When the idea of the all-new Renegade began floating around Auburn Hills, Jeep executives asked the development and design teams in charge of the program a single question: “Can we really do a B-segment crossover?” Following the lukewarm—at best—reception of the brand’s Patriot and Compass compact crossovers, the question was legitimate. But the Renegade’s debut at the Geneva auto show this week—at least right now—seems to indicate that the missteps of a decade ago may remain in the past.
To get all the deets on the new global B-segment crossover, we spent some time with the men in charge of the Renegade’s engineering and interior and exterior design. Below are the 10 nuggets of truth you need to know about what the team now affectionately calls the “cute brute.”
1. The Design Team Had One Inspiration: Wrangler
Take one look at the Renegade and its mimicry of the Wrangler is obvious. The grille, headlights, and upright stance all play as caricatures of the off-road legend the team used as inspiration. Subtler nods, however, include widened fenders to recall the flat fenders of old Willys models and taillamps that are tacked on and interrupt the rear end’s shape, much like the Wrangler’s.
2. The Xs All Over It Are Derived From Army Jerry Cans
It wasn’t enough to model the Renegade after the Wrangler, it also took inspiration from the jerry cans often carried by old Willys while on patrol. The Xs that were stamped into those jerry cans are seen in the taillights, but they’re also hiding in the headlights, on the roof, and in a number of other places that Jeep won’t reveal.
3. There Are a Lot of Easter Eggs
Which brings us to our third point: Jeep’s design team hid Easter eggs all over the Renegade. If you read our debut story, you’ll know about the topographic map of Moab hiding in the stowage bin beneath the center stack, but the exterior design team tells us there are a number of other hidden gems throughout the vehicle. We were able to spot silhouettes of Willys Jeeps printed on the wheels and the grille-and-headlights emblem stamped on the inside of the tailgate and in the taillights, but Jeep won’t reveal the rest. “Part of the fun of owning the vehicle is discovering them,” we’re told. This is becoming a trend in new Fiat Chrysler vehicles—the new 200 has the skyline of Detroit hidden in its interior, and the Viper’s cabin features circuit maps of Laguna Seca and other historic tracks—and we’re told it will continue.
4. It Was Penned by Fiat Chrysler Rookie Designers
The entirety of the design took place in Auburn Hills, where senior FCA designers turned over the styling process to its youngest members with the instructions: “Design a car for yourself.” Jeremy Glover and Ian Hedge, 2010 and 2011 graduates of Detroit’s College for Creative Studies, penned the crossover’s exterior and interior. They wanted to give the Renegade a feeling of urbanity, yet to feel simultaneously active. So they used themes from activities like base jumping, parkour, and paintball—the latter is quite evident in the tach, where orange splatter serves as the car’s redline.
5. The WALL-E Vents Were Necessary but Weren’t Unanimously Liked
First, Jeep insists that we call the vents that sit atop the Renegade’s dash above the center stack “ski goggles.” This is for two reasons: One, it further plays up the extreme-sports inspiration; and two, it would avoid any kerfuffles with Disney. The reason the vents exist at all is because the dashboard simply wasn’t wide enough to accompany Fiat-Chrysler’s usual HVAC layout of vertically oriented vents mounted on either side of the infotainment screen. So the design team moved them to the top of the dash. Chrysler design chief Ralph Gilles had to be convinced to go along with WALL-E.
6. The Removable Roof Panels Need a Key and Two Hands
Engineers were concerned that owners with manually operated removable roof panels would attempt to transition from closed roof to open air while in operation, so they made the process a two-handed operation. The panels open in such a way that if they were to be removed while driving, they’d lift up and fly off. So removing them requires the turning of a key—made to look like one that might start a 1941 Willys—and the pulling of a lever, essentially making it impossible for a driver to complete the process while in motion.
7. The Interior Color Combinations Are Named After Extreme Sports
Yes, the X Games-esque themes continue. The interior design team was drawn to the suits that BASE jumpers wear and the environments in which sand surfing takes place. So, naturally, the bright and colorful, orange-trimmed interior is called Basejump and the earth-toned interior is called Sandsurf. When the Renegade goes on sale, the cabin treatments likely will have different names.
8. It Has the Most Intricate Selec-Terrain Parameters of Any Jeep Ever
The Selec-Terrain drive-mode system is no different than the new Cherokee’s, but as the Renegade has 16 different powertrain combinations globally, the Selec-Terrain system needed more parameters than the Cherokee’s to accommodate all those engine and transmission options. Jeep had to adjust more than 6000 parameters to set up Selec-Terrain for Renegades the world over, and consider that each cog in its nine-speed automatic has to have a calibration of its own, so that numbers is, in reality, more like 54,000.
9. It’s a Truly Global Vehicle
The design process may have taken place in Auburn Hills, but there’s quite a lot about the Renegade that’s very international. It will be built in Italy, Jeep ultimately expects the Renegade’s European sales to outpace those in the U.S., the core of the Michigan-based design team was shipped to Turin to oversee final alterations to the design as engineering changes were occurring, and it’s the first Jeep to be introduced outside of America.
10. As of “Weeks” Before Its Debut, It Didn’t Have a Name
Long before the Renegade bowed in Switzerland, Jeep had been testing its B-segment crossover under the cloak of a jacked-up Fiat 500L, and rumors circulated that it would be called Jeepster—the vehicle’s internal nickname. We’re told that a name still hadn’t been determined mere weeks before the Geneva show. The badging on the Renegades that sit on the stand is cheap, plasticky, and flimsy, further underlining the last-minute decision on a name. We suspect that badging will be more robust—dare we say “Trail Rated”—when the Renegade goes on sale this December.