JEEP has jumped feet first into the sub-compact SUV market with an all-new baby off-roader to be called Renegade – a name emblazoned on some Wranglers sold in Australia until recently.
Although the new global model will be made in Italy by Chrysler partner Fiat on a new “wide small 4x4” platform to be shared with the Italian brand under its upcoming Fiat 500X, the American company says the Renegade will be a proper Jeep, with a trail-rated Trailhawk version (as seen on the forthcoming new Cherokee) that is capable of tackling tough tracks.
Jeep claims Renegade will not only offer best-in-class off-road capability but also class-leading fuel efficiency, helped by the world’s first nine-speed automatic transmission in the city SUV league.
Australians will have to wait until late 2015 for the Renegade, up to 12 months longer than Europeans and Americans who can expect to see the new model in showrooms late this year.
In an internet world where leaks are common, Jeep managed to keep the name of the Renegade secret until the last minute, with pundits suggesting “Jeepster” and “Scamp” as potential handles, but not Renegade, which was also the title of a Jeep concept at the Detroit motor show a few years ago.
Revealed today at the Geneva motor show, the Renegade marks a major expansion of the Jeep range into small SUV territory – one of the fastest-growing market segments.
At 4232mm long and 1804mm wide, the new model is by a fair margin the smallest Jeep in the current range, but it is positively expansive compared with the original World War 2 Willys Jeep that was more than 900mm shorter and 229mm narrower than Renegade.
Fiat Chrysler Group Australia expects Renegade to add significant incremental sales, although the company says its current sales champion, the Grand Cherokee, and new-generation Cherokee – due in Australian about June – are expected to remain its top sellers.
The Renegade will be offered in an extensive model range in Australia, with buyers being able to choose from four specification levels – Sport, Longitude, Limited and Trailhawk – equipped variously with three flavours of four-cylinder petrol engine ranging from 1.4 litres to 2.4 litres.
A 2.0-litre diesel is also on offer to the Australian distributor, but small sales of oil burners in this class has convinced Fiat Chrysler Group Australia to put it on indefinite hold.
In the United States, the Longitude will be called Latitude, but because that name is already used by Renault in Australia (and Europe and some parts of Asia), Jeep took a different tack for this market.
Renegade’s lower models will include a front-drive 4x2 price leader, and the entry-level Sport will be armed with a Brazilian-made 81kW/152Nm 1.6-litre ‘e.
Torq’ petrol engine hooked up to a five-speed manual gearbox.
At the other end of the scale, the flagship Trailhawk is expected to be offered with the most powerful engine in the line-up, the normally aspirated 137kW/236Nm 2.4-litre ‘MultiAir 2 Tigershark’ that made its debut last year in the Dodge Dart in North America and will arrive in Australia in a four-cylinder variant of the new Cherokee this year.
Featuring Fiat’s variable valve timing on a Chrysler engine, this powerplant is expected to be exclusively mated to the nine-speed auto transmission.
That transmission is also expected to be standard fare on the mid-range engine – Fiat’s turbo-charged 125kW/250Nm 1.4-litre MultiAir 2, which also features fuel-saving idle-stop. A six-speed dual-clutch transmission will be offered in some markets with this engine, but not here.
The powertrains are all mounted transversely, on a car-style monocoque architecture that has its origins in a front-wheel-drive format, although Fiat Chrysler Automobiles describes it as new, due to significant changes.
The front suspension is MacPherson strut, while the rear wheels are mounted on a Chapman independent set-up with high-mounted struts, two lateral links and half-shafts. The rear suspension sits in an isolated cradle to maintain rigidity while minimising road harshness.
Two 4x4 systems will be offered – a standard AWD ‘Jeep Active Drive’ that automatically switches from 4x2 operation to 4x4 on demand via a clutch, and, on the hardcore Trailhawk flagship, Jeep Active Drive Low which includes a 20:1 crawler gear for tough going in the bush.
The Trailhawk will also get a higher – by 20mm – 220mm ride height, along with skidplates on the front and back, a five-mode Selec-Terrain system for different surfaces, unique front and rear body treatment for greater departure and approach angles, 17-inch wheels with all-terrain tyres and hill-descent control.
The Trailhawk is said to be good for wading through water up to 480mm deep, while the four-wheel independent suspension is said to be capable of 205mm of wheel articulation in rock hopping.
Two open-roof options will be available in some markets – one manual, one powered – but these are still to be confirmed for Australia.
The rugged-looking exterior, which is unmistakably Jeep, is carried over to the interior where details such as the traditional passenger grabhandle intersect with softer, more upmarket surfaces in a new design dubbed Tek-Tronic.
Jeep says Renegade will offer the segment’s largest (seven inch) full-colour instrument cluster, along with touchscreens with connectivity usually found in high-end vehicles.
Pricing will not be announced until closer to launch, but expect the Renegade to go up against the likes of Mini Countryman, Nissan Juke and Peugeot 2008, with prices ranging from about $25K to as much as $40K.