Fun in the sun in Jeep ® Renegade

Phoenix Business Journal, July 19

Renegade may be made in Italy and is more cute than rugged with rounded edges and chunky panels, but it still deserves to wear the Jeep badge.

The signature seven-slot grille and round headlamps are all iconic Jeep. And it can be rigged for far tougher off-road adventures than competitors, including its cousin, Fiat 500X.

This is year two for the playful-looking Renegade with about 114,000 sold through June 2016. The numbers are on the rise, matching Jeep’s Compass and closing in on Patriot but still well behind the rugged Wrangler and larger Cherokee and Grand Cherokee.

The biggest change for the current model year is the availability of a Beats (a division of Apple) premium audio system. Rain-sensing windshield wipers also now are available.

Prices start at $18,990, same as last year. That gets you a front-wheel drive Sport model with a 1.4-liter, 160-horsepower 4-cylinder turbo engine. Add $1,280 to move into the 2.4-liter, 180-horse 4 with a 9-speed automatic.

The turbo does best on fuel economy rated at 27 miles per gallon in combined driving, but that’s using premium gas. The 2.4-liter is rated at 25 using regular.

Inside you get a nice mix of soft-touch materials, solid construction and chunky grips and such tying into Renegade’s exterior look.

Front buckets are comfortable with roomy surrounds, but the back is not very hospitable for anyone with long legs. The payload floor has a hidden compartment, or you can remove the top for a deeper storage well. Rear seats as well as the front passenger seat flip forward on all but the 2WD Sport.

You can find small crossovers that run a little less than the Renegade, but its price is fair. But there are a lot of tempting options to send that sticker soaring. Start with basic 4-wheel drive for about two grand or the Dawn of Justice (Batman v. Superman) special edition that starts just over 27K.

A cool feature on my bright yellow tester was the $1,495 My Sky roof system with two panels that either tilt up at the touch of a button or can be removed entirely.

Roadside and emergency help are available at the touch of a button, HD radio, voice texting and a large 7-inch screen are among Uconnect infotainment options.

Safety gear ranges from blind-spot monitoring to a parking aid and rear cross-traffic alert.

There are a ton of choices when it comes to small crossovers. Renegade’s ride and drive are more harsh than most and it’s not as powerful or fuel efficient as many rivals. But if you want to hit the trail, or just want a rig that’s youthful and fun in the sun – snow and mud too – then this little Jeep is a top choice.

Jeep Renegade

Compact sport utility

Base price:$18,990

MPG: 24/31 to 21/29

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: 4 of 5 stars for front impact; 5 for side; 3 for rollover resistance with 4-wheel drive, 4 with front-drive;

J.D. Power: 2 of 5 for overall quality, performance and design and predicted reliability;


Competitors: Chevrolet Trax, Fiat 500X, Honda Fit and HR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Wrangler and Cherokee, Kia Soul and Sportage, Mazda CX-3, Mini Cooper Countryman, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, Nissan Juke, Subaru Crosstrek

Bottom line: A fun little crossover capable of off-road adventure

Newest Jeep Wrangler goes retro 75th year marked with single salute to WWII model

Newest Jeep Wrangler goes retro 75th year marked with single salute to WWII model

75-Year Salute: Jeep’s Anniversary Gift to Itself Is This Willys MB–Inspired Concept

July 15, 2016 at 3:16 pm by

75-Year Salute: Jeep’s Anniversary Gift to Itself Is This Willys MB–Inspired Concept

75-Year Salute: Jeep’s Anniversary Gift to Itself Is This Willys MB–Inspired Concept 

On July 15, 1941, Willys-Overland Motor Co. was awarded a contract by the U.S. government to build its versatile, go-anywhere Willys MB—soon to be known as the jeep—for military use. Seventy-five years later, the basic spirit of the Willys MB lives on in the modern Jeep Wrangler.

To celebrate the occasion, Jeep crafted the Wrangler 75th Salute concept. Based on the base Wrangler Sport with a six-speed manual transmission, the Wrangler 75th Salute concept is dipped in olive green military paint and features body-color fenders as well as 16-inch steel wheels mounted on 32-inch military tires. The look is classic Jeep and is somewhat reminiscent of the Shortcut concept from this year’s Easter Jeep Safari.

anniversary, retro, birthday, 75, years, 1941, willy, mb

To fully channel the look of the original Willys MB, though, Jeep also fitted the 75th Salute with exposed steel front and rear bumpers, canvas-covered seats sans headrests, and commemorative badging (it also ditched the modern vehicle’s integrated rollover bar). Jeep also notes that it added custom wood hood blocks and mirrors to the concept.

Sadly, the Wrangler 75th Salute is merely a concept, and given its low-back front seats, cut bumpers, and apparent lack of rollover bar, it doesn’t meet the modern safety requirements needed to reach production. The closest thing (sort of) that you can get from a dealer today is the Willys edition. So, consider the 75th Salute concept to be Jeep’s gift to itself—a really, really fantastic one.


2016 Dodge Durango SXT AWD Blacktop Review

2016 Dodge Durango SXT AWD Blacktop ReviewBlacktop package adds intimidating look to well-seasoned SUV

2016 Dodge Durango SXT AWD Blacktop Review

Photo: K.Tuggay
2016 Dodge Durango SXT AWD Blacktop By Trevor Hofmann , Monday, 04 July 2016

With nearly 20 years under its belt and almost six in its current, third generation, the Dodge Durango remains a rugged-looking contender amid today’s often minivan-like crossover SUV crowd. My recent SXT AWD Blacktop tester appeared even more masculine than the model’s usual chrome-clad design.

Unique black trim
Its grey Billet Metallic paint and body-coloured detailing along with its blacked-out grille, headlight and fog lamp bezels, mirror caps, wheels and badging made it look as intimidating as a highway patrol ghost car, although the constabulary doesn’t normally spend the money required for 20” rims on 265/50 rubber. Still, this Durango’s only a couple of blue and red strobes away from striking fear into the hearts of surrounding motorists.

Believe it or not, I’m describing a base 2016 Dodge Durango SXT with $195 in paint and $1,595 for the Blacktop package, which also adds cool LED daytime running lamps and a dual exhaust while subtracting the roof rails. This, combined with a complete lack of chrome as well as a rich leather and pseudo suede cabin, endows the vehicle with a decidedly upscale, urbanite attitude. My tester also included the $1,250 Popular Equipment Group encompassing heated front seats and a heated steering wheel, a back-up camera, and rear parking assist.

No shortage of features 
The standard features menu is equally impressive thanks to auto on/off headlamps, proximity access with push-button ignition, LED interior lighting, illuminated cup holders, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, power heated side mirrors, a leather-wrapped, multi-function steering wheel, cruise control, a multi-information display, tri-zone automatic HVAC with rear controls, a Uconnect colour infotainment touchscreen, outstanding audio with satellite radio, a comfortable 8-way power driver’s seat and 4-way power front passenger’s seat (which also folds forward for extra convenience), a 60/40-split second row, a 50/50-split third row, and more.

Meanwhile, the 2016 Dodge Durango’s standard safety kit includes trailer sway control, hill start assist, active head restraints, and all the usual active and passive safety equipment.

All of this comes in a cabin that will make you completely forget any previous Durango interior thanks to soft-touch surfaces like the dash top and halfway down the instrument panel, and even the lower extremities of the centre stack. Stylish, satin-silver inlays highlight the dash and door panels, while the thickly padded leatherette armrests boast contrasting grey stitching to match the seats. Likewise, the leather-wrapped steering wheel is padded and nicely stitched for extra grip, while the switchgear on its spokes and elsewhere around the cabin is well damped and has a high-quality feel and tight fit.

Small screen shortcomings 
The premium-level 7” colour TFT gauge cluster behind said steering wheel in the 2016 Dodge Durango SXT AWD Blacktop immediately catches the eye, replete with a myriad of features and bright, clear legibility no matter the light outside. However, this advanced bit of electronic kit makes the entry-level Durango’s most glaring weakness all the more apparent ― a centre stack that comes across as more rudimentary than the majority of competitors due to an infotainment touchscreen that measures a mere 5” diagonal.

I’ve also tested the Durango with its available 8.4” touchscreen and let me tell you it’s a wholly different experience that I recommend if your budget allows (because you’ll need to move up in trims to get it).

The aforementioned rear-view camera incorporates active guidelines, while the audio system includes Bluetooth streaming and easy phone connectivity. A simple digital compass points the way instead of navigation, however. Unusual is a digital button that will automatically drop the third-row headrests for better rearward visibility.

No shortage in overall capacity 
Most should find the 2016 Dodge Durango quite spacious. It’s an SUV bordering on full-size dimensions, although not quite as big as a Chevy Tahoe or Ford Expedition, at least when it comes to width, but second-row passengers get plenty of legroom. That middle bench (bucket seats are available) folds out of the way for easy access to a third row that’s nicely finished and amply sized for normal adults.

Alternatively, the rearmost bench can be left folded into the floor for additional stowage room, expanding the reasonable 487L cargo hold (about the size of a large sedan’s trunk) to 1,351 litres behind the second row. When both rear rows are folded, the Durango is one of the most accommodating SUVs in its class with a massive 2,393 litres of cargo space.

While this Dodge Durango SXT doesn’t quite meet premium-level expectations inside, the hefty thunk its doors make when closing, its overall quietness at speed, and the impressive way it takes to the road will make you wonder why the company doesn’t go all the way with luxury refinements. It’s a unibody design, in case you weren’t aware, so the Durango is no longer riding atop a pickup truck frame like it used to (and some of its aforementioned full-size colleagues still do). That’s why its structural rigidity is so sound, overall feel so substantive, and handling so agile ― similar to pricier SUV players from upmarket brands.

Surprising performance 
The 2016 Dodge Durango’s fully independent suspension provides a wonderfully compliant ride and confidence-inspiring road holding, while its advanced 8-speed automatic transmission wows with a space-saving, rotating-dial gear selector. Fully engaging paddle shifters help make the most of the 3.6L Pentastar V6’s 295 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. These numbers aren’t class-leading, but takeoff feels more than strong enough.

Meanwhile, the big brute surprisingly achieves the best fuel economy in its AWD class at 12.8L/100km city and 9.5L/100km highway, this due in part to auto stop/start technology that comes into play when the engine would otherwise be idling. The V6 runs smoothly, too, although it makes a wonderfully gritty growl at full throttle. The autobox is similarly smooth, yet capable of quick, crisp shifts when pushed hard. Furthermore, the available Sport mode is actually quite aggressive, requiring the use of those paddles so as not to rev the engine too high and needlessly waste fuel.

Final verdict 
At the end of my test week, I only had one complaint that also has affected a number of other FCA vehicles equipped with proximity-sensing access ― a regular need to press the door handle-mounted button multiple times to gain entry. I found that shifting my body position sometimes helped, no doubt relative to which pocket held the key, but seeing that I haven’t needed to do likewise with the passive entry systems used by other automakers, it may be something FCA should look into.

This small irritant aside, the 2016 Dodge Durango is an impressive SUV that still measures up to more recently updated competitors in most respects. The larger infotainment display and rear-view camera should be standard, though, especially considering the base price of $43,395 plus freight and dealer fees. Dodge preferred to invest its money into one of the best drivetrains in the industry.

While as smooth and refined as anything in its class, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a tougher-looking SUV, which seems fitting considering it hails from a brand that also purveys the badass Charger and the even more alluring Challenger, not to mention the now-legendary Viper. Even with its pint-sized infotainment screen, I couldn’t help liking it, but if my money were on the line I’d upgrade to get the more advanced system. It’s your call, but either way you’ll be well served with a Dodge Durango.




Photos: K.Tuggay
2016 Dodge Durango SXT pictures


Minivan Review: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Limited

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Limited


By Graeme Fletcher

A luxurious take on the ultimate people mover

Pros Flexibility, comfort, fuel economy

Cons Backward switch logic, no Stow ‘n Go middle-row for the Hybrid, cost

Value for money Fair

What would I change? Rethink the switch logic and add a more affordable base model to the line-up

Since the introduction of the original Dodge Caravan in 1984, Chrysler has ruled the minivan roost. The latest expression of the company’s take on the ultimate people mover is the new Pacifica. It started with a clean computer screen, so just about every facet is new or has been reworked for the better. The one thing that does not change, however, is the utility and flexibility engineered into the cabin.

Up front, the Pacifica features top-shelf materials and supportive Nappa leather-wrapped seats — a 1,000-kilometre trip did not produce the dreaded numb-bum. Then there’s the attention to detail, found in the likes of the French stitching on the instrument panel and, of all things, the mat that finishes the lower storage area; it has four generations of minivan neatly embossed into the liner. This Easter egg thing is rapidly becoming a Chrysler trait; look at the base of the Renegade’s windshield and there sits a pictogram of the original Jeep.

The Limited tester arrived as loaded as loaded gets, with everything from heated/cooled front seats and an oversized panoramic moonroof to all of the latest gizmos including Chrysler’s Uconnect infotainment system and its 8.4-inch touchscreen. This system remains the easiest of its ilk to use; for example, pairing a phone was so simple my 11-year-old daughter accomplished the feat in seconds and without having to refer to the owner’s manual.

So far it’s all eminently logical. That is, until you get to the buttons for the park assist, lane departure warning and stability control systems. When the light in the switch is illuminated, the system is turned off. That’s backwards — the A/C button illuminates when the system is keeping an oppressive summer day at bay, which is as it should be!

Move rearward and things are just as swanky. There’s seating for up to eight passengers, no fewer than 243 seating configurations (or so says Chrysler!) and a ton of space. With all the seats in place, there’s 915 litres behind the third row – enough for five golfers and their clubs with room to spare. Power the third row down and the capacity jumps to 2,478 litres; drop the middle Stow ’n Go row seats and there’s a cavernous 3,979 litres. The plus is the seats are always ready to go when needed. In many cases, one or more of a typical minivan’s seats is gathering dust in the garage and not available for use after schlepping half a house’s worth of stuff to university. This is the one area where Chrysler’s minivans have no peer.

One of the cool features proved to be the middle-row entertainment system with touch-sensitive screens. The system not only plays movies, it includes some built-in games and the “Are We There Yet?” app; when the driver punches a destination into the navigation system, the app shows the distance to go and estimated time of arrival, which dispenses with that age-old question.

The Pacifica arrives with Chrysler’s 3.6-litre Pentastar V6, putting out 287 horsepower and 262 lb.-ft. of torque, which delivers sprightly performance — it canters to 100 km/h in eight seconds and can tow 1,633 kilograms when properly equipped. The power is fed through the front wheels via a nine-speed automatic that shifts smoothly and, unlike some, manages to find the right gear at the right time. The unspoken plus proved to be fuel economy. Over that 1,000-km test, the Pacifica returned an average of 10.8 L/100 km, which given the size and capability came as a complete and very pleasant surprise.

Now if you are really into fuel economy, the Hybrid model uses the same engine, an electric motor and a 16-kWh lithium-ion battery to improve that number even more — it offers up to 48 km of electric-only driving.

Equally impressive was the manner in which the Pacifica balanced the need for comfort with the desire for handling. No, it is not a sports car by any means, but the suspension is quick to take a set in a corner and the steering delivers better-than-average feel and feedback. Likewise, understeer is moot for the most part thanks to the optional P245/50R20 tires; they deliver a ton of grip, although the perky nature of the engine does see them chirp on a fast take-off. Hit the highway, and the kilometres waft away in a very comfortable fashion. It’s a nicely balanced set-up given the fact it has to deal with just the driver much of the time, but with the capacity to transport a van-load of sumo wrestlers.

The new Chrysler Pacifica is well conceived and equally well executed, with a ton of flexibility, even more amenities, as well as plenty of power and surprising fuel efficiency. The hitch is found in the pricing. It starts at $43,995, but the Pacifica we tested had a sticker of $60,545. That’s a heck of a lot more than the buyers of the Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country are used to paying

2016 Dodge Charger SXT review

2016 Dodge Charger SXT review

The Charger has been updated over the years, but what’s always made it good remains

The Dodge Charger is now in its second year of an update that brought a Dart-style front fascia and a number of other new design elements. In fact, every body panel was altered with this update, not just the nose. Overall, the redesign achieved its goal of keeping the Charger fresh for a few more years.

It’s easy to try to dismiss the Charger as a vehicle from another era, when full-size three-box American sedans were the default vehicle of everybody who didn’t own a truck or a hatchback. But the addition of the newest tech and innate convenience features combined with a very modest starting price can still surprise at a time when there are much smaller sedans claiming to be premium that easily surpass the Charger’s sticker price.

Under the hood of the Charger is a 3.6-liter V6 good for 300 hp, with power sent to all four wheels via an eight-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission (that no longer uses the recalled Monostable shifter, by the way). This is the base engine and, even though the Hellcat Charger offers more than double the horsepower count, the performance is more than enough to keep things moving. Acceleration comes without the nose lifting, thanks to all-wheel drive, and nosediving on hard braking is kept in check as well — impressive for something this big.

The Charger’s wide stance would suggest a propensity to lean in the corners but this is something that Dodge engineers have managed to keep a very tight lid on. The Charger stays very well composed in the twisties even if there is a bit of protest from the wide tires, and there is not as much body lean as you’d expect in something this large. That’s perhaps one of the best parts of the chassis; the Charger is nimble enough to perform sudden maneuvers without much drama, which is probably why the police agencies of so many states are fond of it. The fact the platform itself is not exactly new makes this quality all the more impressive, even though the turning radius is not a tidy as it could be.

2016 Dodge Charger SXT Premium Rallye Photo 5

The interior of the Charger in SXT Premium trim is a spacious and comfortable space in which to spend time, and it makes a good use of the materials in a way that doesn’t bore the eyes. The cabin feels well put together, and despite the abundance of black plastic up front the interior looks and feels reasonably luxurious. A few details like cross-stitching on the seats and center console, as well as the door panels, add an expensive feel to the cabin. There is still plenty of plastic to go around, but it doesn’t feel like the cheap, shiny kind that some other sedans in this price range still serve up from time to time. When it comes to infotainment, the corporate UConnect touchscreen remains one of the more intuitive systems out there with easy-to-read icons and an easy-to-reach surface, and all the controls are easy to decipher.

Overall, the cabin feels well proportioned, it’s easy to climb into and out of, and there’s generous headroom.

With a starting price of $32,990, the Charger offers a lot for the buck, and optioned with the Rallye pack and the AWD Premium Group it arrives right at the $40,000 mark. Much smaller premium sedans have no trouble reaching this price point with a few options added on. I’d keep it closer to the starting price if ordering one, just to stay out of the Chrysler 300’s price range.

2016 Dodge Charger SXT Premium Rallye Photo 9

We’ve had the same basic Charger around for quite a while now — yes, engines have changed, as have transmission options, body panels and suspension…everything except the fundamental bones (and Chrysler execs have even argued that point with me). Some folks decry the lack of advancement, but the Charger doesn’t really need anything new. It’s possibly the best current example of the classic full-size, rear-drive American car (or AWD as the case may be), ironic considering it’s made in Canada using a lot of German components by an Italian car company headquartered in Belgium. But hey, globalization!

Point is, I always enjoy spending time in a Dodge Charger, whether it’s a gussied-up V6 like this or a monster Hellcat. Interior furnishings can best be described as plain but effective — there’s a lot of black rubber and plastic, but everything comes across as well-screwed-together and free of squeaks and rattles. More importantly, it’s easy to get comfortable, and the UConnect infotainment system that controls the stereo, phone, navigation and seat/steering wheel heat remains easy to learn and use.

Don’t think you’re compromising by picking the V6, either. No, it’s not the supercharged Hellcat V8, or even the SRT 392 “big block”; instead, it’s a well-mannered, efficient engine with plenty of power even if your plans include the occasional track day. Push the “Super Trac Pack” button on the dash and make sure everything is in sport mode, and the car converts to a pretty damn good sports sedan, firing off quick shifts from the 8-speed automatic transmission and generally behaving better than a 2-ton domestic sedan has any right to do.

The entire full-size sedan market is in the crapper right now, but Dodge manages to keep moving Chargers at a decent clip. No surprise — it’s a throwback in the best possible sense.

Andrew Stoy, digital editor

2016 Dodge Charger SXT Premium Rallye Photo 7

The Dodge Charger SXT Premium is equipped with a 3.6-liter V6 producing 300 hp, connected to an eight-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission. Photo by Autoweek

As Andy said, the Charger is part of a dying breed — the rear-drive full-size American sedan. Sure, this Charger is actually about as American as poutine or Tim Hortons, but it’s the last dying breath of an American staple.

While the Charger is considerably better at destroying tires in its Scat Pack or Hellcat trims, this stylish V6-powered SXT isn’t a slouch. Much to my surprise, engaging the launch control proved that this Charger could actually hustle – albeit much more quietly than its V8 counterparts.

Unlike the remaining sporty rear-drive American sedans, the Charger handles like a yacht on the water — it rolls, it dives and that’s perfectly fine. The soft suspension means that this thing also absorbs bumps along the roadway without rattling your teeth loose.

The Uconnect infotainment system might give you troubles when connecting an iPhone while using third-party media apps like Spotify or Pandora, though for those who just use MP3s and podcasts to avoid listening to the radio — you’ll be fine. Despite the Beats Audio badging everywhere, I didn’t feel that this stereo system was much better than the one found in the regular Charger.

All in all, if you are looking for a big family cruiser, and don’t want a crossover or something vintage, the Charger is a good-looking, fun-driving, decently efficient highway hauler.

Wesley Wren, associate editor

2016 Dodge Charger SXT Premium Rallye Photo 8

The Dodge Charger SXT Premium is equipped with a 3.6-liter V6 producing 300 hp, connected to an eight-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission. Photo by Autoweek

OPTIONS: AWD premium group including leather trim seats, SiriusXM traffic with five-year traffic subscription, SiriusXM travel link with five-year travel link subscription, bi-function HID projector headlamps, UConnect 8.4 NAV, GPS navigation, HD radio, Beats premium speakers with subwoofers, 552-watt amplifier, power front driver and passenger seats, driver/passenger power four-way lumbar adjust, ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats, heated steering wheel, ParkView rear back-up camera, ParkSense rear park assist system, blind spot and cross path detection, adaptive cruise control with stop, full speed forward collision warning plus, lane departure warning with lane keep assist, advanced brake assist, exterior mirrors with courtesy lamps, automatic high beam headlamp control, rain sensitive windshield wipers, power adjustable pedals with memory, power tilt/telescope steering column, auto adjust in reverse exterior mirrors, driver’s auto-dimming exterior mirror and memory for radio, driver seat and mirrors ($5,995)