Friday 30th October 2020
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First drive: Jeep Renegade 4xe. Image by Simon Thompson/Jeep.

First drive: Jeep Renegade 4xe
The first-ever electrified Jeep arrives and the Renegade 4xe is an assured plug-in hybrid crossover… but rather pricey, it has to be said.

 



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Jeep Renegade 4xe Trailhawk

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While the addition of a plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) model to the Jeep Renegade range is totally understandable, certainly when you consider the benefits to those user-choosers who are looking at company cars, and while the execution of the formula of this first-ever electrified Jeep is pretty decent, there are a few issues with the Renegade 4xe which hold it back from greatness in this class - not least its robust asking prices in the UK.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Jeep Renegade 4xe Trailhawk
Pricing: Renegade range from £23,150, 4xe Trailhawk as tested from £36,500
Engine: 1.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol plus front belt-integrated starter generator and rear electric motor, and 11.4kWh lithium-ion battery pack
Transmission: eAWD all-wheel drive, front six-speed automatic, rear single-speed fixed reduction gear
Body style: five-door plug-in hybrid crossover-SUV
CO2 emissions: 52g/km (VED Band 51-75 Alternative Fuel Vehicles: £15 first 12 months, then £140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 122.8mpg
Top speed: 124mph
0-62mph: 7.3 seconds
Power: petrol 180hp at 5,750rpm, electric motor 60hp, quoted system maximum 240hp
Torque: petrol 270Nm at 1,850-2,250rpm, electric motor 250Nm, quoted system maximum 270Nm
Boot space: 331-1,277 litres

What's this?

A Jeep Renegade, remastered as a part-electric PHEV. The first in what could be a three-strong UK line-up of petrol hybrid Jeeps under the 4xe brand (that's 'four-by-E', not 'four-X-E'); a Compass 4xe is definitely on the cards for 2021 but there's the possibility that the Wrangler 4xe could make it here, although this is not a given in the slightest. Anyway, it's the Renegade which gains the honour of 'first-ever electrified Jeep' in the American company's history, so it's the Renegade in which we get to try the marque's first stab at a PHEV.

In the Renegade 4xe's case, it takes the Global Small Engine 1.3-litre unit as its basis and then bolts on a belt-integrated starter generator (BISG), while at the back of the Jeep there's a 44kW (60hp) electric motor gobbing another 250Nm of torque into proceedings. The battery pack, lithium-ion and rated at 11.4kWh, lines the transmission tunnel, because this Renegade is one of those clever modern-day all-wheel-drive vehicles in which there's no propshaft connecting one axle to another. Instead, the petrol engine/BISG and its attendant six-speed automatic gearbox divert their grunt to the front axle, while the e-motor and a single-speed reduction gear controls the rear wheels. As this is a Jeep, it needs to be pretty damned decent off-road, despite its crossover leanings, and so the 'eAWD' is permanent. How so, you say, when the rear axle is powered by a battery than can be depleted in around 26-30 miles of operation? Well, something called Powerloop ensures that the rear e-motor is always working, even if the Renegade 4xe's interior read-outs suggest the battery is on its backside. Clever, eh?

Not quite as clever as the Engie charging Wallbox Jeep will provide you with. This 3kWh unit does not need a qualified electrician to plug it in. Instead, you just slot a three-pin plug into a domestic socket and the Wallbox upgrades the charging rate to a level whereby the Renegade's battery will be replenished in five hours. However, this box is only IP54 rated so probably wouldn't withstand the rainfall we get in summer on this sceptred isle, which means you'll want to mount it to a wall (using only two screws, apparently) in a covered area - a garage or, if you'll permit us to regress to the 1970s for a moment - maybe even a carport. Yeah, yeah, we know. Anyway, there's a more potent 7.4kWh Wallbox available, although you will need a sparky to wire that one up.

So, back to the Jeep's powertrain. You can decide whether you want that 1.3-litre engine to deliver either 130- or 180hp. Whichever one you select, you get a 'sum-of-its-parts' peak output; thus, 190hp or 240hp overall. Prices start at £32,600 for the Renegade 4xe Longitude but you can pretty much ignore that one - it's an eye-catching piece of price-point marketing and, for the vast amount of extra kit it brings for a mere £1,900 increase, it's no wonder Jeep is expecting the majority of UK 4xe models to be the Limited (from £34,500). Both of these two use the 190hp drivetrain and, while they are capable off-road, they have more road-biased tyres and less off-roading kit than the last model in the range, which is the 'Trail-Rated' 4xe Trailhawk (from £36,500). This employs the 240hp engine, which raises the top speed of the Jeep from 113- to 124mph while trimming the 0-62mph time a few tenths to a 7.3-second sprint. The benefits of the 190hp models will be most keenly felt by business types, who will enjoy 12 per cent benefit-in-kind (BIK) taxation on these variants, compared to 14 per cent for the 240hp model.

Hmm. Steep, when a decently specified Limited with the sweet 1.0-litre three-cylinder T3 petrol engine will rock in at around £28,000 with options. And pricier than some key rivals from Kia and Ford, too, which is worrying. Still, one feather in the cap of the Renegade is its looks: aside from blue-tinged badging and the extra charging port/filler cap on the nearside-rear of the Jeep, it looks like any other model in the range - which is to say, chunky and cuboid, and attractively standing out from the norm in this conservative class. Inside, it's basically extra hybrid-related displays and switchgear, plus all the Jeep's usual packaging excellence (it only loses 20 litres of boot space due to an AC/DC converter stashed away back there) and generous equipment levels, while the Trailhawk has Ruby Red panels in certain places, but in general the Renegade's cabin architecture and 8.4-inch uConnect infotainment are starting to show their age nowadays.

How does it drive?

We drove both Limited and Trailhawk variants of the Renegade 4xe but spent much more time in the 240hp Trailhawk, because we're power junkies, we're afraid. Nevertheless, this allowed us to make some comparative observations: such as, the 190hp Limited has much more on-road grip from its tyres than the Trailhawk's knobbly rubber, but the 240hp drivetrain does make its extra muscle felt in more strenuous activities (climbing steep hills, accelerating hard for long periods of time etc) and the Trailhawk is, as you'd expect of a Jeep, imperious off-road. This Renegade will go far further into the wilderness than anything else at this sort of level, save for the doomed-by-emissions-regs Suzuki Jimny. And that's a wholly different animal underneath to the Renegade PHEV, when all's said and done.

However, in terms of commendation, there's plenty to go at here. Jeep claims an electric range of between 26 and 31 miles, which looks eminently believable because the Trailhawk managed 24 miles of EV running out of around 60 in total on our varied test route and we hardly drove it carefully throughout. The drivetrain is pretty well integrated and works well in general operation, proving refined at lower revs and bolstered by the instant-access torque of the electrical propulsion unit. The ride quality is very good, the Renegade 4xe's extra weight seeming to calm its damping down, so that it soaks up washboard surfaces and large imperfections/compressions with equal ease; it's maybe not the best-riding thing in this class, but it's certainly up there with the leading lights. And there are plenty of methods of best maintaining the resources at your disposal, with 'Hybrid', 'Electric' and 'E-Save' buttons at the base of the centre stack part of the 4xe package, while an 'eCoasting' setting (switched on or off via a button with a battery icon on it, which sits next to the electronic parking brake) can harvest extra otherwise-wasted kinetic energy from the brakes if you ask it to.

Yet there are issues. Body roll is pronounced in the corners, while the sensation of weight on the back axle is amplified in corners by the way the drivetrain tries to shunt torque around to compensate for any perceived loss of grip. This, along with steering that's mediocre at best, doesn't make the 4xe that much fun to drive on an objective basis; this wouldn't normally be a problem, as you could defend a PHEV crossover along the lines of 'but no one drives hybrids fast', but Jeep is making a big deal of the 240hp/7.3 seconds to 62mph thing and, furthermore, the Sport mode switches the traction control down to a more relaxed setting, as if there are handling gems here to discover.

We did actually have quite a bit of fun in the Renegade 4xe Trailhawk on a particularly switchback-riddled route though, mainly because of the howling hilarity of its tyres. They both make some highly amusing noises and provide rather low grip levels on dry tarmac, which means a spirited drive in a Renegade Trailhawk PHEV is a hoot, even if it's a hoot because you're making the Jeep operate way outside of its comfort zone, rather than it being technically adept and accomplished. The performance is also reasonably strong but this is not a drivetrain beyond reproach. The 1.3-litre engine gets noisy beyond about 3,750rpm and it feels breathless at the top end, while the six-speed automatic is particularly veteran in operation. It's OK enough if you don't rush it, but there will be plenty of times where you'll wonder what the hell it's up to as it hesitates to pick a ratio from the 'box. Jeep said it used this transmission rather than its more advanced nine-speed auto because it gives more low-speed control when off-roading, plus there are weight and packaging constrictions to think of in a petrol-electric car. Yet we can't help but wonder how much more impressed we'd have been with the PHEV running gear if it'd had a better gearbox than this one.

There are also refinement and economy issues. On the former, that's down to the Jeep's bluff shape. What is its strength, the cuboid styling, also translates into the weakness of increased wind noise at speed, a constant blustering about the A-pillars being a permanent companion when you're holding 70mph or so. And our test route, 60 miles long and involving a lengthy motorway run, a charge up the twisting hillside switchbacks, a EV amble through a city centre and then a flowing, high-speed run on open, rural arterial routes, resulted in an overall 34.9mpg. Oh. Not great, is it? Admittedly, there are mitigating factors. On the motorway, Jeep asked us to use E-Save so we had battery resources for the city driving later on the route, so a steady cruise resulted in a modest 30.4mpg. The immediate, subsequent hooning about on a steep, narrow and sinuous back road punched that number down to a dismal 25.2mpg, but once the restorative effects of the 24 miles of EV running were factored in then the overall economy rose. Take that fast driving out of the mix and we've no doubt 50mpg should be easily attainable, but it's also clear that if you want to enjoy the 240hp side of the Renegade 4xe's character, you'll pay for it with so-so returns.

Naturally, the Renegade Trailhawk performed impeccably on a fairly tough, challenging off-road course, proving its merits. And Jeep might say that for those looking for a more urbane PHEV crossover, then the inbound Compass 4xe will be the better bet - hence why the Renegade can prioritise its 4x4 skills at the expense of some on-road polish. Us? Well, if you're a company car user-chooser and you've always wanted a Jeep, but BIK tax is the be-all and end-all to your purchasing decisions, then this 4xe is great news. If you've always adored the Renegade and you want to do a lot of plug-in charging and EV driving, even better. But if you're just after a Renegade, or if you're simply after a fairly affordable PHEV/economical crossover, you'll either be better off with the cheaper 1.0-litre petrol-only model of the Jeep or one of its hybrid rivals.

Verdict

Jeep's first foray into the world of PHEVs is perfectly acceptable and has plenty of merits, but the pricing is a touch too strong for us, especially when you sample what you're getting for your money. It's good but flawed in places, the Renegade 4xe, and that's why we think there are better options both within its own model line-up, or in the showrooms of other, competitor companies.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Interior Ambience

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

3 3 3 3 3 Driving Dynamics

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 4 Sep 2020









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2020 Jeep Renegade 4xe Trailhawk. Image by Simon Thompson/Jeep.2020 Jeep Renegade 4xe Trailhawk. Image by Simon Thompson/Jeep.2020 Jeep Renegade 4xe Trailhawk. Image by Simon Thompson/Jeep.2020 Jeep Renegade 4xe Trailhawk. Image by Simon Thompson/Jeep.2020 Jeep Renegade 4xe Trailhawk. Image by Simon Thompson/Jeep.

2020 Jeep Renegade 4xe Trailhawk. Image by Simon Thompson/Jeep.2020 Jeep Renegade 4xe Trailhawk. Image by Simon Thompson/Jeep.2020 Jeep Renegade 4xe Trailhawk. Image by Simon Thompson/Jeep.2020 Jeep Renegade 4xe Trailhawk. Image by Simon Thompson/Jeep.2020 Jeep Renegade 4xe Trailhawk. Image by Simon Thompson/Jeep.








 

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