster features a splatter pattern inspired by the Renegade design team's paintball games. The X-pattern from the taillights also makes an appearance in the design of the front cupholders. A total of four interior color and texture themes are available.
Also following in the footsteps of its big brother Wrangler, the Renegade features a new My Sky roof panel system with removable polyurethane panels that can be stored in the rear cargo area. Of course, the essence of the Jeep brand is capability, and the Renegade is indeed offered in a Trail-Rated Trailhawk version, just like the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee. However, unlike the other Trailhawk models, the Renegade lacks a true two-speed low range. But thanks to the wide ratio spread afforded by the nine-speed automatic, the Trailhawk has a 20:1 crawl ratio. While impressive in its own right, the advantage of a true low-range is apparent when you look at the Cherokee's 47.8:1 to 56:1 crawl ratio. Approach angle is up to 30.5 degrees, breakover is 25.7, and departure angle is 34.3 degrees. Ground clearance is a respectable 8.7 inches. But in all honesty, if you're going rock-crawling on a regular basis, you're probably going to get a Wrangler anyway.
A New Jeep for a New World
For some, the Wrangler is the only "true" Jeep, with the Grand Cherokee getting an honorary inclusion into the elite fraternity. The Compass and Patriot were cynical rebadges to many, and we're inclined to agree. But the Renegade seems to make a much more legitimate effort at being a "real" Jeep than those models, and although officially, Jeep says the Renegade isn't replacing any existing models, we don't think that many tears would be shed it did end up replacing the Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum twins. On the flipside, we think the Renegade has the opportunity to bring a lot more first-time buyers into a Jeep showroom, simultaneously appealing to compact hatch shoppers that might consider the Soul, as well as outdoor enthusiasts that want something nimble and efficient, and capable of getting off the beaten path when needed. To the purists, the Renegade might be seen as yet another step in watering down the brand, but we think it's a smart move to broaden Jeep's appeal.
|2015 Jeep Renegade |
|BASE PRICE|| $20,000-$23,000 (est) |
|VEHICLE LAYOUT|| Front-engine, FWD/AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINES|| 1.4-liter, 160 hp/170 lb-ft turbocharged SOHC 16-valve I-4; 2.4-liter, 184 hp/177 lb-ft SOHC 16-valve I-4 |
|TRANSMISSIONS|| 6-speed manual (1.4L) 9-speed automatic (2.4L)|
|CURB WEIGHT (est)|| 2800-3200 lb |
|WHEELBASE|| 101.2 in|
|LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT|| 166.6 x 71.0 x 66.5 in|
|0-60 MPH|| 8.5-9.0 sec (MT est) |
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON|| 23-25/31-33 mpg (est) |
|ON SALE IN U.S.|| Fall 2014|