When Jeep took the wraps off of the 2015 Renegade at Geneva the other day, the internet exploded with talk of the new "tiny" or "baby Jeep" that would usher the brand into "new territory." Autoblog even called it "more of a baby Wrangler than a smaller Cherokee." Whatever that means.
The pixel-ink flowed like wine as every automotive journalist flocked to the controversy angle like the salmon of Capistrano. This new Jeep is supposed to be a revolution, the wave of the future, a foray into uncharted "small car" territory for the brand, and other superlatives, too. I was also curious about how the new small Jeep would be received and how many purists would cringe in the process. I figured, like Jalopnik did at first, that all the hubbub meant that the Renegade was actually based on the A-segment Panda platform, rather than the B-segment 500L's. And then I looked at the spec sheet:
Overall length: 166.6"
4WD Ground Clearance: 8.7"
Interior volume: 118.6 cuft
The flurry of controversy got an instant facepalm out of me for one reason and one reason alone: The 1984-2001 Jeep Cherokee XJ. When AMC launched the unit-constructed XJ Cherokee in 1984, they were responding to the Energy Crisis of 1979, which was scaring people out of its larger SJ Cherokee predecessor. But AMC downsized the Cherokee far more drastically than people seem to think today. And it was a revolution that sent the competition scrambling to fit 4 doors on their small SUVs in the '80s. Most wouldn't figure it out until the early '90s. Anyway, here's the 2001 XJ Cherokee's spec sheet:
Overall length: 167.5"
4WD Ground Clearance: 8.1"
Interior volume: 94.8 cuft
So the new "baby" Jeep Renegade is within an inch of the iconic XJ Cherokee in overall length and wheelbase. It's taller, wider, has more 4WD ground clearance, and 25% more interior volume than the XJ because it doesn't have to find room for the cabin behind a long, longitudinal straight-6. It's available in 2WD and 4WD, just like the XJ, has a unit body just like the XJ, offers manual and automatic transmissions just like the XJ, and comes with a 4cyl engine standard, just like the XJ. It'll also come with an optional rear axle that disconnects. The outgoing Compass was the first FWD-based Jeep and it came out 8 years ago based on a platform sourced from that company that built the Zeros that bombed Pearl Harbor.
So why all the controversy now? There might be some surrounding the fact that it's set to be built in Italy, a country the original MB helped liberate in WWII. But Jeep CJs used to be built in Canada and imported to the US when AMC had the helm. Jeeps have been built everywhere from Austria to Israel to China.
The new Renegade isn't the smallest Jeep ever, the first 4cyl Jeep, the first FWD-based Jeep, the first unit-bodied Jeep, the first Jeep to use another company's architecture, the first Jeep to use a foreign company's engines, or the first Jeep built outside the US and imported to America.
My question is this: Are journalists these days really this unaware of automotive history? Are they sacrificing the facts for a "good story" that incites controversy, page views, and clicks? I think it's probably both.
What do you think?