When Jeep decided to re-enter the mid-sized SUV market, they knew they needed to develop a formidable rig capable of swaying buyers away from the likes of Rav4s and Honda Pilots. The 2015 Jeep Renegade just shown at the Geneva Motor Show appears to have the chops to do so, complete with youthful styling and competent underpinnings. While it won’t be a Rubicon Trail cruiser, the 2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk edition will still be able to hit the dirt as a Jeep should, and hopefully worthy of the Renegade name.
The Renegade badging first appeared on a ’62 Kaiser Jeep Wagoneer, not the early ‘70s CJ-5 as many Jeep enthusiasts believe. This revolutionary 4x4 was equipped with the then state-of-the-art independent front suspension (IFS) Dana 44 axle, an automatic transmission, a revolutionary hemi head 230ci overhead cam engine featuring a two barrel Holley carburetor, and even power steering. While the engine and suspension design was dropped as well as the Renegade moniker, the Wagoneer lasted 30 years before its untimely demise.
Yet 52 years after the first Jeep Renegade appeared, and some 40 years after the last Jeep Renegade rolled off the line, Jeep has revived the name, and changed the game. The new Jeep Renegade is designed to capture the young market of mid-size SUV buyers, and it is aimed squarely at that demographic. With familiar Jeep styling cues of a 7-slat grille, round headlights, and trapezoidal wheel arches, the Renegade still comes off as a brash and even flippant newcomer, which is what an anti-establishment Renegade would be. Not stuck in the complete “Jeep thing” where functionality trumps comfort, the new Renegade is stylistically unique with its non-Jeep looking styled rear approach reminiscent of a Juke or Scion design with curves and flares, while the front is all Jeep all the time. Even the interior design is bright and open, thanks to the double sliding roof, and plenty of glass with great visibility rounds out the package.
But this is a ‘World Jeep’ as it’s being touted, designed in America to cover all the markets that the brand has been missing out of, and with production in Italy and Brazil, the Renegade should be a barnstormer. With 16 different powertrain combinations with 2 different diesel and 4 different gas engines (sorry no diesel for the US market- yet) it can be sold around the world tailored specifically for the local need. Since Jeep is part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), its important to have the new Jeep cover the globe without having to be as capable as a Wrangler. They own that market, so why compete with yourself?
Underneath the Renegade things start to get interesting really fast. There are no requisite solid axles, electric lockers, or low range transfer cases to be found. Instead this Jeep is equipped to attack the market it wants to conquer, but does so in a civilized fashion while retaining Jeep capability. The front and rear suspension are independent, and unique to this market. To be a Jeep it of course has to be capable of tackling dirt, snow, ruts, and rocks so the engineers made doubly sure that all the components were stronger than normally specified. The new “small-wide 4x4” architecture is more of a way of making sure all of the components are substantially tough, as if a vehicle has a Jeep nameplate, some one will surely be using them in the dirt and off the highway- which is also why the Trailhawk edition is offered. It’s far more Manley in many ways, with a larger lift, better angles, nicer tread, and real tow hooks for the American market. It will be a while until we get our hands on one for a true test drive, but from what we've seen, it should rule its market-segment, as the Renegade brand always have.