The lit­tle Jeep that could.

Jeep revives the clas­sic Rene­gade name­plate for its new for­eign-born baby wagon.

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents -

In­tro­duced in late 2015, the Rene­gade is Jeep’s new baby wagon. Jeep fans may not like the fact that the Rene­gade, a name steeped in Jeep his­tory, is now a pas­sen­ger-car based SUV, but that’s the price to be paid for be­ing alive.

The Rene­gade is more Fiat than Jeep, and if it wasn’t for Fiat help­ing to bail out Chrysler (Jeep’s own­ers) from bankruptcy in 2011, Jeep mightn’t even be around any more.

In Aus­tralia the Rene­gade comes in five mod­els, but only one – the ‘Trailhawk’ you see here – has four­wheel drive, which at least is the ba­sis of a claim to be­ing a Jeep. That claim is fur­ther strength­ened by the fact the Trailhawk is pow­ered by the only Us-sourced (Chrysler) en­gine among a wide range of Fiat en­gines used across the rest of the range glob­ally.

Thank­fully, the Jeep ‘in­flu­ence’ in the Trailhawk also runs to an ad­di­tional 20mm of ground clearance (up to 220mm) over the other Rene­gade mod­els, dif­fer­ent front and rear pan­els for steeper ap­proach and de­par­ture an­gles, sub­stan­tial un­der­body pro­tec­tion, a full-size rather than a space­saver spare, and all-ter­rain tyres.

POW­ER­TRAIN AND PER­FOR­MANCE

The Trailhawk’s Chrysler-fam­ily en­gine is a sin­gle-cam 16-valve 2.4-litre petrol four that claims 137kw, a de­cent amount of power given the Trailhawk’s rea­son­ably trim 1550kg. How­ever, the en­gine needs plenty of revs to give its best. In fact, a heady 6400rpm is re­quired to pro­duce all 137kw. While the max­i­mum torque, a mod­est 236kw, doesn’t clock on un­til 4400rpm.

If this sounds like a ma­jor short­com­ing, don’t fear too much. The en­gine has a will­ing ally in the nine­speed ZF ’box. Hav­ing so many speeds al­lows close ra­tio gaps, which is what you want for a peaky en­gine.

On the road you have to keep the en­gine busy if you what good progress, but its bal­ance shafts help to en­sure it feels rea­son­ably smooth and re­fined – even if it’s a bit noisy.

ON-ROAD RIDE AND HAN­DLING

The Trailhawk’s light­weight, fully in­de­pen­dent sus­pen­sion and nice bal­ance makes for a sporty on-road drive. This is helped by a com­pli­ant ride over lumpy bi­tu­men and un­sealed roads. Not so good is the gen­er­ally high level of road noise.

The Trailhawk re­wards with its de­cent ground clearance and steep­ish ap­proach, ramp over and de­par­ture an­gles

OFF-ROAD

The Trailhawk’s 4x4 sys­tem is called ‘Ac­tive Drive Low’, de­spite not hav­ing low-range. It even has a ‘4WD Low’ switch; although, the main thing this seems to do is can­cel the ESC, which is what hap­pens when you en­gage low-range on a dual-range 4x4. At least the sin­gle-range sys­tem has a re­spectable 20.4:1 crawl ra­tio.

Spe­cial pro­grams for Auto, Sport, Snow, Sand, Mud and Rock tweak the throt­tle mapping, gear­box shift pro­to­cols and the like, while the off-road set­tings au­to­mat­i­cally lock the cen­tre elec­tronic ‘diff’, which can be locked separately via the ‘4WD Lock’ switch.

In what is a silly ar­range­ment, if you try to select the ‘Rock’ pro­gram you are prompted to first en­gage ‘4WD Low’, as per the usual pro­to­col with a dual-range 4x4. Who are they try­ing to kid?

Once you get past all this carry-on, the Trailhawk re­wards with its de­cent ground clearance and steep­ish ap­proach, ramp-over and de­par­ture an­gles. Thanks to the clever de­sign of the rear wish­bones there’s even a sur­pris­ing amount of rear-wheel travel.

Not so good is the elec­tronic trac­tion con­trol sys­tem that isn’t as ef­fec­tive as you’d ex­pect, es­pe­cially given the very ef­fec­tive ETC on the Chero­kee Trailhawk – which also uses a fully in­de­pen­dent (but larger) Fiat plat­form.

Re­gard­less of the off-road ef­fec­tive­ness of the Rene­gade Trailhawk, it is very well pro­tected un­der­neath – much more so than your typ­i­cal com­pact SUV. You might not get all that far, but at least you shouldn’t do any dam­age in the process. How­ever, Jeep claims a mod­est 480mm wad­ing depth due to the low-mounted air in­take, so wa­ter cross­ings need care.

The full-size spare is also a prac­ti­cal­ity bonus, as are the rea­son­ably ag­gres­sive all-ter­rain tyres – even if they look a lit­tle low in the side­wall. With the guard clearance it looks like you could fit some­thing taller.

CABIN, AC­COM­MO­DA­TION AND SAFETY

The Trailhawk is smaller in­side than some­thing like a Subaru Forester, with a nar­row, short-but-tall cabin that’s nicely de­tailed and fin­ished. It feels quite lux­u­ri­ous with leather and all. It’s also sur­pris­ingly ac­com­mo­dat­ing for its size given a tall adult can still sit be­hind a tall driver, even if it’s a squeeze. The driv­ing po­si­tion is com­fort­able and has lots of ad­just­ment, but the wide A-pil­lars are an­noy­ing, vi­sion-wise.

The sec­ond-row seats ben­e­fit from deep cush­ions, but aren’t wide enough for three adults. While the mod­est cargo area has a high floor due to the full-size spare.

The Trailhawk has plenty of safety kit among a long list of stan­dard equip­ment, but it hasn’t been ANCAP rated as yet.

SUM UP

The Trailhawk is a fun and rea­son­ably ef­fec­tive light­duty 4x4, but it feels ex­pen­sive at $40K – even given its gen­er­ous equip­ment.

It’s a shame it doesn’t come with one of the diesel en­gines fit­ted to Rene­gade mod­els over­seas, but that’s very much Jeep’s way when it comes to off-road spe­cific vari­ants in other model ranges.

After six months on sale, some model Hiluxes are leav­ing com­peti­tors in the dust

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