The Jeep Renegade 4xe features lots of off-road engineering as well as a plug-in hybrid powertrain which delivers an official electric range of 26 miles.
Jeep has a strong brand image association with off-road vehicles, but not so much of a strong brand image for green cars. The company is hoping to combine both of the above with the Renegade 4xe, the first electrified Jeep to be offered in the UK.
The Jeep Renegade 4xe has a 1.3-litre turbo petrol engine, a 6-speed automatic transmission, and two electric motors. One motor is located on the front axle and coupled to the internal combustion engine. In addition to working with the engine, it can act as a high-voltage generator.
The second motor, located on the rear axle, is powered by an 11.4 kWh battery, located underneath the rear seats, and features reduction gear and integrated differential (e-axle). It delivers 60hp and 250Nm of torque, generating traction and recovering energy while braking.
The 1.3-litre turbo engine delivers a power output of 130hp (or 180hp in the Trailhawk model), plus the 60hp produced by the electric motor, giving a total of 190hp in the Longitude and Limited versions, or 240hp in the Trailhawk model. The combustion engine delivers 270Nm of torque, and the electric motor produces 250Nm.
Visually, the Renegade has Jeep styling cues, but you’re left with the feeling that the huge wheel arches were designed for bigger wheels (even though these are 18-inch wheels).
This is a compact SUV so it’s practical, but it doesn’t offer huge amounts of space for occupants or luggage.
The first surprise with the Renegade is that the driving position is actually quite good – which isn’t always the case with electrified 4x4s.
The next surprise is that the Renegade is more fun to drive around town on electric power than expected, when it feels compact, relatively light and agile. It’s refined when in EV mode and the ride quality is comfortable. There’s even a Sport mode, which you can select while on electric power, when the drive goes to the rear wheels.
There are three operating modes – Hybrid, Electric and E-Save – the latter includes Battery Save and Battery Charge. The drive mode switches are down at the bottom of the centre console on the far side from the driver, so they’re a bit of a stretch to reach. And the Renegade starts in Hybrid mode, which means that the petrol engine can come on, so you need to override this to put it in EV mode – which can be done most easily by selecting a small EV button on the left-hand side of the electronic handbrake.
There’s no obvious display in the main instruments to show if you’re on electric or petrol power, or to show the percentage of battery remaining, and you have to scroll through different screens to display the electric range.
There are no steering-wheel mounted paddles for changing gear, and there’s also no ‘B’ setting on the gear selector, but there is a button for increased brake regeneration – again, on the left-hand side of the electronic handbrake.
The Renegade is comfortable on the motorway, with decent responses when overtaking, although there’s some wind noise, with the large door mirrors likely to be the culprits.
Because this is a Jeep, what about off-road ability? Let’s start with the theory.
The Renegade 4xe features a new six-speed automatic transmission selector, updated Selec-Terrain rotary control with eAWD modes (4WD Lock, 4WD Low, Hill Descent Control) to engage the different driving modes – Auto, Snow, Mud & Sand, and Rock – including the new Sport mode for enhanced throttle response and steering.
With two electric motors featuring ‘Powerloop’, all-wheel drive is always available.
Jeep says that the increased torque generated by the electric motor and the ability to adjust it with precision ensures even greater four-wheel-drive capability.
The Jeep Active Drive Low system, fitted on all Renegade 4xe trims, is a new plug-in hybrid technology which enhances its off-road capability, with the combination of the two propulsion systems resulting in more torque.
Thanks to the new 4xe technology, traction to the rear axle is not provided by a prop shaft but through a dedicated electric motor. This allows the two axles to be separated and control the torque independently in a more effective way than a mechanical system, with traction being delivered to the rear wheels immediately when needed.
Jeep Active Drive Low is paired with the Jeep Selec-Terrain traction control system with up to five driving modes. Selec-Terrain includes Hill Descent Control. By using Selec-Terrain, the driver can choose Auto, Sport, Snow or Sand/Mud – and Rock in the Trailhawk version (only available when 4WD Low mode is engaged).
4WD Lock permanently engages the four-wheel drive at speeds up to 9mph, keeping the rear electric motor constantly running to provide 4×4 traction at low speeds with a constant distribution of torque between the two axles (the distribution ratio varies depending on the selected Terrain mode).
At speeds above 9mph, AWD becomes on-demand. Compared to a conventional mechanical AWD system, the response speed of the rear electric motor allows faster engagement.
The full functionality of the 4xe four-wheel drive is guaranteed by the ‘Powerlooping’ function when the battery charge level is low. This ensures that the front electric motor, mechanically connected to the internal combustion engine, continuously generates high-voltage current to power the rear electric motor and deliver maximum traction regardless of the state of charge of the battery.
For off-road driving, HYBRID 4×4 mode can be selected and the system will automatically operate both drive systems on both axles. 4WD Low mode can also be selected to optimise response on sandy or rocky terrain or 4WD Lock to maintain permanent 4×4 traction up to 9mph and select from the four-mode (five on the Trailhawk) Selec-Terrain traction control system.
All high-voltage electronic components, including the control modules and the wiring between the battery pack and electric motors, are fully sealed and waterproof. As a result, the Renegade 4xe has a water fording capability of up to 400mm.
So there’s lots of off-road engineering, but there’s a problem. The Renegade 4xe in ‘Limited’ trim level has road tyres, not off-road tyres. So the car has huge amounts of technology, but it can’t be translated to provide traction in off-road situations with standard road tyres.
The Renegade can be specified with off-road tyres but you have to opt for the Trailhawk model, which comes with mud & snow tyres. We can’t see much point in having all the off-road engineering if you don’t have the tyres to translate the technology to off-road terrain, so we would recommend the Trailhawk version (which is also fitted with steel skid plates and has ground clearance of 200mm).
In terms of the interior environment, the centre console has lots of small buttons – which is not fashionable but is actually better than all controls being hidden in the touchscreen. However many things can be controlled via buttons and by the touchscreen – such as climate – which at least gives you the choice.
But despite this, there are still things hidden away in the touchscreen – such as ‘Hybrid Electric Pages’ – where you can select E-Save and Battery Save or Battery Charge. The battery charge level is also hidden away in here.
It’s also challenging to find any controls for heated seats and heated steering wheel – which do exist, hidden away in the ‘Apps’ page, then in a sub-page called ‘Controls’. The option for heating the seats and the steering wheel also comes up briefly when the touchscreen first starts, but they have no permanently visible buttons.
The lane departure warning system can be switched off at the touch of a button, which is good, but something that is bad is the electronic handbrake, which doesn’t have an auto release – which means that you have to physically release the handbrake all the time, and this is a particular pain when off-roading, as the car frequently puts the handbrake on automatically but doesn’t release it automatically.
The satnav mapping mostly consists of a large arrow on a map with very little detail, and one slightly unusual feature being the indicator stalk – it seems very easy to inadvertently end up flashing the headlights when indicating.
The official WLTP combined fuel economy for the Jeep Renegade 4xe is 123-134 mpg, with WLTP CO2 emissions of 49 g/km, and an electric range of 26 miles. Over a week with the car we consistently averaged 31 miles of electric range, which is better than the official figure. We averaged 42.9mpg on motorways and dual carriageways, and 48.3mpg on B-roads. Overall after a week with the car on petrol and electric power we averaged 52.0mpg – this could have been much higher with more all-electric driving, or lower with more driving on petrol. The Renegade isn’t particularly aerodynamic, which doesn’t help with its efficiency.
The Renegade 4xe can recharge at home with up to 2.3 kW of charging power in less than 5 hours, with no need for professional installation. The easyWallbox can be upgraded to 7.4 kW, providing a full charge at home in less than two hours.
In partnership with Digital Charging Solutions (DCS), customers who choose the Jeep Renegade 4xe will have access to My easy Charge, a digital service providing access to the largest public charging network in the world, managed by DCS. A dedicated app and a single card offers access to more than 130,000 charging stations in 21 European countries.
The Jeep Renegade 4xe PHEV Limited 1.3 costs from £34,500. Our test car had £2,600 of options, taking the total price of the test car to £37,100.
There are three trim levels – Longitude and Limited, and the Trailhawk, with specialist off-road features and more power (240hp).
The Jeep Renegade 4xe is priced from £32,600 for a Renegade 4xe Longitude, £34,500 for a Renegade 4xe Limited and £36,500 for the Renegade 4xe Trailhawk.
The Jeep Renegade 4xe PHEV Limited 1.3 is fun to drive and it offers lots of off-road engineering, as well as the ability to drive on electric power for an official range of 26 miles. There are a few quirky things about its interior controls, including that some hybrid controls are hidden away, resulting in many people not achieving maximum efficiency from the hybrid system (see our feature about how to drive – and design – a PHEV). But the main issue is that all the off-road technology can’t translate to traction off-road – or in snow and ice – because it has standard road tyres. We can’t understand why you would want all the 4×4 hardware without being able to use it, so either don’t buy a 4×4 with road tyres, or opt for the Trailhawk model which does have off-road tyres. The Jeep Renegade 4xe PHEV Limited 1.3 gains a Green Car Guide rating of 7 out of 10.
Our standard advice for plug-in hybrids remains: Only buy a plug-in hybrid if you’ll be primarily using it on electric power, ie. journeys of 20-30 miles between charges, with occasional use for longer journeys.