Jeep's Renegade concept shows how the Wrangler could be re-invented for the 21st century. The Renegade is about the length of a Wrangler, but has a six-inch longer wheelbase. It's off-road capable, with four-wheel drive, locking differentials, and a low range. But this concept's powertrain breaks dramatically with Wrangler orthodoxy.
The Renegade is powered by two electric motors, each making 200 kW (268 hp). The motors can drive the Renegade for 40 miles before their batteries need to be recharged, a task accomplished by a 1.5-liter, 115-hp Bluetec 3-cylinder diesel engine and abetted by regenerative brakes. Chrysler estimates that the powertrain combo could return as much as 110 mpg, along with a top speed of 90 mph and a range of 400 miles.
The two-seat concept has no roof, a cut-down windshield, and openings in the lower doors. The cargo compartment, however, is covered, with a lid that could be molded to carry various different types of cargo. The interior is designed along a modular concept; the gauge cluster is mounted atop the steering column and the center stack of controls is affixed to a swivel base. With all controls electronically operated, Jeep claims the Renegade would be easily configurable for left- or right-hand-drive operation. The automatic transmission gear selection is done via a screen in the center of the steering wheel. The hose-out floor has a drain to let water out. Jeep characterizes the molded-in-color matte-finish body as an environmental measure (no paint fumes or solvents) but it also would be a major cost savings, and is an idea seen on previous Chrysler concepts going back 10 years to the Plymouth Pronto Cruiser.
We like where Chrysler is going with the idea of a dramatically more economical, environmentally friendly, and yet still off-road capable Jeep. But the Renegade also strikes us as a long, long way from production, particularly given Chrysler's current financial state.