Comanche Concept Makes the Jeep Renegade Into a Truck

Apr. 18, 2016 By Josh Burns
The Comanche Concept is built on the Renegade platform.

If you’re reading the tea leaves and believe the reports that Jeep will produce a pickup truck soon, then the Comanche Concept the brand produced for this year’s 50th Easter Jeep Safari likely piqued your interest.

The Comanche Concept was the most polarizing concept vehicle for EJS in 2016, according to our unofficial survey. People either loved it or hated it. Head of Jeep Design Mark Allen gave us a little insight into the motivation for creating it in the first place, which somewhat boils down to giving the small Jeep Renegade a little more street cred’.

“For the Renegade platform itself we were looking after something to butch it up, make it more attractive, particularly to the male audience,” Allen said. “It gets kind of a reputation as the little Jeep, or it’s not a Jeep, and we wanted to create something that twists people’s minds a bit, where they think, ‘I hadn’t thought of that.’”

Where the Comanche really gets interesting is how the Renegade platform is transformed to accommodate a truck bed. First off, the Jeep team actually lengthened the wheelbase of a production Renegade by 6 inches to 107.2 inches overall. The back seat and rear cargo area are removed entirely, and in its place a 5-foot composite cargo box is installed. The mini-truck version of the Renegade is then fitted with a custom canvas soft top to finish off the military-inspired look.

“The magic of that really was when we first sketched the Comanche it was just extruded the body side, the door shape, all the way down the back and made a simple pickup truck out of it,” Allen said. “When we rethought it and went with a more military look to it, the box looks completely different from the front end, and then the Nukizer thoughts came back into our heads, and we just thought, ‘It works.’ If I was at a different company that might not work, but for Jeep it seems to work really well just visually.”

The truck bed replaces the rear seat and cargo area of the Renegade, and it fits thanks to a 6-inch wheelbase extension.

A full-sized spare tire sits out back, along with military fuel cans to help complete the look.

Jeep went with a military-inspired tan it calls “Beige Against the Machine.” Although the Renegade Trailhawk isn’t a hard-core wheeler, the crew managed to stuff 32-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 tires underneath it on 16-inch Wrangler steel wheels. A modified 10th Anniversary Wrangler steel rear bumper is employed, but up front is a custom-made lower front fascia that hides a 9,000-pound Warn winch behind it. Out back is the 5-foot composite cargo truck box that holds a bed-mounted spare tire and vintage military gas cans.

“We worked it around a 5-foot box – it had to be 5 feet for a bicycle or motorcycle or whatever – two seats only, and we used the export vehicle, so it’s a Trailhawk with a 2.0-liter diesel, nine-speed automatic, and that was really done because there are no gear sets available for the vehicle,” Allen said. “If we put a larger tire and a lift on it I was afraid we were going to lose all of our low-end torque, so that’s why we went with the diesel. And it’s just kind of cool. It adds that little bit of forbidden fruit to it, you know, and I hate to open the diesel story again, but Jeep people love diesels.”

The Comanche is powered by the overseas 2.0L I-4 diesel engine.

The Comanche is powered by the 2.0-liter I4 diesel engine, which obviously tosses a little more fuel on the fire for Jeepers clamoring for a diesel engine in the U.S. The Comanche is also mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission and features a 20.4:1 crawl ratio. Driving the Comanche is interesting, to say the least. The two-door truck does harken back to the mini-truck days yet is built to offer a little more of a trail-savvy prowess than a traditional mini-truck.

The two-seater Comanche features canvas seat covers.

“Me, I say over and over, I’m from the mini-truck generation, had two mini-trucks when I was a kid, and they are largely gone - it’s an extinct body style,” Allen said. “So it was sort of a challenge to kind of butch up the image of the Renegade and to open up and older chapter in the book of cars.”

It certainly does open up the chapter, but unlike most of the concepts at this year’s event, the Comanche wasn’t quite as fun to drive as it was to look at. Without the lift, it requires careful placement going over small ledges - and in some places the tires do rub a bit. The diesel engine feels great and provides good low-end power in spite of the Comanche’s larger tires, but the truck didn’t articulate over obstacles anywhere near as well as we’d hope. Although we love the design, there still are a few kinks to be worked out on the truck to truly hit the trails.

The Comanche features a 9000-pound Warn winch tucked behind its custom front fascia.

Then again, the chances of seeing a two-door mini-truck in production are likely slim to none. The Wrangler essentially increased its popularity exponentially by offering a four-door option on the JK Wrangler, so going backward to a two-door Jeep in a Renegade offering likely will never see the light of day. But that’s why Jeep creates its concept rigs every year: Even if some of these vehicles never are produced, they allow us to reminisce about the past, explore what the future could hold, and just plain dream about off-roading. The Jeep Comanche certainly does all of those things – even if it does look better than it performs.

Crew Chief 715 is Pure Fantasy, and We Love It

Shortcut Concept Jeep Wrangler Pays Homage to Classic CJ-5

Moab: Jeep Trailstorm Concept Wrangler is Ground in Reality Newsletter
Join our Weekly Newsletter to get the latest off-road news, reviews, events, and alerts!