2015 Jeep Renegade:
The 2015 Renegade, Jeep’s first offering in the small SUV segment, takes its seeds from the iconic Willy’s MB, style from Wrangler and 4 x 4 technology from Cherokee. Designed and engineered in Michigan and crafted in Italy at the OEM’s Chrysler Fiat plant, the Renegade is “one of the most fun vehicles we’ve ever worked on,” according to Mark Allen, Head of Jeep Design. “We were filling the white spot (small SUV segment) and took inspiration from our entire lineup.”
It appears that the company is on target. According to Jeep projections, small SUVs are expected to sell 200,000 units in the U.S. and 2 million units globally in 2015. By 2020 small SUVs are predicted to grow globally by 3 million units.
“The body is boxy and sleeker - it is very connected to the Wrangler,” noted Allen. “There is character at every turn. We relate it to a Labrador puppy dog - everything is too big - we tried to walk to the edge of cute.”
Cute? Yes, but also a dynamo both on road and off. At 30 plus mpg on the highway and with a towing capacity of 2,000 pounds, this puppy is loaded with 70 available advanced safety features and comes with a choice of two engines: the 180 hp 2.4 liter four-liter engine paired to a nine- speed automatic transmission (a first in this segment) or the 160 hp 1.4 Turbo with a six-speed manual transmission. The 5-mode Select-Terrain system has settings for auto, snow, sand, mud and rock (Trailhawk only).
We took some remarkable off road trails in Hollister Hills, California, south of San Jose, in the Trailhawk. Our macho version had a painted black roof and military-looking hardware including body cladding and red front tow hooks. The small SUV descended steep hills of sand without blinking, burrowed into 19” of water at 5 mph, took on boulders while balancing on two wheels and traveled over aggressive landscapes with grace.
“You are going to hear skid-plates crunching,” offered Art Anderson, Engineering Vehicle Line Executive. Oh yes, what a great sound! I kept the windows open like a true Jeep player—got sand in my teeth and all over my black cashmere sweater and loved every minute! What I didn’t get was jolted around. With the cushy suspension, rock setting and downhill descent, plus my extraordinary driving skills (!!), the Renegade was a joy to navigate even when I couldn’t see over the next hill.
“We created a small SUV and yup, it’s a Jeep,” noted Jim Morrison, Director of Jeep brand. “We really wanted to open up a new entry point for the brand, attract a new customer who otherwise would consider a wagon, a hatch or another small SUV.”
Mark Allen, the Jeep designer, added, “The audience is people who love the Wrangler. When we started this project we agreed that it should be Jeep looking - but more groomed. The coolest thing about this project is that it was assembled in our Fiat Chrysler plant in Melfi, Italy.”
And like the first Willy’s MB Jeep vehicles from 1941, the 2015 Renegade comes with removable roof panels. You can also opt for the power retractable/removable panels.
The cabin uses a Tek-Tonic design theme with soft surfaces and rugged details with features like grab handles borrowed from the Jeep Wrangler. The interior package includes a removable, reversible, and height-adjustable cargo floor panel.
And last but not least, there’s the ‘Easter egg’ factor—hidden emblems or insignias strategically placed everywhere from the fuel filler cap to the steering wheel column. Morrison noted; “The theory started with the 2011 Grand Cherokee. Easter eggs are a good illustration of the spirit of Jeep!”
Want more information on what, where and how many Easter eggs are in the Renegade? Go ask your Jeep dealer. Maybe they’ll give you a hint.
Pricing: $17,995, for the Sport 4 x 2; Latitude 4 x 2 (which they predict will be their biggest seller) starts at $21,295; Limited 4 x 2 at $24,795 and Trailhawk comes in at $25,995. Pricing does not include $995 destination.
Adding in 4WD is $2000 extra across the board.