2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk: First Road Trip
by James Riswick, New & Used Car Editor on September 11, 2015
The mission was simple. Small dog with penchant for whining has only been in a car for an hour at a time. Small dog will be on massive day-long drive to Oregon in two weeks. For everyone's sanity, a trip of between one hour and 12 was in order.
Mr. Riswick, lay in a course for Julian, California, and engage at whatever speed our 2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk manages to get to (you see, it's quite slow. Also, I've been watching way too much Star Trek recently).
Nellie, the white one, is generally unamused. Maggie, the Mohawked one, stoically awaits the journey.
Besides car-breaking a dog, this would indeed be my first opportunity to take a road trip of some sort in our Renegade, a car I'm quite keen on after doing both our Trailhawk video review and Latitude road test. Apart from its sluggish acceleration, accompanying recalcitrant transmission and utter dearth of cargo volume, I very much enjoyed Jeep's new micro-ute. Would our new long-termer maintain that affection?
For the most part, yes. Both my wife and I found our long-termer's leather seats extremely hard, and although they were supportive during our day in the saddle, we both preferred the comfier cloth-lined seats in the previous short termers (which aesthetically benefit from a cool topographical pattern in the Trailhawk).
I also agree with Dan Edmunds that our long-termer's ride is better than the original Trailhawk we had in, but I stand by my own determination that the Latitude's ride is less busy, you feel fewer bumps, and is generally more pleasant.
Emphasis on more pleasant, however, as we easily could've ventured even further in the Renegade without complaint. Road and wind noise are certainly on the upper end of the spectrum, but our cabin is certainly much quieter than the short-term Trailhawk that included the MySky removable roof panels. I definitely do not recommend that option, as besides creating more wind noise when in place, they cause horrible buffeting when removed at speeds north of 40 mph.
I also once again found the little Jeep to be surprisingly adept at handling winding roads, in this case the rolling terrain of north San Diego county. The steering is precise, the suspension nicely controlled, and for an SUV, it can actually be described as agile. I definitely enjoy driving the Renegade more than the bigger, more expensive Cherokee (I'm also more comfortable in its driver seat, but that's for another post).
Then again, the Cherokee's V6 really would do wonders for the Renegade, as its 2.4-liter liter is thoroughly unimpressive given its competitive-looking specs. It apparently has 180 horses, but it seems like some have wandered out of the barn. Around town, it manages to feel rather punchy, but on the highway or when making its way up grades, it's a slug.
Not helping things is the nine-speed automatic transmission that's too slow to downshift, something that the mechanically-related Fiat 500X's Sport mode remedies to some extent.
Nellie made it to scorching-hot Julian with minimal whining. The same could not be said of her behavior at Bailey BBQ. "Yes, we get it, you want some brisket."
Inevitably, it's the lack of power that would make me think twice about taking the Renegade on a road trip of considerable distance. Its minuscule cargo area would also be a concern, but that could be remedied by mounting our Thule cargo box (featured in our Ski Vacation Face-Off) onto the roof.
And as for our mission, we were only briefly tempted to hoist Nellie onto the roof. There was some whining, but the Renegade's stereo managed to take care of that. Her next test will be much greater.
I'm sure our staff will have plenty of much greater tests in store for the Renegade as well.
James Riswick, New & Used Car Editor @ 2,155 miles