Jeep’s first electrified Renegade is set for our shores imminently
You might have believed that Jeep would need electric power like a hole in the head but, states Iain Robertson, with a lifelong premise of ‘treading softly’, it is a brand taking strong survival measures and its first assault is with the charming Renegade.
To be frank, when Land Rover started making its vainglorious claims and future pitches a little more than a decade ago, of which electrification was a central key, I was not alone in thinking that all the bluff and bluster might come to nought. The technological nightmares surrounding electrified drivetrains and deep mud, or water, had to be overcome and Land Rover seemed very uncertain about the final shape of its fully charged offer.
However, with the customary clarion cry and a defiantly ‘on-road’ publicity stunt, the P400e version of the Range Rover aimed for the stars on one of China’s impossibly steep mountain challenges. The company is exceptionally good at garnering support and the story grabbed worldwide automotive headlines, amid post-event claims that wire-ropes were employed to make it possible. In the intervening period, Land Rover has hybridised several of its models, which are being snaffled up by corporate customers keen to take any tax advantages conveyed by the technology.
Naturally, every major 4×4 manufacturer is being forced into employing electric power, as the ‘race’ progresses towards various governments ditching fossil-fuelled new models within the next fifteen years. Most of them are grateful that their various models do spend somewhat more time on-road than off it, which should keep warranty claims at a relatively low ebb. However, both Land Rover and Jeep operate to remarkably similar premises, both having huge reputations for off-road prowess to live up to. The task for them is immense.
With the prospect of full electrification hanging like a Sword of Damocles above their heads, the softer hybrid option has distinct benefits. For a start, the technology is not new and employing electric motors, a battery pack and a plug-in facility can be disarmingly available and moderately easy to manage. Thus, the compact Renegade model, which has been built at the firm’s Melfi plant, in Turin, since 2014, and is notionally identical to the Fiat 500X, is also like a perfect candidate for conversion.
Centred on the pairing of a 11.4kWh (400v) battery pack with a 60hp electric motor, the 4xe’s EV mode promises a range of 26-miles. Yet, the hybrid elements are linked to an all-alloy 1.3-litre turbo-petrol engine that boasts either 130, or 180bhp, and can deliver a top speed of up to 125mph (up to 81mph in EV mode), with an equivalent 125mpg being claimed for its official combined fuel economy, while also despatching the 0-60mph sprint in around 7.2s. The total power output being between 190hp in Longitude and Limited versions and up to 240hp in Trailhawk trim, with an abundant torque output of 184lbs ft for the electric motor and 199lbs ft for the internal combustion engine, essential for indefatigable off-road performance.
The Renegade 4xe drives through a new six-speed automatic transmission selector that is supported by an updated ‘Selec-Terrain’ rotary control, with eAWD modes (4WD Lock, 4WD Low, Hill Descent Control) providing engagement with the different driving modes – Auto, Snow, Mud & Sand, and Rock – as well as the new Sport mode for enhanced throttle response and steering. The lithium-ion battery pack is located on the rear axle and two electric motors provide the all-wheel drive capabilities.
The battery pack is located underneath the second row of seats, where it is protected from outside elements. Enclosed in a steel casing, the pack is fitted with a dedicated heating and cooling circuit to keep the battery at its optimum temperature for best performance. The hybrid system also includes a power inverter (PIM) housed inside the battery pack, which is also protected from damage. A small charging module, placed in the boot, and the arrangement of the electric motor under the floor means that the carrying capacity is almost the same as that of the conventional engine version at 330-litres. A height adjustable boot floor also remains and the layout means that a spare wheel can still be housed under the boot floor on the 4xe version.
Customers can personalise their driving experiences according to their specific demands and types of journey, with a choice of three operating modes – Hybrid, Electric and E-save. The desired mode can be activated using a selector switch, located in front of the gear lever. In all driving modes, the regenerative braking system recovers energy during passive driving phases, such as deceleration, or light braking. Additionally, the Renegade 4xe travels in hybrid state, when the battery reaches the minimum charge level, regardless of the selected mode.
Having devised its new plug-in hybrid technology, it is interesting that Jeep believes that it enhances its off-road capabilities, by combining both of the propulsion systems to deliver such superior torque, a prime off-road requirement. Certainly, the on-paper results propose that a hybrid Renegade should be able to go, where a regular Renegade can. Rear axle traction is provided not by a mechanical propshaft but the dedicated electric motor and electronic management instead. Jeep is convinced that its first-rate multi-surface reputation is upheld using the new technology. I have no reason to disbelieve it.
The extra weight of the fresh hardware is noticeable but not to detrimental effect. The Renegade still steers, stops and handles with as much on-road eagerness and competence as before. The lack of a central propshaft, in favour of an electrically driven rear axle, has not hurt Renegade’s outstanding off-road agility. Recharging the battery pack can be carried out domestically using a dedicated 2.3kW wallbox in around five hours; a 7.4kW upgrade unit completes the task in just two hours. It can also be charged at public plug-in points.
I am feeling some sympathy for Jeep at present, as it undergoes the burgeoning partnership arrangements with PSA Groupe. Yet, it is a carmaker addressing future demands on its technology and it is shaping up strongly, with much more to come from the US-Italian-Gallic combine. Prices start at a modest £32,600, rising to £36,500 for the top specification.