2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk: Climbing Santiago Peak
by Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing on June 22, 2016
Saddleback is the common name for a distinctive mountain that hovers over Orange County, California. It really does look like the back of a horse, but in reality it comprises two distinct summits that are about a mile apart: Modjeska Peak and Santiago Peak.
It all resides within the Cleveland National Forest, and there's a network of roads and trails that serve the area. Four of the entry points are available to street-legal motor vehicles. A couple weekends ago I drove our 2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk up Indian Truck Trail, along Main Divide to the Santiago summit and back down and out via Bedford Motorway.
These are Forest service fire roads, and for the most part they're fairly tame. But, like all such roads, they have their difficult spots. Here I find that three specific off-road characteristics come into play: clearance, traction management and suspension articulation. Vehicles that possess competency in any two of these areas can literally make the grade up here.
It's a good place to separate the poser crossovers that are mainly focused on winter roads from the competent ones that have a more broad-based talent set, in other words.
Like many of its ilk, our Renegade has a modest suspension articulation limit. I exceeded that point in at least two spots along the trail. But because it's a Trailhawk it had enough of the other two to make it through without drama.
Reasonable ground clearance and those remarkably stubby overhangs kept its nose and underside from getting hung up on anything. And its knobby tires and four-wheel-drive system with multiple terrain settings kept the party going when it the uneven surface set it teetering on three wheels.
It was a fairly effortless trip, in other words. This place does not begin to define the limits of what it can handle.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 22,034 miles