ROAD TEST: Is #Renegadelife for you? New Jeep Renegade Trailhawk Tested
The cheeky, chunky fresh-face of the new Jeep Renegade just helped the fast-growing 4x4 lifestyle Jeep brand have its best ever sales month here in the UK – with 1,794 Renegade sales registered in March alone, from the brand's record-breaking 2,597 cars sold.
And, having recently tested the new Cherokee and found next to no complaints, we thought it was time we took a closer look at what's making the brand boom – in the cubist form off the new, range-topping Renegade 2.0 Trailhawk, fully-loaded with its 170hp, 258lbft 2.0-litre MultiJet II diesel engine, famous rough and rough Jeep 4WD system and Nine-Speed Automatic Low Range Gearbox.
Dressed too thrill in its ultra smart Carbon Black Metallic (£600) and loaded with optional extras like LaneSense™ Lane Departure Warning (£200), the "Visibility Pack" with HID Xenon Headlamps, Electrochromatic Rearview Mirror & Automatic Headlight Activation, Rain Sensing Wipers & SmartBeam Headlamps (£750) and eight-Way Power Front Seats (£250), the Trailhawk's OTR price of £28,595 is bumped up to £30,395... which is well into New Cherokee £26,345 entry levels. So this has got to be one serious Renegade to tempt us away from its brilliant bigger brother.
First impressions certainly are impressive, not just to us – who fall for the kick-ass 17” Aluminium off road wheels and Goodyear Vector 4Seasons mud & snow tyre combo, black Jeep & red Trail rated Trailhawk badges and that awesome quintessentially Jeep-ish front grille – but clearly to other road users, who certainly stare at the young pretender. And, interestingly, everyone we met and talked to about the car (which included a large Road Magazine family gathering off all ages/types) were not taken a-back by the £30K asking price. If anything, they seemed surprised. The Renegade Trailhawk has impact and creates a favourable impression, from all but the most hardened anti-4x4 eco-warrior.
Our #Renegadelife road trip test is some 650+ miles, from Norfolk to Anglesey, first pounding boring motorway miles, then cruising winding A-roads and finally, getting to the interesting stuff, carving through the Welsh valleys, brilliant back roads and onto the little lanes and beaches of Anglesey, for a spot of sailing (surely the #Renegadelife?).
Settling into the Trailhawk, the first thing that hits home is the generosity of well designed specification (rather like its big brother the new Cherokee). This is a configuration chaffer's delight. And as one, I spend a good 100 miles fettling to get everything just so. Most enjoyable.
The end result is that the eight-way adjustable leather seats are incredibly comfortable, the driving position excellent (although visibility past the bulky A-pillars is an issue) and the Premium instrument cluster with 7” colour TFT display and Uconnect 6.5” DAB radio with touchscreen, satellite navigation and Bluetooth ® are incredibly user-friendly, simple to digest and nicely designed. And I am loving the sensible stuff too – like having two buttons on the Uconnect that I wish all similar set-ups have – screen off (for night driving without being blinded) and 'shut up' mute mode (for instant P&Q). Although I must add, it's odd the navigation system is obsessed with showing you lane names, rather than towns you are approaching/passing – seemingly whatever scale you're looking at. Maybe that's #Renegadelife too... tempting you to take the path least travelled, as you're "trail rated" as the front wing badges tell you clearly?
The ride is stiffer than expected (holding up the 1,548Kg weight I guess) and under-damped (as so many modern cars are, sadly), but it's not uncomfortable... in the front. But, the dark, confined and poor visibility rear is a different matter... sending our usually travel sickness-free (Range Rover born and bred) toddler into a barfing frenzy (even with my expert chauffeur skills!).
On the plus side, the leather is not just comfortable and nice to look at and sit on... it's easy to clean up. That's the #Renegadelife they don't show you in the ads!
Post-barf, the miles rack up trouble free, and two random and disconnected (as is the way when you get over 40) things become clear.
#1. The Renegade is a cool and capable customer, and likeable too.
And the whole #Renegadelife thing is something you can very easily buy into... as it does the dull day to day stuff with ease, and is more than up for a sizeable chunk of off road duties – taking a (mild) green lane trek, crossing a (not too) muddy field and traversing a boggy beach in its stride... and all without breaking out of auto mode on the cool Jeep Active Drive and Active Drive Low traction systems, and the versatile, easy-use Auto/Snow/Mud/Sand/Rock Selec-Terrain™ traction control system (or indeed needing the diffs locking, or using the Hill descent control).
And with it's accent colour side roof rails and door mirror, tow hook and transfer case, transmission, suspension and fuel tank skid plate shields... it not only looks the part, but should not be mistaken for a lifestyle SUV, with zero off-road capability.
The Trailhawk's rugged good looks and off-road claims are backed up by its class leading abilities.
But #2. I would be very surprised if the quoted fuel economy can ever be reached. Even pottering on all these mixed roads over 650+ miles, we averaged 38.6mpg combined (and that's with a tank of Shell's V-Power Nitro + premium diesel). The quoted figures are 47.9! So, maybe my size 11 right foot is heavier than I thought?
Does that matter? Probably. People these days expect 40+mpg from even a performance car, or a Jeep.
Still, it's only £40 to fill up at current fuel prices and will do 450 miles, on a tank and you can't really argue with that, when it's a capable off-roader and by no means slow, knocking out 62mph in 8.9s and doing 122mph, can you?
Do we like the go-anywhere, trail rated, "go dominate every terrain" Renegade?
But would we have one over the new Cherokee? That's a long debate, but most likely, no. We reckon we'd rather spend the £30,000+ on a moderate spec, but better quality and arguably more capable Cherokee than the range-topping Renegade Trailhawk (maybe the base model starting at £17,495 is the way to go?) But that's a close call.
The funky Renegade is more fun, just less grown up than the classy Cherokee. I guess it depends what day you ask us and how old we feel! For sure... they are both great, modern, enjoyable, capable and generous 4x4s.
But, ultimately my toddler wasn't sick in the Cherokee and even more importantly (as sick can be cleared up!), I could extract the key from the ignition of the Cherokee! Maybe there was a fault with our test car, but at least 70% of the time I tried to get the key out of the Renegade's dash, it got stuck and required a lot of persuading and a lot of sweary, sweaty on and off the brake pedal fiddling about to come out. And things like that drive me mad, especially after going to the effort of designing a good looking, fun driving, skilful and well designed motor. Silly.
I want to really love the Renegade. It's a lot of fun and very good at what it does – mainly selling a lifestyle that actually does exist and isn't just a figment of some advertising agency.
I'm just not quite there... yet, but maybe I will fall for it when it's gone?
One thing that is clear... we suggest you go and test drive one for yourself and discover if #Renegadelife is for you. Almost 2,000 a month in the UK alone can't be wrong... bravo again Jeep!