Character and off-road credentials are two things not often associated with micro-SUVs. Luckily the 2015 Jeep Renegade doesn’t play by the rules.
This new kid on the block has taken the best of both worlds by merging urban utility with modern off-roading capabilities. The result? The most fun we’ve ever had zipping through the coastal town of Port Douglas and tackling treacherous rainforest trails of the Daintree National Park.
First up, it’s important to note that the Jeep brand is one steeped in serious off-roading heritage. Born in 1941, the brand has seen a stellar range of practical duties including World War II. As such, the name has long prided itself on the spirit of off-roading through all of the types of cars they’ve produced.
The 2015 Renegade range is no different, inheriting this unique DNA alongside a host of options from an entry-level 2WD all the way up to its beefed up 4WD bush-bashing brother. The variations come in four trims: Sport, Longitude, Limited and the range-topping Trailhawk. For this trip we were able to trial both the Limited and the balls-out Trailhawk.
Open roads, picturesque reefs, luxury hotels, tropical weather and off-road tracks – this was one wild ride with the Renegade we won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
Under The Bonnet
Renegade Sport, Longitude & Limited
The Renegade range comes in a selection of petrol engines to suit just about any buyer lurking around the small SUV market. With petrol engines and front-wheel drive orientation, the Sport, Longitude and Limited models all achieve a commendable balance of fuel economy, urban performance and torque in a tight little package.
With the Limited that we hopped into for town duties, we were able to give the 1.4-litre turbo a squirt around town and it was surprisingly lively considering it packed only 103kW and 230Nm of torque on paper. Much of this has to do with the deceiving dimensions of the car which makes it look big in pictures but sits more like a hatchback on over-sized wheels when standing next to it.
The result is a car which has sufficient moving power if you give it enough revs – a point helped by the Renegade’s automatic gearbox and passable 1,381kg curb weight. Anymore and you’ll definitely be needing a bigger engine.
From the luxurious confines (see: carpark) of the stunning QT Hotel in Port Douglas, drivers were able pick their choice of flashy Renegade colours before heading an hour inland where the Trailhawk Renegade and some real off-roading action awaited us. Around city roads the Limited demonstrated zero issues lugging around a passenger, all of our gear in the boot and a very, very tall driver.
Speaking of driver, ours got us lost and cut off from the group so we took a detour around Port Douglas for some sightseeing before jetting off to rejoin the crew. The point here is that the car can certainly move if pushed. Upon hearing that we’d be left behind if we didn’t make tracks to our designated meeting point, we gunned for the hills in the Renegade Limited and we found that it was composed, predictable and comfortable all rolled into one. Urban realm test? Check. We made it to our meeting point in good time, ready for our tango with the Renegade Trailhawk.
Perched on the outskirts of the natural mecca that is the Daintree Rainforest, the Renegade Trailhawk is notably a different beast. Big chunky off-road wheels and raised suspension grab your attention first. Upon entering, the car definitely feels a lot more business inside. More on that later though. Performance-wise, the Trailhawk Renegade is an astonishing piece of kit which really made the other models look rather road-friendly. Don’t get us wrong, there’s nothing wrong with that – they’re just seemingly two different cars which share the same badge.
Taking the Trailhawk through a private estate of the Daintree Rainforest, the thing ate up anything we threw at it. 45-40 degree inclines on uneven surfaces which appeared impossible to traverse was simply met with the instructions, “give it more gas!” from our instructors over the radio. We complied. The car jostled with its trick independent 4WD torque-vectoring and the hill was no more. Simple. Clean. Effective. All in the comfort of air-conditioning and Toto’s ‘Africa’.
The performance is certainly in the numbers and the Trailhawk Renegade which has been off-road tested in the canyons of the U.S by its designers and trail rated for the toughest terrain wears this badge with pride. Inside you’ll find a feature not found on the other Renegades, a switch which allows you to toggle between 4WD on/off, 4WD Low and downhill assist. The 1,000cc+ engine is replaced with bigger 2.4-litre Tigershark 4-cylinder which produces 129kW and 230Nm alongside Jeep’s Active Drive Low 4WD system which exerts torque to all the right corners on demand.
The Trailhawk drive was undoubtedly one of the highlights of the trip and a stark reminder of Jeep’s capabilities in blending the modern small SUV segment with its expertise in the off-roading field.
On The Inside
Leather. That’s mostly all we can remember as our eyes were fixated on the natural beauty ahead of us (sheer cliff drops on either side of the roads). Seriously though, the Renegades all receive lashings of soft leather in very cool contrast colours on the seats and the dash. It’s a lively design without being gaudy, making for some fine aesthetics. Front seats are electronically controlled and made for lightning quick adjustments between me and my height-advantaged co-driver during switchovers.
When I was in the driver’s seat, the rear had more than enough room to fit in another adult directly behind. With anyone over the height of 190cm at the wheel, the rear passenger will need to grow thinner legs. The height of the cabin is a non-issue and headspace and peripheral vision were perfect for our drive. The boot, which appears small at first, happily swallowed up all of our luggage without the need to fold down the rear seats. Big win there.
Then there’s the full electronic dash and infotainment system. Modern and extremely easy to use and read, the Renegade made easy work of hooking up our smart devices and blaring tunes through the Beats speakers. We also noticed a very robust-looking handle that sits on the passenger side just above the glovebox. This nice little feature harks back to the Renegade’s off-roading roots, allowing the passenger to grab onto something as the car pitches over rough terrain. And yes, we actually needed it in the Trailhawk diving down hill.
Modern Heritage Lines
We mentioned character earlier and the Renegade simply oozes it. With a front fascia modelled off a marine soldier’s helmet and goggles, it was interesting to hear where the inspiration behind each of the design cues came from. Some may find the bright ‘look-at-me’ colours a bit intimidating, but this is easily solved with an option of white, silver or black for the more conservative crowd.
Design-wise, the Renegade uses some style cues from its older siblings including the boxy wheel arches and removable roof sections. Other than that, the car is pretty modern in its outward appearance (see rear tail lights). Most importantly though, you can tell it’s a Jeep amongst the crowd if standing out is your game.
The Jeep Renegade range is a move towards a brighter future for the American company. It offers the range of features suited to just about any single man, small family or young couple and throws in the bonus of quirky off-road touches. Cabin space is deceptively good with each model catering to a broad range of needs from drivers.
If we had to pick on the car, it would probably just be the limited range of premium colours. Most of the Renegade’s available paint options are bright so perhaps more metallic hues for the older crowd would prove a winner down the track. If in the end it’s masculine you’re after, the Renegade Trailhawk is your boy. Big, brutish, fun, highly capable. All under the guise of a small SUV.