HOLLISTER CALIFORNIA — Jeep. It’s one of the strongest brands in the automobile industry — in any industry.
From the go-anywhere World War 2 U.S. Army GP (pronounced “jeep,” meaning “General Purpose”) vehicle through the luxurification of the SUV business with the original Wagoneer, Jeep has established an image that even people who know nothing nor could care less about off-roading can understand.
The new 2015 Renegade, on sale later this spring starting at $19,995, aims to bring those characteristics to a new segment, at a new price point.
Four trim levels are offered. Sport is the base model, and for that $19,995 price, you have to forego things like air conditioning (which is an option). Jeep brand director Jim Morrison acknowledged it was a number they hoped would help bring younger prospects into the showroom.
Next up is North, which the Americans are calling Latitude (well, ‘north’ is a ‘latitude’) at $25,995, which is expected to be the biggest seller, followed by the all-singing all-dancing Limited at $31,995.
The fourth is Trailhawk at $30,995, especially designed for off-roading.
When Jeep decided that small SUVs was where they wanted to be, they scouted the Fiat-Chrysler-Jeep parts bin, but couldn’t find what they wanted. So an all-new platform was developed, which will also underpin the Fiat 500X, arriving later this year.
While designed and engineered in the U.S., Renegade will be built in a Fiat factory in Italy.
Head of Jeep design Mark Allen noted that Renegade had to look the part. The seven vertical slot grille is a given, as are big round headlamps, trapezoidal wheel wells, and almost-vertical windshield.
Jeep’s Morrison added that Renegade had to have off-road capability equivalent to other Jeep products, even if its customers might never use it.
But to succeed in this largely urban market, it also had to provide on-road comfort, easy handling, good fuel consumption and all the amenities these customers expect.
Striking this balance was critical.
Two four-cylinder powertrains are offered, a 1.4 litre turbo producing 170 horsepower with a six-speed manual transmission bolted on, and a 180-horse 2.4 litre non-turbo with a nine-speed automatic.
Front- or four-wheel drive is available with either engine, depending on trim level—Trailhawk and Limited come only with the 2.4 and 4×4.
Trailhawk also gets a revised front end allowing approach to at steeper angles, more ground clearance, skid plates under the car, special tires, and bright red tow hooks (two front, one rear, almost an admission that despite all this, you still might get stuck!)
It’s not some pantywaist click-in-the-rear-wheels-when-you-start-to-skid-in-your-driveway thing either, but a serious system with multiple programs (Auto, Mud, Snow, Sand, plus Rock and Hill Descent Control for Trailhawk) which adjust throttle response, transmission shift schedule and even steering response to help tackle conditions the vast majority of owners would never dare contemplate.
Yes, it will disconnect the rear wheels when extra traction is not called for, in the interest of fuel economy.
The on-road side of the equation is covered with independent strut suspension at both ends, featuring Koni dampers designed to be ‘frequency-sensitive’, with enough travel to soak up the big bumps, and rapid-fire response to handle the niggly bits.
All the modern safety features are on hand, including lane keeping, blind spot warning, etc. Regular readers will know these are mostly pointless, but they’re there if you need/want them.
Seven air bags too, but far more important are reactive front headrests to reduce the incidence of whiplash, the gift that keeps on giving.
The interior was designed under the direction of Klaus Busse who remained in the US when Mercedes sold its stake in Chrysler, and who gives lie to the stereotype of ‘unfunny German’.
He noted that some of the inspirations for the interior were sports you don’t want your children to play, like sand-surfing”.
The guy’s prescient too, because I did just that trying to get some of these pics…
The splotch on the tachometer, officially supposed to represent a ‘mud splatter’, was in fact inspired by a paintball hit Busse took in his goggles when he had his team participate in some of the ‘lifestyle’ activities the marketing people like to think their customers actually do.
Bright colours and intriguing designs do make Renegade’s insides a pleasant place to be. The high roofline leaves lots of space for people and stuff. A big cargo hold has a two-level floor to separate the dirty gear from the, well, less-dirty gear.
I’ve never been a sunroof fan, but Jeep is very proud of the ones available in Renegade. Yes, ‘ones’ plural, front and rear. In lower trim levels both can be removed and stowed in special bags in the cargo area. When power is added to the front one, you can still remove and stash the back one to more fully commune with nature.
Lots of connectivity too, with the available Uconnect media system with seven-inch touch screen, one of the better of such systems (admittedly, a very slow field…).
We had a Sport manual on the couple hundred kilometer run on a combination of freeways and twisty back roads to an off-road park south-east of San Jose, where we spent several hours.
The little engine doesn’t feel the least bit ‘turbo-ish’ — no perceptible lag, just smooth, even torque flow. The six-speed is very slick.
Jeep’s Morrison expects this powertrain to constitute about 15 per cent of Renegade sales, maybe three times the usual stick-shift take rate in this segment. He feels it will appeal to a younger crowd who might prefer a little more involvement with their vehicle.
Despite the trick Koni dampers, the ride felt a bit fidgetty on rough pavement. And I guess you can’t expect sports-car-sharp steering on a tall crossover, but it’s fine for what it is. Effort level is commendably light.
A former PR guy for Land Rover used to say you can’t win when setting up an off-road course. If the vehicle can’t do it, the vehicle is no good; if it can, the course wasn’t tough enough.
The key is to set something up that you wouldn’t think a Sherman tank could handle; if your vehicle survives, you win.
It’s always hard to see from mere pictures how steep these trails we drove on were—I sure found out when I got out to take the pics and started sand-surfing—or how big those rocks were. But the stiff body, supple suspension, and off-roading technology on the Trailhawk models we tested here handled it all with aplomb. You won’t be taking your Buick Encore down these trails.
Our drive home was in a ‘Latitude’ (‘North’ to us) with the 2.4 litre engine and nine-speed autobox. This transmission has felt a bit over-busy in other Chrysler products I’ve tested it in, sometimes not seeming to know which of the ratios is right for the moment. It felt more composed in this application, although our drive was mostly straight freeway driving, so not very demanding.
The larger engine actually has less peak torque than the 1.4 turbo, but it moves the vehicle along in a most appropriate manner.
In its segment, Renegade doesn’t really have a direct competitor.
Similar-sized, -priced and -specced vehicles like Buick Encore, Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, Nissan Juke and Mini Countryman just don’t have the off-road cred, not that they necessarily want it.
What all of those would kill to have is the crystal-clear brand image that Renegade gains from its Jeep heritage. If that is also what you want at this price point, Renegade is your truck.
When Jeep’s current product roll-out is completed, Renegade will be the entry-level vehicle. The current Compass and Patriot will be replaced next year by a single model which will bracket Renegade price-wise, but will be slightly less off-road-biased. Cherokee and Grand Cherokee are both quite new, and an even bigger luxury SUV has been rumoured for a couple years down the road.
Wrangler—well, it will always be the Wrangler.
It all seems to be working. As recently as five years ago, Jeep sold about 300,000 vehicles world-wide. In 2014, they shoved over one million out the doors.
By anyone’s measure, that is success.
2015 JEEP RENEGADE
Jeep Renegade: Four-door five-passenger small SUV. Front-wheel / four-wheel drive.
PRICE: Sport 4×2—$19,995; Sport 4×4—$25,995; North 4×2—$25,995; North 4×4—$27,495; Trailhawk 4×4—$30,995; Limited 4×4—$31,995.
ENGINE: standard Sport/North—1.4 litre inline four, single overhead camshaft, four valves per cylinder, turbocharged; standard Trailhawk/Limited, optional Sport/North—2.4 litre inline four, single overhead camshaft, four valves per cylinder.
POWER/TORQUE, horsepower / lb.-ft: 1.4 litre Turbo four—160 @ 6,500 r.p.m. / 184 @ 2,500—4,000 r.p.m.; 2.4 litre four—180 @ 6,400 r.p.m. / 175 @ 4,400 r.p.m.
FUEL CONSUMPTION, Transport Canada City/Highway, l/100 km: Data not yet available. 1.4 litre Turbo—regular unleaded fuel acceptable, premium recommended; 2.4 litre—regular unleaded fuel.
COMPETITION: Buick Encore, Chevrolet Trax, Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, Mini Countryman, Nissan Juke.
WHAT’S BEST: Unbeatable off-road credentials, previously unavailable in the price segment; not to mention unbeatable off-road capability; handsome styling, inside and out; useful storage capacity; advanced technology.
WHAT’S WORST: Ride a bit gnarly on rough patchy pavement; sun visors a bit too small—OK, so I am being picky, but when driving west into a sunset…
WHAT’S INTERESTING: Might this be the vehicle that gets young people interested in cars again?
The Jeep Cherokee is the Jeep for people who don’t like the way that Jeeps (generally) look, for people who might not otherwise consider a Jeep.
Who can forget the teased images that appeared before the actual 2014 model was shown at the 2013 New York Auto Show, the silhouette and the stunning lights high up on the front end?
If there was anything that anyone who knows anything about Jeeps knew, what was being presented by Jeep was something that was far and away different from what had come before.
And when the vehicle was fully revealed, yes there are the seven slots signifying the grille and yes the wheel arches are trapezoidal, but does it look like a Jeep, even though the Grand Cherokee is certainly a much less T-square execution than back in the day and so the “Jeep” definition might be somewhat modified overall?
Mind you, this is not to be critical of the vehicle. Rather, it is to make the point that it is indisputable that the people in Auburn Hills (and possibly Turin) recognized that if Jeep was going to have a chance at really capturing the hearts and checkbooks of people who were moving to midsized SUVs they needed to change the game in a significant way.
Which is precisely what they did with this vehicle that is built on the “Compact U.S. Wide” platform that the people at Chrysler and Fiat (when there were a Chrysler and a Fiat) created, a platform that has also been the basis for the Dodge Dart, Alfa Romeo Giulietta, and the Chrysler 200. Of course, the platform has been engineered for each application, so it isn’t like there is a base and a top attached that looks like a four-door or a sports sedan or an SUV.
And the Cherokee is produced at the Toledo North Assembly Plant in Ohio, which is essentially synonymous with “Jeep.”
As for that aforementioned “chance” at getting a piece of the market: The people at Jeep played and won. For 2014, Jeep delivered 178,508 Cherokees. While that number might not be too meaningful, look at it this way: You can add the number of Chrysler 200s and Chrysler 300s delivered in 2014 and have a sum that is less than the Cherokee: 170,745.
Yeah, it’s that popular.
But it really seems to me that the most Jeep aspect of the Jeep Cherokee is this:
That’s right, the switch gear that allows you to put it in four-wheel-drive (all the way up to the Jeep Active Drive Lock with two-speed PTU, low range and locking rear differential, something that your run-of-the-mill crossover SUV shopper isn’t going to have the foggiest about) or deploy the Selec-Terrain traction control system (which is somewhat more intuitive as the choices are Auto, Snow, Sport, Sand/Mud, Rock; here’s betting that Auto and Snow—at least for people in some parts of the country—will be the most selected choices, with Sand/Mud and Rock never even getting a try).
The thing is, the Cherokee is remarkably refined in the context of what might consider to be a Jeep—unless, of course, one is thinking of the Cherokee’s big brother, the Grand Cherokee, because that vehicle is on par with vehicles that cost considerably more and yet gives nothing away in terms of refinement, or capability.
As I drove the Cherokee—admittedly, it was all on freeways and city streets, but as those who live in Michigan (including the governor) know, this can be considered, in many places, as quasi-off-road—I had the sense that I wasn’t in something that had the aforementioned Rock capability, but a comfortable crossover. Most of those comfortable crossovers, of course, aren’t built like Jeeps, so presumably, assuming one is looking for that additional go-wherever capability, then the Cherokee is the just the thing.
Engine: 2.4-liter, I4 MultiAir2
Horsepower: 184 @ 6,400 rpm
Torque: 171 lb-ft @ 4,600 rpm
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic
Steering: Electrical power-assist rack-and-pinion
Wheelbase: 107 in.
Length: 182 in.
Width: 74.9 in.
Height: 66.2 in.
Curb weight: 3,953 lb.
Passenger volume: 49.47 cu. ft.
Cargo volume (rear seats up): 24.6 cu-ft.
EPA: mpg city/highway/combined: 21/28/24 mpg
INTRO TO THE GRAND CHEROKEE VEHICLE
Since its 1992 debut, the Jeep Grand Cherokee has proven to be an innovator where the mid-size sport utility segment is concerned by combining serious off-roading roots with pure elegance, most aptly represented by the all-new Summit trim grade with a diesel engine garnering 28 miles-per-gallon highway.
I drove a 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee with the 3-liter EcoDiesel V6 engine with 240 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque plus best-in-class towing capability of 7,400 pounds. Also matched to an all-new eight-speed automatic transmission, my test drive was equipped with Quadra-Trac II four-wheel drive system with Selec-Terrain and Quadra-Lift suspension. Available in five trims – the base Laredo, Limited, Overland, my all-new Summit test drive and SRT – the Summit came with the following standard features: eight-way power front seating for driver and passenger; heated front and rear seats; heated steering wheel with audio controls; nineteen-speaker audio system; Bluetooth; Uconnect multi-media system; touchscreen display and backup camera; XM Radio; remote start; wood and leather-wrapped wheel; Bi-Xenon headlights; fog lights; twenty-inch wheels; LED headlights. Total price as described comes to $51,195.
Although the diesel engine definitely makes the Grand Cherokee unique, similar SUVs with the same echelon of luxurious options paired to off-road performance includes the Toyota 4Runner and Ford Explorer.
HEELS ON WHEELS REVIEW CRITERIA
Stylish But Comfortable Results: The Summit cabin is loaded with quality materials, from the Natura Plus leather with edge welting to the a suede-like lined ceiling. Highlights include the Uconnect system and the massive 8.4-inch touchscreen, the CommandView sunroof and rear liftgate glass – all built into the Summit’s price. The second row features heated seats, two USB ports, climate vents and a pull-out center console with cup holders. The Toyota 4Runner has refreshed styling, most noticeable in the grille, front fascia and headlight design, with more refined appointments and an improved Entune infotainment system – but is a few shades less in elegance than the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Function remains a draw with up to 68.3 cubic feet of rear cargo storage space. For an additional $1,995, you can get the available rear Blu-Ray DVD player.
Reliability & Safety Factor: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the Grand Cherokee ratings of “Good” in all areas omitting small overlap front, which earned just “Marginal.” You can view actual results on their website. Standard safety includes anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control, and an advanced airbag system. The Summit also included all the modern safety technology you’d want, such as Park Assist, Blind Spot and Cross Path Detection, Forward Collision Warning with Crash Mitigation.
Cost Issues: The base Grand Cherokee Laredo starts at $31,195; the Limited at $38,195; the Overland at $46,195; and the performance-driven SRT at $63,995. A base SR5 4Runner starts at $32,820; the Trail trim at $35,725; and the Limited trim at $41,365 ($43,400 with options). And a previous 2014 Dodge Durango test drive with a rear DVD system, upgraded Bi-Xenon headlights, and a Blind Spot Monitoring System elevated the cost to $45,465. Note the diesel engine adds $5,000 to the price. (see specs for all below article)
Activity & Performance Ability: Jeep’s four-wheel drive Selec-Terrain traction management system is as simple as turning a dial in the lower center console area. Paired with the Quadra-Lift air suspension system, the Grand Cherokee’s trail-rated status can be felt from sand to snow. The 3-liter diesel engine is a surprising option if you want to stretch your gas numbers – it retains an average 24 miles-per-gallon combined, although the heaviness of such a powertrain affects handing a bit. My only other complaint is the current fascination with changing the way we work an automatic shifter – with the Grand Cherokee, you must press buttons to put the vehicle in drive, park or reverse, which requires a learning curve. I have also tested the 3.6-liter V6 engine with the eight-speed transmission, which was both smooth and responsive; and there is also a 5.7-liter V8 engine.
The Green Concern: The 3-liter diesel engine is a great choice at 21-city and 28-highway foe a combined 24 miles-per-gallon. The 3.6-liter V6 averages 17-city and 24-highway for a combined 19 miles-per-gallon. The Toyota 4Runner with the 4-liter V6 gets 17-city and 21-highway for a combined 18 miles-per-gallon combined.
FINAL PARTING WORDS
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee is luxurious and capable and is unique out with its available 3-liter diesel that delivers a combined fuel economy of 24 miles-per-gallon, making this a mid-size SUV that stands out in a very competitive class.
By| December 19, 2014
The 470bhp 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT is leading the way in the do-everything SUV sector along with still being able to tear things up on the track.
This is thanks to Jeep having given in to pressure to make a performance orientated Cherokee that is able to go up against entries that are coming from Japan along with Germany. The Cherokee of old was more than a handful when on the road and for off the road it was too low, however it more than made up for it with the acceleration, which was something else.
Jeep then had a second try and this was an improved model that offered superb acceleration along with driving dynamics that anyone would be happy with in a sports car, yet it was still packed with the luxuries and amenities.
The 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT has styling that is just right as it isn’t too flashy but it stands out on the street when parked among other cars. Everything has been lowered on the car and the V8 470hp can actually be a little overwhelming at first. You only have to press lightly on the throttle and it blasts away and the 8 speed automatic works perfectly with it.
There is no body roll and it takes bends superbly without squealing around corners and has grip that is superb. The suspension can be adjusted and if you have it around normal or one click towards sporty it is perfect. Almost all elements of the car shout out luxury and you are going to be impressed.
One thing with the 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT that does let it down is the uConnect infotainment system and this went blank or froze on occasion. Other than this the car offers a cabin packed with luxury and the car offer performance that is blistering.