2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk: Detroit to L.A. — Day 2
by Mike Magrath, Features Editor on February 3, 2016
Day Two of my road trip from Detroit to L.A. started off on a good note. Looking out the hotel window, you could almost see the cold. I flicked the button on our 2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk's key fob triggering the remote start and let it warm up while I hit the showers. This move wouldn't be kind on range, but would prevent me from freezing to death. Fair trade.
This section of the trip wasn't going to be kind to the Jeep anyways. The past few states had been boring and flat, letting the Renegade settle into ninth-gear and relax. Colorado has hills. Utah has an 80 mph speed limit and hills.
The first stop for fuel took place before any of the hills and Colorado's slight changes in elevation and speed limits had already taken a toll on the Jeep. I got 22.7 mpg driving in a straight line with no stops.
During that stop I got an email from someone in the office.
"How's it going?"
"Cold and clear," I replied. "Almost boring."
Within 10 minutes, two of those three things changed.
As I climbed towards the Eisenhower Tunnel, there was a sudden wall of weather. The world went from cool and clear to dark and snowy. The roads were clean and then there was 4" of snow. Everyone was going 75-ish and then everyone was going 7.5-ish. All I could think of was Oldham's experience in the Corvette: Same road, different direction, far different vehicle.
I grew up around snow and knew that there were two things I didn't want to do. One, go too fast. Two, go too slow. Do either of those things and you're stuck. I flicked the Renegade's Selec-Terrain dial to Snow and kept moving.
Unfortunately, the 9-speed automatic doesn't play well with snow. If you try to maintain a speed, the 9-speed wants to get into as high a gear as possible, even in Snow mode. This means that during times when you want control and consistency, the transmission keeps changing things while prioritizing fuel economy. Manual mode is a lifesaver in this situation.
Even when the snow had subsided, the Renegade wasn't truly happy in these conditions. 80 mph was doable. The Renegade turns around 3,000 rpm at that speed and the on-demand fuel economy meter claims 26 mpg. But then the hills come.
Unlike driving in the city, driving in Utah doesn't have any actual speed changes. You get up to 80 and then stay there until you run out of gas and then repeat the process. Still, even minor elevation changes here make the transmission hunt around more than I'm happy with.
When confronted with a real hill, the number of gears is irrelevant. The Renegade falls well below the speed limit with cruise control on and, again, you've got to revert to manual mode. If you don't, the car drops a few gears to get up to speed and then, once holding a decent highway pace, shifts back up to ninth, causing the whole thing to slow down again. On one grade, a Subaru Crosstrek passed me. Sigh.
Utah turns into Arizona turns into Nevada and suddenly I'm in Vegas for way off-Strip pho before I even realize it. With a belly full of noodles, I make California without a problem. I stop at a hotel about 100 miles from home just to be safe. Once again, the frequent fuel stops ate into time I could've spent on the road. The furthest I managed on a tank was 285 miles this leg. Like Aspade said in the comments on Part 1, running a tank to fumes in winter in no man's land isn't a good idea.
Still, 1,100 miles in a day is further than I made it in our 911, which was capable of 500 miles on a tank.
Mike Magrath, Features Editor @ 14,141 miles