This orange 2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk SUV is different from a red roadster. I mean, apart from the obvious, there's something else: instead of the classic 'middle-age crisis', its weird looks and flashy color say 'I don't wanna grow up'. And not a lot of cars can pride themselves with sending out this message - at least, not that many SUVs.
Not very surprisingly, the first we can think of is another Jeep, and we're talking here about the Wrangler. That car is so impractical, you'll have a very tough time convincing your wife it's for the best of the family. And even when she does eventually give in, it probably won't be because of your persuading skills, but because she loves you.
But if you ask us, 'I don't wanna grow up' is exactly what Jeep is all about, and that makes the Wrangler and Renegade the two most representative models of the current range. Which would explain why, if you open the US Jeep website, you'll find the two sitting side by side in the middle of the brand's lineup picture.
The Wrangler is the one true Jeep, the closest living relative of the original military vehicle and the CJ-2A civilian model it spawned. By contrast, the Renegade is a completely new model with no background whatsoever and some weird ties with Italy. Yes, this is the first model jointly developed by the two sides involved in the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles alliance, with a lot more to come.
But even though it's the new kid on the block, it somehow managed to instantly make friends with the leader of the pack. This move gave the Renegade all the credit it needed, and we're here to see if it also has what it takes to back it up.
It definitely has the looks
The Renegade slots just under the Patriot in terms of size and also takes some design cues from it, but makes them better. It's got the same innocent look granted by the short distance between the two round headlights, but with the black grille of the Trailhawk model, the Renegade resembles a raccoon. That is, it looks a lot more clever, cunning and capable.
Some people think its exterior is funny, too toy-like and not the kind of car you would want your business partners to see you in. They might be right, even though I think it all comes down to the owner's attitude. It's just like wearing colored socks to a suit in an important meeting - if that's who you really are, you'll pull it through; if it's just for show, they will tell.
Personally, I love it to bits. Seeing it in the garage in this bright orange paint (the only one I would consider) with its happy grin makes me happy as well. I feel this car works the same as a Golden Retriever: it's your duty to take it out into the world and just spread the joy, making everybody's day better as they come across it. It's not funny, it's cute, but without becoming too feminine. Actually, women don't even like it that much, and that makes perfect sense since the Patriot - the model it resembles the most - was directly aimed at men (with the Compass covering the other gender).
The Renegade, though, comes with a much more modern interpretation of the Jeep styling, and that mantra is carried over on the inside as well. Its cabin can best be described as 'robust', both in terms of design and finish. It brings out a sense of engineered simplicity that goes just as well with the Trailhawk version as with the other trim levels. If anything, the Trailhawk interior is a bit dark with its black plastics and black leather upholstery, which would be fine for a boring car but the Jeep Renegade is nothing of the sort. Think of it as a way of balancing that funky looking exterior.
The seats are comfortable enough, but don't offer great lateral support. They're also a bit hunched over, yet the seating position is nice. Like in no other car I can remember, I actually felt the need to lift the seat into its highest position, and even like that there was still a 3-inch gap between my head and the roof lining. Not only you get to gaze over the long orange bonnet like that, but it also makes you feel like you're driving a bigger car than the Renegade is in reality.
The interior design language actually carries a name, and it's called 'Tek-Tonic'. It's about the merging between soft surfaces and rugged details, a theme you can see and feel throughout the whole cabin. The only part I wasn't so happy with were the clamps surrounding the shifter and the front door speakers - their dark red color had nothing to do with the orange on the outside. Instead, they worked a lot better with the red stitching and the Trailhawk logo embroidered on the seats.
There's another childish thing I like about Renegade's cockpit. It's littered with all sorts of easter eggs. There's the Jeep logo - the 7-piece grille with the round headlights - that keeps popping out where you least expect it, the topographic maps imprinted on the upholstery and even a tiny Willys Jeep climbing on the windscreen. You'll still be discovering these little hidden gems months after you've bought the car. The question is: will it be enough to make you buy it? Well... maybe not, but it's enough to make your kid drive you mad until you buy it, and it's all the same for Jeep.
Wrapping up the interior business, the Renegade is surprisingly roomy both up front and in the back, with only the boot suffering a little at 12.4 cu ft (351 liters). The luggage compartment also pays a penalty to the full-size spare wheel, a feature that might come in handy, though, if you puncture a tire in the middle of nowhere.
And you will be going in the middle of nowhere. If this is your first Jeep, it may take some time, but it will eventually reset your understanding of where a car can go. You'll start looking at your surroundings differently and, suddenly, the world will appear a much bigger and more accessible place from behind the wheel.
Before you know it, you will take on jogging. Or trail hiking.
You will buy a kayak and maybe a mountain lodge
You might even give sky-diving a chance. It will change your life and make you more adventurous. And if it won't, that means you're doing it wrong and you might have bought yourself the wrong car.
Despite its off-road suspension and a 1.4-inch (35 mm) bump in ride height over the 4x2 version, the Renegade Trailhawk's ride is surprisingly stiff. It's compliant enough to make off-roading a pleasurable activity as long as the speed is kept down, but rigid when cornering on the asphalt for minimum roll and better handling. You could say that apart from the high driving position, up to a degree, the Renegade Trailhawk drives like a regular compact hatchback. One that weighs 3,549 pounds (1,610 kg), that is.
I drove this car - the exact same one - close to five months ago, and it had some all-season tires that made a mess out of its handling. Now, with proper summer tires, it behaved a lot better on the road, and that meant a much enjoyable time getting from the city to the playground in the mountains.
However, the Renegade is predictably prone to understeer and should never be mistaken for a sports car. Overall ride quality is good, but too much of the diesel engine sound makes its way into the cabin. From a certain speed on, the engine sound fades away, but only because it's replaced by plenty of wind and road noise. So you never feel alone.
When going off-road, it all depends on the tire choice, especially if it's muddy. In the dry, if the car loses traction, you just have to be gentle with the throttle and it'll find the necessary grip to pull you out of any hairy situations. The Selec-Terrain knob available on all models equipped with Jeep Active Drive has different settings depending on what kind of surface you're driving on: Auto, Mud, Sand, Snow, and Rock, with the latter available only on the Trailhawk (standard) and the Limited trim (optional). The Trailhawk also gets a 20:1 crawl ratio for even better off-road capabilities.
For a car so at home in the wild, the Renegade also feels relaxed driving around town. The boxy shape means there are no hidden surfaces, nothing outside your view area to think of when maneuvering in close quarters. You sit high, there are those large side mirrors and, optionally, the Renegade can also offer a reverse camera, so it's all good. The relatively compact exterior dimensions mean parking places are easy to find and, obviously, curbs won't pose any problem. Still, we should leave the sidewalks to the pedestrians.
The nine-speed automatic gearbox is a peach under any circumstances, but the manual sequential mode is still pretty much useless, unless you want to engine brake on snow or something. Otherwise, you'll just get lost in all those gears. There's a not-so-discreet battle going on between the brakes and engine every time you stop at a traffic light, and the transmission is caught in the middle. The easiest way to deal with it is to switch into Neutral. Or, if you want to forget about the brakes, you can put it in Park. Just remember this activates the parking brake as well, and it won't be released automatically when Drive is engaged and the throttle is pressed, so plan accordingly.
The steering is hard, but it suits the Renegade so well you don't really realize it until you switch to another car. The steering wheel itself is thick and comfortable to hold, while the audio controls on its back force the driver to place his hands in the right position (nine and three).
Placing some of the buttons on the dark side of the steering wheel also means there are less left to litter the front. One of them activates the 'voice command' function, which is a great opportunity for some hilarity. Trying to spell an address can turn into an either frustrating experience, or a laughing extravaganza - depending on your mood, I guess, and on how badly you need to get to your destination.
While my pronunciation might not rise to Oxford levels, I'm sure it wasn't as bad as the system was making it look. "N-E-W [pause] Y-O-R-K." "Setting destination town to 'Wichita.'" Oh, God, take me this instant. Or, better yet, "play track 'Rancid - New Orleans.'" "Playing track Elton John - Nikita.'" Arrghhh, why the hell do I even have that song on my phone?
When you do manage to input an address (the right one, hopefully), the turn by turn guidance is a bit overzealous. If the road has an 'S' bend, instead of ignoring it, it will say "in 50 meters turn left and then, in ten meters, turn right." With a delay. You are better off looking at the rather large screen (6.5 inches) yourself as it has clear graphics and good resolution.
Phone connectivity is on par with what we've come to expect from modern cars and there is a conveniently placed USB port right above a small storage tray for easy charging. The Renegade also offers the segment's largest full-color instrument cluster display. Tucked between the speedometer and the rev counter (speaking of easter eggs, the red zone is actually a brown zone in the shape of a mud splatter) is a seven-inch multifunctional display. You get all sorts of useful, customizable information, from the sat nav, trip computer, the audio system or the Selec-Terrain feature.
The 2.0 MultiJet II diesel engine with 170 hp does a very good job of efficiently moving the car, but don't expect it to feel sporty in any way. On some markets, there's the option for a 2.4-liter TigerShark engine developing 185 hp, which is the most potent powerplant available for a Jeep Renegade. At the other end of the food chain is the 1.6 E.torQ petrol engine pumping out just 110 hp.
In between them there are two power stages for the 1.4 MultiAir2 engine (140 hp and 170 hp), a 1.6 MultiJet II diesel good for 120 hp and two more declinations of the 2.0 MultiJet II with 120 and 140 hp. In total, there are 16 possible powertrain configurations thanks to three transmission options: a six-speed manual, a six-speed DDCT (dry dual-clutch transmission) and the nine-speed automatic we drove.
The choice is a matter of personal taste. If you can't be bothered with taxes and fuel consumption, the 2.4 TigerShark appears to be the obvious solution. Just like the 2.0 MultiJet II 170 feels as the best fit from a diesel point of view.
Jeep makes a lot of 'best in class', 'first in class' or 'the only one in its class' claims about the Renegade, but they're all covered by facts. Its exemplary safety record makes no exception, with full marks at the EuroNCAP crash tests and a plethora of electronic safety systems out of which I'll name but a few: Blind-spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Path detection, The LaneSense Departure Warning-Plus, Adaptive Cruise Control or the Forward Collision Warning-Plus braking assist system.
Luckily, they can all be switched off or ignored.
Something you can't do with the Renegade itself. Having this car at your disposal is like having an all-access ticket to a fun-park. You can't just sit on your ass and do nothing about it, as there's fun to be had. Or I might go back to that Golden Retriever parallel: it begs to be taken out for a walk. It won't pee on your carpet if you don't, but don't let that fool you, you're still breaking its heart.
And why would you ignore it? Did you read what it says on its side?
'Do something unexpected' is the best advice a car will ever give you
And if you look closer at the ignition, you'll find another one of those easter eggs written around it: 'To new adventures'. This car is like a little kid anxious to explore the world, and it needs you to help it do it. It will drag you along its adventures, and you will be the happiest man alive.
That is, if you can get past the way it looks. Some people find it ugly, others think it's funny while some of us reckon it looks just perfect. In spite of the fact that it's a perfectly capable and practical car, it's not one you choose rationally. But then again, which Jeep is? This brand has a certain something about it, something this car captures brilliantly and offers it to the world in a pretty affordable package: the standard Renegade starts at $18,990 (net) (19,900 euros in Germany) while the Trailhawk has a net price of $26.990 (33,600 euros in Germany). That's a steal.
I feel I may be doing something stupid here, but I can not afford not to
I look at this obnoxious car you have brought here in front of me, and every cell in my body tells me I should get my hunting rifle and turn it into a big piece of orange swiss cheese.
And yet, somehow, here I stand, still gazing at it, somewhat mystified. I am feeling a strange, guilty attraction, just like the one I felt towards this woman I once met on the streets of Bangkok. She, too, had no class, but it did nothing to dent her... ahem, appeal. Of course, all this has to stay between you and me. And I do not mean just the part about the woman.
I even gathered the courage to climb inside - of course, after making sure there was nobody watching. I instantly felt 20 years younger, and I liked it. I am actually considering buying one now. I would not drive it, of course, but I can see no harm in having it sit at the back of the garage for me to visit every now and then. This... ahem, thing, is the automotive equivalent of the elixir of youth. Too bad it had to come in such a tasteless shape.
A box of cigars would have been a lot nicer. Or even a woman from Bangkok, for that matter. But we are stuck with this Jeep of yours, and there is nothing we can do about it. I imagine lesser people would have no problem driving it, so maybe it is just me with my education and exquisite upbringing who is out of luck.
I hope you will excuse my whispering, but this estate of mine has ears all over. I can not believe I am doing this... I will never admit to it if it ever gets out, but I have to know: is it any way I could have it delivered in a box? Preferably, one that says "Bentley Bentayga" on the outside.
I'm not sure this fits my style in any way, but I totally get it if others like it
I circled the car a few times just to try and figure out what it is that makes me hesitant towards it. I think its design is a weird mix that makes it too masculine and childish at the same time. In other words, it makes it suitable for big babies, and I don't dig those.
It's more or less the same story on the inside. It's manly and black, but there are funny things scattered all around. I probably wouldn't have spotted them as I was checking myself in the mirror, but you were so quick to point them out. Anyway, I can live with those, they don't bother me as they don't affect the size of the mirrors in any way.
I switched the engine on and it was a good thing I was holding onto something, as the vibrations are very strong. It settles into a more quiet hum after a while, but the shaking is still there. It takes me back to when I was dating this boy who was a farmer. We had plenty of fun riding his father's tractors that sounded just like this Jeep. But then he left me for one of his goats, and that was humiliating.
Apart from that, the car is alright, I guess. It's roomy, it's reasonably comfortable and drives really well for how tall it is. Getting inside in a skirt or dress is a bit of a challenge. There is a side sill that could help, but it says "no step" on it. Is that supposed to be funny? Is it ironical? It's there, so of course I'm gonna step on it. If it breaks, then I... somebody will pay for it.
"Renegade" and "Trailhawk" have just become two of my favorite words.
Oh, man, check out this color. It's really cool, but not that great when you're trying to blend in. You know, like when the police are in the neighborhood. They will spot you from miles away without even putting those donuts down.
I love it, though. It's a Jeep. Yeah, it's small and people will think you couldn't afford a bigger one, but I can live with that. I've got nothing size-related to prove to anybody. Plus, you can see it means business from the way it looks. And about those cops? Ha, you can easily ditch them by going off-road in this thing.
It's impressive what Jeep did with this little car. I'm glad to see that working together with those Italian greaseballs didn't take anything away from what makes a Jeep great. It's still an all-American car, all it's missing is a pair of bullhorns on the hood.
I love the name, too. "Renegade" makes me think of that 90's Lorenzo Lamas series where he kicked everybody's ass dressed in a pair of bluejeans and a black tank top. It's just my style, apart from the ponytail. That is just... wrong.
And then there's the "Trailhawk" part. It doesn't really make any sense if you think about it, but it sounds so cool. If I were a Native American, I'd like to be called "Trailhawk." Wait a minute, isn't an eagle better than a hawk? Yeah, I'm sure it is. An eagle would kick a hawk's ass. I'd go for "Traileagle", then. But still, "Trailhawk" is cool too. You can have it if you want.