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2015 Jeep Renegade First Drive & Review

Is the new Jeep a real Jeep?

John Cappa
Apr 26, 2015
Photographers: John Cappa, Manufacturer
Jeep had paraded the ’15 Renegade and Renegade Trailhawk in front of journalists and the general public for over a year. We snickered at it, leered at it, touched it, and even sat in it during that time. The new Jeep really began to pique our interest, though. Was it a real Jeep, or was it simply a rebodied all-wheel-drive Fiat 500L? To find out, we jumped at the chance to get behind the wheel and test drive the Jeep Renegade Latitude 4x4, Limited 4x4, and the top-tier Trailhawk 4x4. Sport and 4x2 models are also available. Our review took us over the streets and freeways, as well as in the hills and mountains, near San Jose, California. First and foremost, if you’re a Jeep enthusiast who’s into lift kits, oversized tires, and boulders larger than bowling balls, stop reading. Traditional off-road Jeep fanboys and fangirls scoff at any 4x4 that doesn’t have a ladder frame or at least solid axles front and rear and for good reason. These heavy-duty components are some of the last bits leftover from when the first Jeep rolled off of the assembly line over 70 years ago. But, a company like Jeep can’t survive in today’s competitive automotive marketplace by building only Wranglers. New segments are needed to broaden the brand’s appeal and bring in new customers looking for on- and off-road capability and efficiency to the tune of more than 30 mpg. And that is exactly what the ’15 Jeep Renegade is designed to deliver.
Photo 2/13   |   2015 Jeep Renegade Wheeling
With an open mind, it’s hard to not like the sporty and fun-looking Renegade when inspecting the exterior. The round headlights, seven-slot grill, trapezoidal wheel openings, and overall utilitarian feel of the Renegade set it apart from the other seemingly more sophisticated, and frankly boring, vehicle lineup in the compact-SUV segment. By comparison, the Jeep Renegade is that unconventionally amusing uncle, the one that let you light fireworks in the house and shoot beer bottles in the backyard. We appreciate that the Renegade puts a smile on our face, even when it’s simply parked.
The interior of the Limited and Trailhawk models we drove were quite plush and felt similar to what you would see in a top-tier Cherokee or Grand Cherokee. We appreciated the use of soft-touch materials in places where other manufacturers might use less-impressive hard plastic. The Renegade is available absolutely stuffed with technology. Some of our favorite features include the built-in on-demand Wi-Fi hotspot capability and an available mobile phone app, which enables owners to start their Jeep and lock or unlock doors from their cell phones. The instrumentation is easy to read and most controls are intuitive in their operation. We absolutely love the split HVAC system and the real numbers on the adjustment knob, instead of an ambiguous blue and red line designed specifically to mock us while we incessantly fumble for a comfortable temperature.
We tested both the 1.4L MultiAir Turbo and the 2.4L Tigershark MultiAir2 engines on-road. The six-speed manual used behind the 1.4L is a sporty, quick-shifting transmission. It takes no time at all to learn where the forward gears are and manipulate the clutch effectively. Shifting into Reverse requires that you lift up on the shift ring, similar to the shifter you might find in a sandrail or VW Baja Bug but much easier to engage. The 160hp 1.4L punches out 184 lb-ft of torque. You can keep busy shifting in the mountain twists or you can simply rev the engine to the moon by selecting the proper gear. Both options are fun. The naturally aspirated 2.4L produces 180hp and 175 lb-ft of torque. This engine is coupled to the nine-speed automatic, which can be just as fun to drive as the six-speed when toggled through the gears manually. Overall, the Jeep Renegade handles crisply and is extremely confidence-inspiring on-road.
Of course it wouldn’t be a Jeep if it didn’t go off-road. Nothing else currently in the vehicle segment even compares to the off-road capability of the Jeep Renegade Trailhawk. It has some off-road features, such as the large accessible bright red tow hooks, 20:1 crawl ratio, and Selec-Terrain traction system that we wish were on other vehicles considered to be more trail worthy by many 4x4 enthusiasts. Interestingly enough, the Renegade Trailhawk even has better approach, departure, and breakover angles than a Cherokee Trailhawk. An extracurricular off-road adventure took us to the sand dunes and rocky mountain trails in southern California. We were pleasantly surprised at how far up the trail we could take the Renegade Trailhawk, almost to the point of feeling guilty, while wondering “Should we be here in this?” It drives like a maneuverable side-by-side UTV. Rather than being forced to climb over rocks, ledges, and other trail obstacles, you can simply steer around them with ease if you choose.
Photo 9/13   |   2015 Jeep Renegade Driving
The ’15 Jeep Renegade is not a Wrangler, and it shouldn’t be. Most new Jeeps never even go off-road. Think of it like this: without the success of the Renegade, the current Cherokee, and Grand Cherokee, the Wrangler would not exist, and neither would the Jeep brand. As a Jeep enthusiast you don’t have to buy these new Jeeps or even like them, but you should thank someone that does. Ultimately, all Jeeps, including the ’15 Renegade, are offered in a model that is still best in class for off-road capability, and that’s really what the Jeep brand is all about, right?
2015 Jeep Renegade
Base Price $17,995 (Sport 4x2)-$25,995 (Trailhawk 4x4)
Vehicle Layout Front-engine, FWD/AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
Engines 1.4-liter, 160 hp/184 lb-ft turbocharged SOHC 16-valve I-4; 2.4-liter, 180 hp/175 lb-ft SOHC 16-valve I-4
Transmissions 6-speed manual (1.4L) 9-speed automatic (2.4L)
Curb Weight 3,044 lbs (base) 3,573 lbs (Trailhawk)
Wheelbase 101.2 in
0-60 MPH 8.5-9.0 sec (est)
EPA City/HWY Fuel Econ 23-25/31-33 mpg (est)
Photo 10/13   |   2015 Jeep Renegade In Mud

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