THERE are a few things that make my life whole. One of them is yoga; another is a sense of adventure. So with the Jeep Renegade’s return date looming and the key firmly grasped in my hand, it was time to test the Trailhawk-branded Jeep on rougher roads.
But not without a quick visit back to its maker. From the moment I collected ‘Hillary’, I noticed an occasional out-of-sorts noise from the engine bay. For a while, I hoped it would disappear, but when it became more prominent after a drive to Daylesford, I thought I should get it checked.
According to Fiat-Chrysler Australia, the noise was “an airflow resonance from the induction system”, mainly noticeable under part-throttle. Any unsavoury noises in a car are cause for alarm, but this was an NVH issue more than anything. Something for Jeep to look into at update time perhaps.
Post-analysis, I went in search of some tracks not too far from Melbourne. I couldn’t farewell the Renegade without giving it a chance to kick up some dirt, so it was off to the Dandenong Ranges to test out the Trailhawk’s 4x4 Active Drive Low system.
Once you work out how the system works, it rewards with decent off-road ability, which you don’t get from any of the Renegade’s rivals. It features various terrain programs (Auto, Sport, Snow, Sand, Mud and Rock) and, while it doesn’t have low-range, there is a ‘4WD Low’ switch that turns off the ESC. And the nine-speed auto has a super-low first.
The Renegade soaked up the uneven, rocky terrain of the Dandenongs with an ease I didn’t expect. We didn’t push too far into the tree-lined greenery of the mountains, so we were playing a beginner’s game. But had we tackled the steep (dry) slopes of the Victorian High Country or the soft, marshmallow sands of Fraser Island, the Trailhawk would’ve been equally at home.
The baby Jeep offers something none of its competitors do – a capable off-road system – so I’d be up for the challenge. It not only looks tough, but it walks the walk with appropriate tyres, decent underbody protection and workable ground clearance.
Around the city, its boxy design and chunky 1555kg kerb weight mean it doesn’t feel quite as nippy as its best rivals. The enthusiastic ‘Tigershark’ 2.4-litre engine is hardly quiet, and in traffic it drinks like an Aussie at the races. But for the most part, the Renegade has been an enjoyable, reliable, stylish urban SUV, with more space than I knew what to do with, and it gave me no reason to question its competence ... except for that occasional induction resonance.
It’s a fun, effective medium-duty 4x4, and if FCA can improve the build quality and throw in a mightier, less-thirsty engine, then this Hillary may stand a chance.
Where to next?
There’s so much potential in the likeable Renegade, but not all of it has been realised. Recalibrated steering is definitely in order, seeing the Jeep’s electric assistance often feels sticky, and a more supple ride would be welcome. The nine-speed transmission isn’t faultless, either – it suffers the odd jolt, thump or pause as it juggles ratios – and why have a ninth gear that will only automatically select beyond 120km/h?
Read part two of our Jeep Renegade long term car review here.
First published in the January 2017 issue of Wheels magazine.