The Renegade is to Jeep what The Last Jedi is to Star Wars.
Some of you might interject immediately and say that I’m implying that the Renegade is some SJW-heavy car that completely ruins the Jeep brand. That’s not true. What the Renegade is is a completely different take on what Jeep stands for while keeping the overall aesthetic and style there on the outside. It takes everything that Jeep stands for and tries to bring it down to a minuscule level. A Jeep for the people.
Much like The Last Jedi, the Renegade has been met with largely mixed reaction. There are some that love it, they love the rugged, yet cute style, and they love that it manages to keep itself composed off-road despite its more demure manner. But, there’s always the people who have to be negative, and interject that the Renegade is, “not a real Jeep,” because of its lack of solid axles and the fact that it’s built by Fiat. It’s basically a matter of perception for most, because I highly doubt that many people have driven a Renegade on either side of the battle.
But I have, and I’m here to tell the tale.
When you approach the Renegade, there’s no distinguishing it as anything else but what it is: a Jeep. Every single Jeep styling cue that’s made them so famous amongst their lovers is there. It’s a small square, it’s got the familiar circular headlights, that famous seven-slat grille, off-road centric appointments all throughout. It’s definitely a safe design choice, but I think it’s quite attractive for what it is. It’s very unique.
The Trailhawk model, for those who don’t know, is the off-road speciality model in the Renegade’s lineup. Bright red towhooks make their home in the front bumper, which makes for a good popping appearance. Special 17 inch wheels are added, now painted all black versus the silver and black treatment of prior years. When done in Alpine White as my test car was fitted, it definitely creates an eye-popping treatment that a car like this deserves. It’s safe to say, I like it quite a bit.
The interior carries on the utilitarian, off-road aesthetic with a design that inputs function over form. It’s a cockpit that requires some getting used to, with a lot of plastic fittings and cheap-feeling rubber areas. The red accents from the exterior are carried over in certain areas as well, which adds a little color (literally and physically) to the regularly drab black interior. It’s definitely a lot more spacious and comfortable for taller passengers than the Subaru Crosstrek, which I can appreciate.
Technology-wise, you get FCA’s famous uConnect system displayed on a 7 inch touchscreen directly in the middle of the dash. The uConnect system is one of the better systems in the world, which is surprising considering FCA’s otherwise doubtful quality, but I am, of course, a fan. You get a great back-up camera which is easy to see and use due to the large screen, and of course, Bluetooth pairing is standard.
Under the hood, the Renegade employ’s FCA’s corporate 2.4L Tigershark MultiAir 2 inline 4, mated to FCA’s infamous 9-speed automatic transmission through all four wheels. The Tigershark pushes 180 bhp and 175 lb ft of torque, fairly respectable numbers considering the car’s size and weight. Speed is quite adequate, it will get up and go pretty decently on a highway when you need it to. However, I’m not really a fan of that 9-speed automatic, as it feels far too numb and confused for it’s own good. Shifts are eerie, as they’re very smooth, but they feel like they’re gasping to figure out what gear to go into. There is a manual option available, but not on the Trailhawk, unfortunately.
Speaking of numb and confusing, it’s time to talk about driving dynamics. The few positives I did enjoy was the somewhat nimble and small turning radius, as it made city driving quite heavenly, whereas in my Outback I’d be struggling. The visibility is also quite pleasant, which makes driving all the more better. But, the steering is so numb and unresponsive that it almost makes you wonder whether or not you’re actually turning the wheels until you realize the rest of the car is going in the direction you turned to. The Crosstrek I drove was far more responsive and firm, which I’d say is a big advantage for the Subie over the Renegade. To cover other areas, the ride was quite harsh, but the height of the car made Pittsburgh potholes a thing of the past. A very mixed bag for sure.
Now, you may have noticed that I haven’t talked a single bit about the Renegade’s off-road prowess. There’s a few reasons for why I’ve mostly omitted it for the large part. The first reason is that there’s no good off-roading areas that I can take it on in the area that I’m in. The second is, I really wanted to get into the mind of someone who would buy a Jeep that would never take it off-road for the life of them. That might be nonsense...I mean, it kinda is, but it did give me some clarity.
Now I finally get it. The Renegade and all of its nimble driving ability, its ride height, and practicality does make it quite the tasty option in this world of crossovers. It makes city driving easier, so I suppose that yeah, if worse comes to worse, I’d give one some thought to purchase.
But that’s a huge if, because honestly I don’t think I’m the right type to buy a car like this. If I wanted a city car, I’d buy a commuter car, and if I wanted an off-roader, I’d buy a Wrangler, or at least a Cherokee. The Renegade is as confused as its mechanicals. It’s nice, but it needs improvement, but apparently that’s good enough because they seem to be quite the hot commodity. I suppose in that case, it’s much better than we anticipated.