By David Colman
Hypes: Fetching Appearance, True Jeep Genes
Gripes: Rear Visibility Poor
The Jeep-Chrysler-Fiat merger has resulted in engineering collaboration responsible for this Italian Jeep. Based on the platform of the Fiat 500L, the Renegade is built in Melfi, Italy and presents Jeep customers with the company’s first ever compact crossover SUV. In the Trailhawk form we tested the Renegade, this Jeep provides true off road capability. First, it offers Jeep “Selec-Terrain,” which offers you the ability to select optimal performance in snow, sand, off-road and rock modes. Only the Trailhawk offers the rock mode category. Also, only the Trailhawk offers maximum ground clearance of 8.7 inches, 0.8 inches higher than the standard Renegade. The Trailhawk, with its generous angles of approach (30.5 degrees), and departure (34.3 degrees), is capable of fording water 19 inches deep. Finally, the perfectly geared Trailhawk also boasts a rear axle ratio of 4.33:1 for ultra low speed trail creeping. Other Renegades make do with a 3.73:1 final drive.
Under the taut little hood sits the model’s top optional engine, the 2.4 liter Fiat-based Multiaire (turbo) engine which produces 184hp and 177lb.-ft. of torque. This respectably powerful motor passes its energy to all four wheels through a nifty nine-speed 948TE automatic gearbox which offers good low speed dig and silent freeway cruising thanks to its wide variety of gear sets. The Trailhawk alone offers what Jeep calls “Active Drive Low” for crawling along rocky roads. The transmission also automatically disconnects rear-wheel-drive when unneeded to improve overall fuel economy. The Renegade 4 x4 manages 24 MPG in combined city/highway use and posts a moderate annual fuel cost of $2,200.
The styling of the Renegade is joyful Early Boom Box. The stunning shade of Omaha Orange which graced our Renegade does wonders for the slinky contours of this smallest Jeep. The $150 optional matte black Hood Decal added yet another intriguing complexity to the look of the Renegade. Jeep ingeniously carried the exterior orange into the interior trim, with bright colored rings surrounding the dash vents and shift console. These orange surrounds were designed to mimic latches, giving the interior an outdoorsy cachet that has long been the hallmark of Jeep. The twin removable “My Sky” sunroof panels (a $1,395 option), can be stored in their own tonneau cover ($75) in the trunk area. The panels detach via star bolts for which Jeep provides a special tool. This wrench, cast in aluminum alloy, replicates the classic 7 bar grill of the Jeep. This grill has been a trademark of the company since Willys built the first Jeep in 1941. In fact, the proud moniker “Since 1941″ appears above the TFT screen in the center of the dash.
The Renegade is surprisingly agile on paved roads, given its high center of gravity and off road capable Goodyear Wrangler SR-A tires (215/65R17). These raised white letter Goodyears perform well when pressed hard on twisty roads. The little Jeep takes a quick set as you maneuver it through tight turns. All in all, its performance in these circumstances exceeds what you might expect when you first note its tall center of gravity. But if you’ve driven a Fiat 500L, you know what to expect from the Renegade in terms of tidy driving feedback. Although vision is terrific from the Jeep’s front seat to the front and sides, the Renegade’s beefy rear quarter pillars and bevy of backseat headrests conspire to make backing up a real pain. To ease the problem, you can equip your Trailhawk with the $1,395 optional “Safety and Security Group I” which includes Blind Spot and Cross Path Detection. The “Parkview” rear back-up camera is thankfully standard issue, and projects its image on a 7 inch TFT color display screen.
As if to confirm the bonafides of the Renegade, Jeep has equipped it with substantial fixed tow hooks (two front, one rear) painted international orange to match the exterior of the vehicle. There’s no mistaking the implication of these hooks. The Trailhawk carries a “Trail Rated” badge, and is meant to be used and sometimes abused in the outback. It looks the part because it has earned the part. Despite its engaging good looks and playful design, this is a trail rated Jeep through and through, making no concessions to a lesser role in life.
2016 Jeep Renegade Trailhawak 4 x 4
- Engine: 2.4 liter inline 4, SOHC, 16 valves, turbocharged
- Horsepower: 184hp
- Torque: 177lb.-ft.
- Fuel Consumption: 21 MPG City/29 MPG Highway
- Price as Tested: $31,690
- Star Rating: 10 out of 10 Stars