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JEEP ➤ A preview of the Jeep Renegade baby SUV

29 Aug

By Wayne Gorrett

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Unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in March and currently enjoying its Russian premiere at the Moscow Motor Show, the Jeep Renegade is the newest – and smallest – member of the American SUV family set to join the current UK Jeep model line-up in the Spring.

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The all-new Jeep Renegade is a small four-door SUV based on the Fiat 500L platform which will also be shared with the upcoming Fiat 500X crossover. It will be built the Melfi assembly plant, about eighty miles east of Naples, in southern Italy. The baby Jeep received its first public airing at the Geneva Motor Show in March this year. Jeep says the Renegade is ‘expected to attract youthful and adventurous customers around the world to the Jeep brand’. While its looks may divide initial opinion, the chaps at Jeep may well be right as its rugged, chunky looks are growing on me – and I’m a baker’s decade removed from the target market.

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The boxy compact SUV offers four MultiAir petrol and two MultiJet-II diesel engine choices, though it is not known at this time which of those six options will make the UK line-up. Global transmission options include two manual gearboxes, a dual clutch automatic and a 9-speed automatic transmission – likely to be the superb ZF unit already available in the UK Cherokee and Grand Cherokee models. The top end Trail Hawk variant gets ‘Trail Rated’ capability with the Jeep Active Drive Low 4×4 system, with 20:1 crawl ratio. However, don’t expect the ‘Trail Hawk’ to appear in the UK launch line-up as it is likely to follow a few months later – and by special order only.

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The Renegade has a simple mission: to give Jeep an entry-level model that’s not a Compass or Patriot. The new SUV should work harder at putting a smile on your spare tyre cover than those two leftovers from the Daimler-Chrysler era. The Jeep Renegade marks the brand’s first entry into the small SUV segment in its 100+ world markets.

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According to Jeep design chief Ralph Gilles, current and future Jeep models will hill-descent-control down one of two styling paths: boxy, like Wrangler or streamlined like the regular and Grand Cherokee. “The more angular the Jeep, the more a sense of utility and off-road capability is conveyed,” he said.

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So, while the Renegade may resemble a buffed and slightly rounded Wrangler, Jeep designers made sure it didn’t come out wearing too much Disney influence. The black grille and trim give the Renegade a bit of menace along with the rectangular tail lights with big, inset X’s.

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At 4.232m long and 1.81m wide, the new little Jeep is actually quite sizeable for its class. Its 2.52m wheelbase matches that of the new KIA Soul, but the Renegade out-measures the Soul in other dimensions – and it’s also bigger than the Mini Countryman and Nissan Juke. The Renegade looks to have a roomy interior with the boxy styling making for a spacious cabin with a back seat large enough to accommodate a pair of six-footers and an in-betweener.

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The more observant may have noticed the map of Moab, Utah (above), moulded into the rubber bin-liner in the centre storage area. The Moab Jeep Safari is a nine-day, annual event encompassing the Easter weekend, where 4×4 owners gather to challenge the rough terrain of the Moab back country, in Utah. So, now you know.

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The Renegade’s signature feature is an optional pair of removable composite roof panels called ‘My Sky’. The panels are available in manual or power tilt-and-slide configurations, with the detachable panels able to be stowed under the boot floor when removed.

The new Jeep Renegade is the first four-wheel-drive variant of Fiat Chrysler’s ‘small-wide’ platform, modified to endow the Renegade with real off-road capabilities that are sorely lacking in this segment. Jeep engineers trimmed mass by using an aluminium bonnet and high-strength steel for 70 per cent of the uni-body. The 1,372kg base model undercuts the platform of its stable-mate Fiat 500L by about 80kg – or the equivalent of one sizeable adult.

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Exploiting 4×4 technologies from within the 2014 Jeep Cherokee, the Renegade will offer two 4×4 systems to reinforce its off-road capability: ‘Jeep Active Drive’, full-time all-wheel-drive transmission and ‘Jeep Active Drive Low’, full-time all-wheel-drive transmission – with 20:1 crawl ratio. Both systems can provide up to 100 per cent of the engine’s available torque to the ground – through any wheel – for optimal grip.

The Renegade also features a disconnecting rear axle and power take-off unit (PTU), intended to provide AWD models with enhanced fuel economy, instantly engaging when 4×4 traction is needed.

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Both Jeep Active Drive and Active Drive Low 4×4 systems include the Jeep Selec-Terrain system, providing four standard traction modes – auto, snow, sand and mud (plus rock mode on the Trailhawk model), for optimum traction and performance on or off-road, in all-weather conditions.

 
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Posted by on August 29, 2014 in News

 

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