Auto review: Jeep Renegade Trailhawk is convenient crossover, capable crawler

 

Robert Duffer, Tribune News Service Updated Jun 28, 2016

Auto review: Jeep Renegade Trailhawk is convenient crossover, capable crawler

BIZ_AUTO-JEEP-REVIEW_3_TB.jpg

I had a friend who drove a soft-top Jeep Wrangler TJ all across the country all through our itinerant 20s. Loud, unruly, inefficient and mindlessly fun, it was a perfect symbol for the wayward post-college years.

A decade or three removed, I thought of that Wrangler while driving the Jeep Renegade, which is smarter, safer, and more secure in its direction. The grille, headlights and boxy style are all Wrangler-inspired, and the tester’s bright Omaha Orange color was a nod to the 1976 CJ5.

Renegade is a more refined Jeep, more versatile than rugged, yet it’s still a hill of fun.

Renegade was launched for model year 2015 on the crest of a wave of subcompact crossovers landing in the North American market. The Trailhawk-rated version is the only cute ute with any legitimate off-road capability.

Most importantly, this global-market vehicle feels and looks like a Jeep, even without all the kitschy brand heritage reminders, from the grille-shaped speakers to the shovel-shaped grab handle and the X-ed out taillights.

Off road

In steep, muddy, and rocky courses at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., and the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, Ill., the trail-rated Trailhawk was able to keep pace with the Wrangler, despite smaller wheels, arches and a shorter ground clearance of 8.7 inches, same as the Cherokee midsize SUV. It’s no Wrangler; it dips its small wheels in, more than plowing through, but the 4×4 gets the job done.

There are five drive settings, including mud, snow, sand and rock in a dynamic four-wheel drive system Jeep calls Selec-Terrain. It can be used in normal road surfaces with snow or wet conditions to minimize spinouts and to start in second gear so the wheels won’t make a rut when taking off.

The Active Drive 4×4 Low system specific to the Trailhawk models lets the Renegade crawl over rocks and other uneven terrain due to all sorts of engineering wizardry. The brake-lock differential, for example, stops one wheel from spinning and delivers all the torque in that axle to the wheel that is planted. So long, log blocking the road.

Hill descent is another magical function that, once activated, will overtake the gas and brake pedals. It’s a leap of faith, especially teetering over a rocky descent, but so is any complex mechanics. The driver can brake if he feels the need to do something other than steer.

The little buddy with the 2.4-liter Tigershark engine churns out 177 pound-feet of torque, and can tow up to 2,000 pounds, good enough to lug the ATV or Harley. It’ll also turn those two red tow hooks on the front, or the one on the rear, into a rescue device instead of just a cool visual component.

Jeep Renegade Trailhawk interior.jpg

On road

The wizardry doesn’t stop once the Trailhawk is back on the road. Because it’s wiser than the Wrangler, the rear axle disconnects from the powertrain when it’s not needed. Sounds ominous but it’s a fuel saving device reverting the Renegade to a front-wheel drive vehicle that is more efficient, smoother and quieter. Paired to a nine-speed transmission that initially gave FCA all kinds of trouble in the Jeep Cherokee, the four-cylinder engine is good enough to deliver 24 mpg combined, which is one of the worst for a subcompact crossover but the best for a Jeep. Trade-offs are so adult.

All this sophisticated mechanical capability means owners should be on good terms with a Jeep service center, who must be among the few who can fix problems should they arise.

Sky high

Keeping with Jeep’s manual, hands-on heritage, the tester came with twin removable roof panels known as My Sky. The two panels over both rows of seats are like lengthwise T-tops, except the safety engineers made sure it was a two-handed operation so fun-seekers ditching work wouldn’t be removing the panels while on their way to the beach. A key (best stowed in the glove box) unlocks the panel, then a latch pops it free. You could theoretically remove it from a seated position, but it’s best to stand on the door sill and remove it from the top. A padded storage bag in the back keeps the panels secure, though it does limit how much you can stuff in the small cargo area.

Versatility

The 60/40 rear seats provide plenty of space, and for solo adventurers the front passenger seat folds forward for stowing long boards and other gear. The easy-to-clean black cloth seats with red stitching also have a contour map of Moab, the off-road Mecca that Jeep celebrates annually with its Easter Safari.

One last cute ute feature on the interior is the dual vents positioned like eyes above the backup camera. Many have called it WALL-E, the titular robot compactor that only Pixar could make cute, and you just may find yourself giving its `head’ a pet or two before leaving the vehicle.

The Renegade Trailhawk is great for people who don’t need the regular ruggedness of a Wrangler, but who are still tempted to detour off the road well-traveled into the unknown.

 

Jeep® Cherokee dives into muddy waters with zeal

Jeep® Cherokee dives into muddy waters with zeal, DriveChicago.com, June 8 By Dave Boe.

Elkhart Lake Wisconsin- While five-door crossovers of all sizes have emerged as a trendy, popular segment among pavement dwellers, those seeking less-traveled, slightly spirited terrain still have a go-to option; Jeep.

This iconic, go-anywhere brand celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2016. Now a cog of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), Jeep sales now inhabit a growing number of markets worldwide.

The five-door Cherokee crossover was re-introduced to Jeep’s lineup in the 2014 model year, dissing body-on-frame truck underpinnings in favor of an ultra-sturdy, uni-body, car-like design. First introduced in 1984 with three or five door body styles, Cherokee’s first retirement came about in 2001 before roaring back three years ago.

Those yearning for off-road adventures via a mid-size crossover deserve quality, behind-the-wheel time with Cherokee’s 2016 Trailhawk trim, our tester this week with standard four-wheel drive teamed with an off-road kit adding an additional inch of ground clearance, skid plates and locking rear differential. Expect a pair of red tow hooks under the front fender and one rear bound under the driver’s side rear fender.

Cherokee provided plenty of on and off-line chatter with its 2014 return sporting a more fluid, less sculpted exterior most noticeable up front. The iconic, bold seven-slat grille underwent a Jenny Craig type of transformation, boasting sleek contours rather than a flat-faced approach. In effect, Cherokee underwent a stylish nose job.

Headlights flanking the nuanced seven-slat grille also shed familiar, circular, eyes-wide-open status, opting for a relaxed, casual, almost-closed appearance reminiscent of a contented house cat. Tail lights adopt a narrow horizontal tune, snuggling under narrow hatchback glass featuring a standard wiper and spoiler-like top trim home to the brake light.

While some Jeep purists may balk at this heritage tinkering, take rates point to a different reality. Cherokee sales increased a healthy 23 percent in 2015 compared with the 2014 calendar year. At 184 inches of overall length, Cherokee measures in at the shorter end of the mid-size spectrum.
Cherokee offers a segment best three (3) four-wheel-drive systems depending upon a customer’s off-road intentions (Active Drive I, Active Drive II and Active Drive Lock). Trailhawk is the sole trim with Active Drive Lock featuring a low range selection and locking rear differentials.

All Cherokee 4 x 4s include an electronic ‘Selec-Terrain’ featuring five customizable settings (auto, rock, snow sand/mud and sport). A twist dial left of the floor-mounted transmission shifter allows selection. The dial’s four-quadrant top includes operation of hill decent control, low-gear selection and rear locking. Downstream of the shifter, side-by-side beverage holders reside in front of a large, multi-level storage bin. Upstream, plug-in-ports nested inside a cove await portable electronic devices.

Off-road prowess got put to the test in late May at the annual Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) Spring Rally at historic Road America. The Wisconsin track may be well known for high-speed hair-pin turns and elevation changes, but nested on property is a professionally-groomed off-road encounter where Jeeps and other rugged toys come to play within a slower-speed environment. The Chicago-based Midwest Automobile Media Association also celebrates a milestone birthday in 2016, reaching a young adult 25.

Morning showers provided a fresh coat of muddy top soil for Trail hawk and pickup trucks from General Motors, Toyota and Ford along with assorted, pricier Land Rover family members. The uni-body Trail hawk performed admirably through rocky terrain, deep mud, wayward ditches and sloppy hair-pin corners, never dissuaded from reaching the finish line. When done frolicking in the mud, an electronic parking brake tab resides directly aft of the transmission shifter.

Of all the dozen or so muddy buddies traversing the off-road course during AM hours, Cherokee Trail hawk came to play with one of the lowest price tags accompanied by on-road handling comforts lacking in most pickups. Also assisting the cause; Trail hawk’s extra ground clearance and an approach angle of 29.8 degrees.

Two available engines in all Cherokee trims include a standard 2.4-liter four cylinder cranking out 184 horses. Opt for the 3.2-liter Pentastar V-6 and enjoy 271 horses. Both engines utilize regular, 87-octane fuel and team with a very modern, segment exclusive nine-speed automatic transmission. The gas tank holds 15.9 gallons of regular, 87-octane fuel.

Updates in 2016 remain minimal. When opting for the larger (and recommended) “Uconnect’ 8.4-inch multi-function in-dash screen, expect more hands-free and voice-activated opportunities. In addition, a new, luxury-appointed ‘Overland’ trim is now available joining Sport, Latitude, Limited and our off-road intended Trailhawk tester.

In 2015, Cherokee introduced Engine Stop-Start technology enabling better fuel economy. Standard on our V-6 test model, the engine shuts down upon coming to a complete stop, restarting automatically when summoning the accelerator pedal.

Starting price for our Trailhawk 4 x 4: $30,995. Option packaging included $1,745 for the upgraded V-6 with start/stop technology, $1,045 for safety tech group (rear park assist, cross path detection), $945 for in-screen navigation package with five years of Sirius XM traffic subscription and $1,695 for the comfort group (power lift gate, dual zone climate control). The bottom line ended at $37,420 including a $995 destination charge. A 2016 front-drive (4 x 2) Sport trim checks in at $23,495.

Jeep continues as versatile inside as out with a shotgun front bucket seat back able to fold flat onto the comfy cushion, creating numerous cargo-carrying options. When prone, the seat cushion flips forward, revealing a hidden storage cove.

Second row 60/40 split seats move fore and aft increasing comfort and cargo area storage flexibility. The optional power hatchback closes via left-panel push button, a convenient location when compared to the door’s underside frame, a locale popular with many SUVs.

Electronic push-button start comes standard. The center dashboard’s top region includes a wide, shallow, covered storage region ideal for I Pass transponders or other small items. Trail hawk features a black interior with contrasting red stitching with leather and cloth seating materials.

As with most FCA products, the user friendly ‘Uconnect’ audio system incorporates large screen icons teamed with ‘words,’ easing confusion and mis-identification. Large and welcome tactile dials handle primary ventilation fan speed duties, audio volume and station selections.

Uconnect’s center piece 8.4-inch in-dash multi-function touch screen welcomes cell phone connections and ‘app’ downloads. Creative tactile engineering allows finger tips to adjust audio and station presets from long, toggle-like switches located on the backside of the steering wheel, a natural resting position for fingers. The three-spoke steering wheel’s front includes large cruise control options at 3 o’clock and instrument panel window display selections at 9 o’clock.

Compared with other mid-sized crossovers, Cherokee welcomes rough terrain, especially the off-road intended Trail hawk capable of towing an impressive 4,500 pounds with the optional V-6 engine. When on-road, handling characteristics rate superior to most truck-like sport utility vehicles.

2016 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk
Price as tested: $37,420
Wheelbase:   106.3 inches
Length: 182 inches
Width: 73.2 inches
Engine:   3.2-liter V-6
Horsepower: 271
Curb weight: 4,108 pounds
Power train warranty: Five years or 60,000 miles
City/Highway economy:   19 mpg city 26 mpg highway
Assembly: Toledo, Ohio

2016 Jeep Cherokee Trail hawk – Cherokee dives into muddy waters with zeal By: Dave Boe

Jeep Renegade Trailhawk proves highly capable

By Arv Voss

2015 Jeep® Renegade Trailhawk Photo: A.J. Mueller / ONLINE_CHECK

For those enthusiasts who relish the off-road capability of Jeep’s iconic Wrangler model offerings, but would prefer more sophistication in a style that’s less utilitarian, there’s a new kid in town — it’s the all-new 2015 Jeep Renegade that builds on and enhances the Wrangler’s bold athletic stance, rugged packaging and aggressive proportions, incorporating best-in-class approach and departure angles that were purposely designed to deliver the best capability in its class.

The new Jeep Renegade is crafted and assembled in Melfi, Italy and features familiar key Jeep elements such as the signature seven-slot grille and accent colored “shield” surround. Traditional large circular headlamps are tucked just under the hood at the top for a more menacing look. Below the grille, a two-piece front fascia is aerodynamically tuned, featuring a body-color upper and molded-in-color lower for enhanced durability against the elements.

Slipping inside, the new Renegade’s interior displays a rugged and energetic look and feel that builds upon the brand’s legendary heritage. It was designed using four key principles: make an emotional design impact; use high-quality materials with an inspired color and materials; integrate the latest state-of-the-art technologies; and develop clever storage and intelligent use of available space.

Passenger seats are ergonomically designed to support body contours during longer journeys, and are trimmed with premium cloth or leather.

The 2015 Jeep Renegade will come in four levels of trim: Sport; Latitude and Limited, which are available in either a 4×2 or 4×4 drive configuration; and the off-road purposeful Trailhawk, which is only available as a 4×4. Open air freedom is supplied by two “My Sky” removable and stowable roof systems — one power and one manual.

Power for the new Jeep Renegade will be supplied by either a 1.4-liter, SOHC, 16-valve, turbocharged, multiair, inline four cylinder engine with sequential, multiport, electronic, returnless fuel injection that produces 160 horsepower with 184 pound feet of torque (standard for Renegade Sport and Latitude); or, a 2.4-liter, SOHC, 16-valve, multiair2, Tigershark inline four cylinder motor with sequential, multiport, electronic, returnless fuel injection that delivers 180 horses while developing 175 pound feet of torque at 3,900 rpm (Standard for Limited and Trailhawk / Optional for Sport and Latitude).

Transmissions will include a C635 six-speed manual, or the first 948TE nine-speed automatic transmission in the segment.

Engines are transversely mounted up front, transferring motive force to the driving wheel configuration.

SUMMARY: My driving partner and I initially thought the 2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk might be rough riding on the road due to its enhanced capability features, while its off-road prowess had yet to be put to the test, and remained questionable. We were dead wrong — the Jeep Renegade is more civilized on-road than the Wrangler and certainly more comfortable.

Acceleration is great from the 2.4-liter motor, and the 9-speed auto gearbox operates smoothly. The ride quality is comfortable and quite stable. Seats are both comfortable and supportive, and the My Sky roof when open delivers nearly the same open-air experience as any Wrangler, which is fine off-road, but presents some serious buffeting while cruising at freeway speeds.

There was a long trail with serious elevation changes that rated a 4 in difficulty as well as a specially prepared short course with rock crawling, log traversing and water wading that warranted a 6 rating. The Renegade conquered all with no negative issues or problems.

Bottom line, the new Jeep Renegade Trailhawk is indeed a winner, both on and off road. It is the real deal — not necessarily as rugged as a Wrangler, but decidedly better looking. The Renegade is a really delightful small SUV that’s highly capable as well as affordable.

© Auto Impressions

2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk

Base price: $25,995

Price as tested: $32,440

Engine/transmission: 2.4-liter, 180-horsepower V4; six-speed manual

Wheelbase: 101.2 inches

Length: 166.6 inches

Width: 79.6 inches

Height: 66.5 inches

Curb weight: 3,573 pounds

Fuel capacity: 12.7 gallons