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Italian Pony: Jeep's Renegade loose in SA

2015-05-19 19:58

SPECIAL DEAL ON FIRST UNITS: Those of you keen on the new Jeep Renegade can save, the automaker says, R30 000 on the first 500 units. Image: Jeep

LES STEPHENSON

Two things in life have pretty much been accepted as all-American for us wheels folks: Harley-Davidson and Jeep – just as Land Rover and Jaguar on the other side of the Atlantic were English and therefore a trifle eccentric.

Then, damn it!, the Indians bought the Brit brands and Earth tilted on its suspension. In more recent times Chrysler – owner of Jeep – and Italian automaker Fiat got together in an alliance that some deemed unholy and a second cornerstone of the automotive industry shed some mortar.

DECENT GRUNT

The result of that marriage has just arrived in South Africa, something of a wild child called the Jeep Renegade, starting with 1.4-litre front-wheel drive models (yeah, we know….!) but later in 2015 looking at more-hunky 1.6 petrol and diesel units (August) and the top-of-the-range 2.4-litre Trailhawk which is expected in September.

It's not, however, an Italian stallion; more of a precocious pony.

In chronological order, that will be the Longitude, then the LTD and eventually the Trailhawk which will not only have some decent grunt (not to put down the 103kW of the turbo 1.4) but also a higher ride height (190, I was told, instead of the standard 171mm), all-wheel drive and a 20-1 low range.


VIDEO: Watch how the Renegade was designed


Jeep SA’s Richard Sloman described the Renegade as “slightly raised and practical for mild off-roading”. After a brief venture on a temporary and mildly axle-twisting off-road track in central Johannesburg (more later….) I’d say it will be capable of much more than that, especially when the higher ride and AWD are added.

TRICK DIFFERENTIAL

But why my “unholy alliance” comment earlier? Well, truth is (and Jeep SA’s Sloman was candid about it) the Renegade family is very closely related to the Fiat 500X – in fact so close that all the running gear and underbody stuff is Fiat; above that the design is Jeep’s.

The essential differences, Sloman explained, were that (a) the Fiat has a trick differential on its front-wheel drive for off-roading; the Trailhawk has a proper AWD system and (b) the Fiat has fastback styling while the Renegade has a vertical tail hatch.


GALLERY: Jeep Renegade does Jozi

GALLERY: Close-up on the Italian Pony


There are, of course, other styling differences involving body panels, front and rear lights, the word Jeep here and there, and a number of bold ‘X’ badges to be found and representing the bold cross on the original 1941 Jeeps’ spare-fuel ‘jerry cans”.

Extra good news, imparted during the launch event by the genial bossman of Chrysler in South Africa, Trent Barcroft, was that the first 500 Jeep Renegades to reach our shores will be over-equipped with satnav, leather upholstery, an upgraded soundPny system and special alloy wheel rims – R30 000 worth of ‘extras, that will be free to their buyers.

COMFORTABLE AND GRITTY

So anyway, the cars were launched in Johannesburg and the countryside to that city’s north-west, starting in the trendy Maboneng precinct project (used to be known as Newtown next to Hillbrow/Berea) with coffee and snacks and some excellent blackboard artwork by young Jozi artist Lorne Schnugh (see pictures) at the Chalkboard Cafe before moving on to the steel and iron skeleton of the old Park Station (originally Park Halt (see it as it was here) that was built through 1896/97 and used until a new city-centre station was built around 1930.

The idea: to show how comfortable the gritty the little Renegade is in a tough downtown neighbourhood. And so it proved – the car has that indefinable “solidity”, that “put-togetherness”, that defines a well-designed and well-built car. And the big wheels (17” are the smallest) go well over Jozi’s potholes.

From there the drive headed out through more of shopworn Jozi and an “out ride” to the Cradle of Mankind and a late lunch at the nearby La Sal restaurant – the kind of place I’m sure most Renegade buyers will prefer to gritty places.

Anyway, the cars were launched at the 2015 Geneva auto show back in March with Chrysler explaining they would “expand the brand’s vehicle line-up by entering the growing small sport-utility vehicle (SUV) segment while staying true to the adventurous lifestylefor which Jeep is known”.

'IT'S AN ALL NEW JEEP'

The media release explains that the Renegade is “the first Fiat Chrysler Automobiles vehicle to be jointly developed by Italian and American designers and engineers and the first model in the brand's history to be built in Italy”.

It adds: “(It is) an all-new Jeep, resulting from the combination between the design, functionality and off-road expertise of the US brand and the style and the dynamic features that are signature cues of Italian cars all over the world.”

It will be available in South Africa for now in the Limited trim levels – Longitude and Trailhawk – and with fuel-efficient 1.4 MultiAir powertrain with manual transmission. Fuel-efficient in the car I drove – city and freeway cruise – returned an average (its instruments) of 7.7 litres/100km.

The engine is described as “a fuel-efficient,103kW (at 5500rpm) and 230Nm (from 1750rpm), 1.4 MultiAir II Turbo with stop/start with a six-speed transmission and front-wheel drive”. And it’s all handled by electronic – and rather dead-feeling – steering.

The occupants, while parked in very comfortable seats facing a delightful array of full-colour instruments, are protected by (Chrysler Fiat asserts) 70 safety features from multi-stage crash bags through all the usual traction and stability controls, blind-spot monitors, parking cameras, adaptive cruise control to lane-drift prevention.

All of which will explain the cars’ rather high prices when compared to similar cars on the local market. And those of the Fiats upon which they are based.

CHECK WHAT THEY'VE GOT

It also has a high-end audio system with “communication, entertainment and navigation features and the segment’s largest full-colour instrument cluster”. Jeep adds: “Its thoughtful, state-of-the-art, high-tech features and amenities are intuitive, easy-to-use and provide on-board comfort and infotainment.” And hands-free phone comms, of course.

The first of the new Jeep Renegade range is in showrooms now with prices ranging from the Jeep Renegade 1.4 Limited at R375 990. All models are covered by a three-year or 100 000km warranty and a six-year or 100 000km maintenance plan.

How the models stack up:

Renegade Longitude
• 1.6 “E-torQ” (E6), 81kW @ 5500 rpm, 152Nm @ 4500 rpm, FWD
• 16” aluminium wheels
• Cruise control
• Speed limiter
• Six speakers
• Body colour power/heated outside rearview mirrors
• Body colour door handles
• Side Roof rails
• Front fog lamps
• Adjustable driver seat *
• Leather wrapped steering wheel
• Ambient LED lighting
• Illuminated sun visors
• Six-year or 100 000km maintenance plan

Renegade Limited
• 1.4 MultiAir2 Turbo (E6), 103kW @ 5000rpm, 230Nm @ 1750rpm, FWD
• 1.6 Multijet Turbo Diesel (E5+), 88kW @ 3750rpm, 320Nm @ 1750 rpm, FWD (Availability TBC)
• 1.4 MutliAir2 petrol Turbo (E6), 125kW @ 5500 rpm, 250Nm @ 2500rpm, AWD
• 17” aluminum wheels
• Bright exhaust tips
• Carpeted front floor mats
• Leather shift knob
• Lane departure warning plus
• Bright roof side rails
• Dual-zone automatic air conditioning
• Door trim with vinyl insert
• 18cm colour EVIC
• Premium cloth seats
• Six-year or 100 000km maintenance plan

An initial limited number of Jeep Renegade Limited models will include navigation, leather and 18" inch wheels as standard. These features will therefore not be charged for on these limited models. Please note stock of this edition are limited.

Renegade Trailhawk
• 2.4 petrol “Tigershark”, 137kW @ 6250rpm, 236Nm @ 3900rpm, 4WD low
• 4x4 low with 20:1 crawl ratio
• Raised ride height
• Off-road suspension and skid plates
• Unique front / rear fascias with enhanced approach/departure angles
• Black accent roof rails
• 18cm colour EVIC
• Leather shift knob
• All-weather slush mats
• Removable flashlight
• Rear parking sensor
• Deep tint “privacy” glass*
• Selec-terrain
• Tow hooks
• Hill-descent control
• 40/60 rear seat
• Dual zone automatic temp. control (ATC)
• Six-year or 100 000km maintenance plan

Read more about the 2015 Jeep Renegade range here.

Here’s how the prices should look when the other models reach South Africa:

Jeep Renegade 1.6 M5 Longitude - R340 990
Jeep Renegade 1.4 Turbo M6 Limited 4x2 - R375 990
Jeep Renegade 1.6 TurboDiesel M6 Limited 4x2 - R389 990
Jeep Renegade 1.4 Turbo A9 Limited AWD - R435 990
Jeep Renegade 2.4 A9 Trail Hawk 4x4 - R450 990


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Read more on:    fiat  |  jeep  |  johannesburg

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