Jeep has officially taken the wraps off its Renegade 4xe and Compass 4xe plug-in hybrid models for the European market. They will be available for delivery in September. Starting price for the plug-in hybrid Renegade 4xe in the UK is £32,600 OTR. Deliveries in the US are expected to begin in early 2021.
The most important part of the 4xe twins is their plug-in hybrid powertrain, which consists of a turbocharged 1.3 liter gasoline engine that makes 130 horsepower in normal trim but 180 horsepower in the Trailhawk version. Torque is listed as 270 Newton-meters. All of the cars have an 11.4 kWh battery that powers two electric motors. One is integrated into the front-wheel drive engine and 6-speed automatic transmission unit. The other is mounted at the rear and powers the rear wheels. The motors add 60 horsepower and 250 Newton-meters of torque to the drivetrain.
Fiat Chrysler is touting some very impressive numbers for its plug-in hybrid twins. According to a voluminous company press release, the electric only range is said to be 50 kilometers. In hybrid mode, the vehicles have a top speed of 200 km/h (130 km/h in full electric mode) and consume only 2 liters of fuel per 100 kilometers. Better yet, carbon emissions are about 50 grams per kilometer — roughly half of the current EU standard. 0 to 100 km/h is listed as 7.5 seconds, which is decent if not Earth shattering performance.
“Electrification will take the Jeep brand into the future, as it strives to become the leader in eco-friendly premium technology,” the company says. “This commitment starts from Italy and Europe, where the Renegade and Compass plug-in hybrid models featuring Jeep 4xe technology are built. Courtesy of the plug-in hybrid technology, the new 4xe models offer the best performance and driving dynamics of any Jeep Renegade and Compass ever. They are literally capable of ’going anywhere and doing anything’, to quote the brand’s well-known claim and feature legendary 4×4 capability improved in almost 80 years of history.”
A full suite of driver assist technology is available, including a “drowsy driver alert” — a first for Jeep automobiles.
FCA is also experimenting with a system that would make these cars electric only when driving in certain urban areas where internal combustion powered cars are banned. It is also discontinuing the eTorque hybrid version of the basic Jeep Wrangler.
Crossing The Rubicon
A Jeep is not a Jeep unless it can take on the rigors of the Rubicon Trail or any other off-road adventure. The Renegade 4xe and Compass 4xe are no exception. The driver can select one of 4 low range driving modes depending on conditions and the desired thrill quotient of the journey.
“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 for superior off-road capability. By using Selec-Terrain, the driver can choose the ideal driving mode to safely tackle any terrain.”
- Auto: standard mode, ensures continuous traction management, suitable for on and off-road driving.
- Sport: uses both the electric motor and the internal combustion engine to deliver sporty driving performances. New on both Renegade and Compass, this dynamic driving mode makes the daily urban driving experience more enjoyable, by tightening up the steering, sharpening the throttle response and adjusting the behavior of the transmission via higher upshifts for full power and torque delivery.
- Snow: provides more grip in extreme conditions. It is designed to be used for driving on-road and off-road in the case of poor grip surfaces, such as roads covered by snow.
- Sand/Mud: Off-road driving mode for tackling surfaces with poor grip, such as muddy or sandy soils to provide maximum traction.
- Rock (Trailhawk versions only): This mode is only available when 4WD Low mode is engaged. The system configures the car to provide maximum levels of traction and steering capability on low-grip off-road surfaces. Besides, it provides benchmark off-road performance. It is used to climb over obstacles, such as large rocks.
In addition, there are two driver selectable settings when operating in all-wheel drive mode:
- 4WD Lock: This function permanently engages the four-wheel drive at speeds up to 15 km/h, 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 15 km/h, 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.
- 4WD Low: this is the mode for making the most of the performance and power of the vehicle to tackle particularly difficult terrain, such as sand or rocks. On the Trailhawk trims, the Rock mode of the Selec- Terrain system can be selected only in 4WD Low.
The FCA press release runs on for several more pages, with glowing descriptions of an array of technological and connectivity features (built in wifi is available) designed to make sure the owner can drive the car for years and never know everything there is to know about its features and benefits.
All in all, the Renegeade 4xe and Compass 4xe would have stood the motoring world on its ear a few years ago. Today, is the world hungering for more plug-in hybrids even if they are off-road capable? The base price is thousands less than a full-on battery electric vehicle would be and there really is no charging infrastructure once you get into the backwoods or crest a distant mountain.
For certain customers, these cars, which are said to have an MPGe rating of 125 mpg or more in a combination of electric and hybrid driving, may be the answer to their prayers. How many will Jeep sell? “We’ll see,” said the Zen master.