Jeep is one red-hot car company. Last year, the brand sold more than 1 million vehicles worldwide and now for 2015, Jeep expands its already impressive portfolio with an all-new model.
The 2015 Jeep Renegade is the smallest Jeep in the lineup about 15 inches shorter and two inches narrower than the Cherokee. It launches into the crowded, but fast growing small “B” segment small SUV/Crossover marketplace with unique styling and a lot of features that are found on more expensive Jeep models.
Designed and engineered 100% in Auburn Hills, Michigan the Renegade is actually built in Italy. Yes it does share the same platform as the 2015 Fiat 500X, but they are two divergent independent vehicles.
When designing the Renegade, the Jeep engineers made the decision to emulate more of the character of the jeep Wrangler than the new Cherokee. It has the iconic Jeep grille treatment with Wrangler-like windshield treatment, flat roof and big windows that showcase a lower belt line.
Jeep off-roading enthusiasts having nothing to worry about as the Renegade is offered in a Trail Hawk model that will conquer Moab or any other hard core trail thrown at it.
Styling wise the vehicle is youthful, fun and a bit quirky. I think it will not only do well in front-wheel-drive form against such compaction such as the KIA Soul here in North America but worldwide as well.
Base models will be front-wheel drive, but full-time 4×4 (“Jeep Active Drive”) will be available on all models. A rear axle that disconnects when not needed for traction delivers improved fuel economy. The range-topping Trailhawk edition is built to endure serious off-road duty, featuring a taller ride height and clearance, 17-inch wheels, hill descent control and a 4WD system with lower gearing designed for slow scrambling up steep surfaces.
All 4WD models offer Selec-Terrain dynamic modes that optimize traction for snow, sand, mud and, on the Trailhawk, rock crawling.
The Jeep Renegade will offer a choice of four-cylinder engines: a turbocharged 1.4-liter rated at 160 horsepower or a larger, non-turbo 2.4-liter good for 184 hp. The smaller engine comes with only a six-speed manual transmission, while the 2.4-liter is equipped with the segment leading nine-speed automatic.
The 2015 Jeep Renegade comes in four trim levels. The Sport starts at $17,995, Latitude is $21,195, the pretty loaded Limited is $24,795 and the of road hero Trailhawk starts at $25,995. The Trailhawk is only available in four-wheel-drive. On all other trim levels, four-wheel-drive is a $2,000 option.
The interior is well done with lots of cool stuff. A Smartphone-integrated infotainment system with 5- and 6.5-inch touch screens, a 7-inch configurable gauge display, and driver aids that include a rearview camera, rear cross-traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning and forward collision warning. The Renegade even borrows a page from the Wrangler, with dual sunroofs called MySky.
I like the MySky system, as the panels are lightweight and easy to detach and install for an open-air experience. Some journalists complained about noise above 30 MPH but I did not mind the sound at all. Plus a simple Mopar wind deflector will make a big difference in airflow.
While at the event in California, I drove all different trim levels and engines of the new Renegade. The small turbo engine delivers lots low end torque and grunt, but is paired with a manual transmission only, which will limit is appeal in 2015 with so many folks going for automatic gearboxes. My favorite is the Limited Trim level with the 2.4-liter engine and nine speed automatic. It is funky baby Grand Cherokee with a soul of a Wrangler.
Overall the 2015 Renegade is a homerun. It will capture many first time Jeep buyers with its style, city friendly dimensions, 30 plus MPG highway fuel economy and its just plain fun attitude.