The Jeep name alone espouses what made the U.S. military run during the Greatest Generation. Rugged is its synonym. Here we are on the back side of the second decade of the 21st century and Jeep is still going strong. While the Wrangler is the standard bearer to the throwback of the line, the 3-year-old Renegade has its virtues, too.
Trying out the subcompact crossover sport-utility vehicle are former Wheels editors Jimmy Dinsmore and David Mikesell. Each recently drove Renegade versions that are special editions. Why? Well, the boys are special, too.
DAVID: From the seven-bar vertical waterfall-like grille up front to the tall, boxy silhouette to the oversized fender flares, the Renegade gives the appearance at a bit less than 14 feet in length you expect when you hear “Jeep.” There are front-wheel and four-wheel drive powertrains to take you from the suburbs or city to cross-country trails. There are also two engines, a base 160-horsepower, turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder and a 180-hp, 2.4-liter 4-cylinder. I drove with the former, which comes with a 6-speed manual transmission, on my mid-level 4WD Altitude trim and found it suitable as well as being rewarded with the best mileage, a combined 26 mpg. Jimmy tested the star of the Renegade line, though, the Desert Hawk, which had some special features. What did you think about that one?
JIMMY: Let me first say that Jeep is probably the best car maker at making special editions. Each special edition, regardless of which vehicle it’s part of, feels special. And that’s the case of the Desert Hawk. First, it has an awesome name which hints at Jeep’s military background. You have to love that. There were hidden “Easter egg features” found throughout this special edition. The Jeep waterfall- shaped logo was on the speakers and the housing that holds the rearview mirror.
On the base of the windshield was a tiny Jeep Wrangler cutout. Job well done to Jeep for being so clever.
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DAVID: Renegades enter the market as an excellent value with the base Sport with FWD starting at $17,995. You get push-button start but no air conditioning. Four-wheel drive adds $2,000. The Latitude trim starts at $21,495 and comes with the AC, cruise control, upgraded audio system, rearview camera and 5-inch touchscreen, among other items. The Altitude model we drove places a package on the Latitude that includes high-back bucket seats and special badging and fascia. The Limited ($25,195) comes with creature comforts like heated leather upholstery, heated steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control and the automatic transmission. The Trailhawk ($26,645) goes the off-road route with low range part of the full-time 4WD, all-terrain tires, skid plates and higher ride height. The Desert Hawk that Jimmy sampled comes out of this trim.
JIMMY: One of the best features about many Jeeps is also one of the most frustrating. My tester had a dual removable sunroof. It reminded me of the old days of T-tops. And like T-tops, you had to remove them. It wasn’t a one-person job as latching and unlatching required two set of hands. And hopefully you don’t get stuck in a storm trying to do this process. But, otherwise, it’s totally worth as it makes you realize that the Renegade is something special and will really resonate with Jeep purists.
DAVID: Renegades seat five people but are best suited for four adults. The design allows for plenty of head room even in back, although leg room there can be compromised by the size of the front-seat riders. There is 18.5 cubic feet of space behind the second-row seats and that increases to 50.8 cubic feet when the seats are folded, which on this size vehicle is about what you can expect. For this particular Jeep, expecting the expected is another aspect of a good thing.
JIMMY: The Renegade represents a new era for Jeep. They still hold onto what makes them good, but this small crossover has somewhat quirky looks, including the almost asterisk-like taillights. The looks aren’t for everyone, that’s for sure. But in this era of vanilla “bubble crossovers,” the Renegade has a lot of distinction and it’s fun to drive like the Wrangler. It certainly will help Jeep develop a younger, hipper buyer, but one that still wants to get some mud on the tires.