By Barbara & Bill Schaffer
Jeep continues on a roll with record sales continuing into 2015 thanks in part to their largest ever model lineup, which now includes eight variants. The latest model in the Jeep inventory is also the smallest in the lineup, the 2015 Jeep Renegade, and we recently spent a week driving this newest model.
The Renegade is just a few inches longer than the Mini Countryman and the Fiat 500L, and nearly the same length as the Jeep Wrangler. It’s the first vehicle to use Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ new “small-wide 4×4 architecture.” What makes it especially noteworthy is that it’s not simply an all-wheel drive like many competitors, it’s a full-fledged, Trail Rated off roader, complete with a Selec-Terrain traction system that allows the driver to choose the best setting for on- or off-road. It even has an amazing 20:1 crawl ratio that feels powerful enough to climb trees if it could get the traction. It also comes with hill start assist and hill descent control.
The Trail Rated Trailhawk model comes with short overhangs, 8.7-inches of ground clearances and it can even “swim” in up to 19 inches of water. And unlike some small vehicles, the Renegade will tow up to 2,000 pounds, which means owners can take along some of those important adult “toys.”
Statistically, we know most Jeep Renegade owners are probably going to be in the “I could (go off-road) if I wanted to” category, so it’s also designed to be very fun to drive on-road.
The Renegade looks very Jeep-like with its rugged-looking trademark Jeep grille, round headlights and front fascia. The sides have the traditional Jeep trapezoidal wheel arches and body protecting contrasting color cladding. The sculpted rear end has the Renegade signature “X” pattern in the tail light lens. The “X” is the Renegades design theme inspired by military equipment –exuding strength and playing on Jeep brand’s roots. To help with the coolness factor, Renegade planners made it available in some standout colors.
The interior is cozy, and quite comfortable but the dash looks a bit cluttered, although the controls are easy to reach and user-friendly with real knobs as opposed to overly sensitive touch controls. The seats in our entry-level Sport test vehicle look good and are comfortable finished with a two-texture cloth — upper level models are available with leather. Each of the trim levels has at least two color accents available, with the exception of the Trailhawk, which comes only in black with red highlights.
The Renegade incorporates some of the Jeep Wrangler open air features with removable My Sky open-air roof panels. The optional power tilt/slide top and the manual panels can be easily removed and stowed in a convenient pouch in the cargo area. The cargo area holds up to 18.5 cubic feet of gear when the rear seats are in place, but that expands to 50.8 cubic feet when the rear seats are folded flat.
Jeep did not skimp on technology; the Renegade has a segment first Forward Collision Warning-Plus and Lane Sense Departure Warning-Plus. It also has Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Path detection systems available. Jeep lists 70 safety and security features on the Renegade including cool features like automatic dimming headlights, front wiper deicers, remote start and Jeep’s outstanding Uconnect Access and Voice Command.
The 2015 Jeep Renegade is available with two engine choices, a 1.4-liter MultiAir Turbo four-cylinder and a 2.4-liter Tigershark four-cylinder. The 1.4-liter turbo, which is standard in both front- and four-wheel drive Sport and Latitude models, produces 160-hp and drives through a standard six-speed manual transmission. A nine-speed automatic transmission is optional in those models and standard in the Limited and Trailhawk versions. The award-winning 180-hp Tigershark engine is standard on the upper-level Limited and Trailhawk trim levels and is an option on the other models. We have felt a bit of roughness on some other applications of the ZF nine-speed automatic transmission, but the Jeep version is smooth and refined plus it helps boost the fuel economy.
The Sport, Latitude and Limited trims are available in front- and four-wheel drive, while the Trail Rated, Trailhawk model is only offered with the four-wheel drive. The 2.4-liter with automatic transmission and 4WD gets an EPA fuel economy rating of 21 mpg city, 29 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined. We actually averaged 23.6 mpg during the week we drove it.
Renegade pricing starts at $18,890, including the destinations charge for a two-wheel drive Sport, then prices jump to $22,290 for the Latitude and $25,790 for the Limited. Four-wheel drive adds $2,000 to these prices. The off-road Trailhawk model is $26,990, and with exuberant option additions could take the price to just over $33,000.
Barbara drove the Renegade under a variety of challenging off-road conditions at the famous Hollister Hills off-road park when she attended the national introduction in last January and found it to be the real thing. We’re not sure how it would fare on tests like the infamous Rubicon Trail, but short of that, it’s very much a Jeep.
At home the 2015 Jeep Renegade is impressive. It’s equally impressive on-road, too. The ride is quiet, and more comfortable. The steering is precise and there is no significant body roll when cornering. We think the Renegade will contribute to further Jeep sales growth.