Jeep Rene­gade gets new trims, op­tions

Chicago Sun-Times - - DRIVE - BY JOHN STEIN

On the out­side, the 2018 Jeep Rene­gade looks and feels just like other Rene­gades – but that is a great thing if you want ‘planted’ driv­abil­ity through­out all four sea­sons in Chicagoland.

Jeep Style

The Rene­gade’s seven grille slots, flanked by the fa­mil­iar twin-round head­lights, pro­vide the es­sen­tial Jeep DNA for the ex­te­rior, while the wheel open­ings have the ex­pected ‘squared­off’ Jeep look.

Look for some smaller Jeep styling cues, like a small Jeep etched into both head­lights, a grad­u­ated Jeep sun­shade around the wind­shield, big, stylish ‘Xs’ in the tail­lights – a nod to the gas cans mounted at the rear of orig­i­nal World War II Jeeps.

Dif­fer­ences be­tween mod­els are that Lat­i­tude mod­els have a con­trast­ing black roof and bright trim pieces and bet­ter wheel/tires, Trail­hawks have ba­si­cally sup­planted De­serthawks and have black wheels w/ag­gres­sive tires, flat trim pieces/de­cals and bright red tow hooks in front bumper.

Per­for­mance

Un­der the flat hood, Rene­gade has a 2.4-liter I4, 16-valve Mul­tiAir en­gine with mul­ti­port fuel in­jec­tion. Mated to a ca­pa­ble 9-speed au­to­matic that is more geared for on-road driv­ing than off, the Rene­gade de­liv­ers fine road man­ners and am­ple ath­letic ac­cel­er­a­tion.

Cabin Com­forts

The Rene­gade’s cabin trans­lates the Jeep look to a com­pact-car space. There is a bit of wind and en­gine noise than man­ages to creep into the space. From Or­ange tints and bright splat­ter fab­rics to crisp heated leather/cloth seats, my nu­mer­ous tester ve­hi­cles had a va­ri­ety of up­grades and changes. The Lat­i­tude model splits the dif­fer­ence be­tween the Sport and Trail­hawk mod­els.

All mod­els fea­ture over­sized con­trols and pod sec­tions in the dash. It’s easy to find and ac­cess con­trols as they are grouped and or­ga­nized well. This year there’s more stor­age ca­pac­ity due to in­te­rior re­vi­sions, in­clud­ing an up­graded Selec-Ter­rain shifter dial lay­out, and two new stor­age areas in front of the shifter. While Rene­gades have seat belts for five it’s not a com­fort­able ar­range­ment.

The My Sky power re­tractable/re­mov­able pan­els were on my Rene­gade tester, this eas­ily en­hances the open feel­ing in the cabin.

Cargo space is fine with rear seats up at 18.5 cu. ft. and with rear seats folded there’s 50 cu. ft. and the front pas­sen­ger seat folds flat so Rene­gades can carry longer ob­jects.

On The Road

On the road, the Rene­gade ex­hibits tall-wagon sway and a dis­tinct lean. The brakes and steer­ing are ad­e­quate, but on-road feel and re­sponse could be tight­ened up.

On smooth roads, the ride qual­ity is slightly above aver­age with the larger 18-inch wheels, but in sand and light off-road trails they ex­cel. Each tester was a 4x4 model (4x2 ver­sions are avail­able) and the Trail­hawk is es­pe­cially suited for medium off-road duty with a sim­u­lated low-speed crawl ra­tio, ag­gres­sive tires, and higher ground clear­ance. Look for a trac­tion dial (Selec­tTer­rain w/rock crawl) that can be set to deal with mud, snow, sand, or steep down­hill de­scents.

The 2018 Rene­gade Lat­i­tude def­i­nitely has some off-road lim­i­ta­tions, but if you need more, Trail­hawk can ac­com­mo­date. The Lat­i­tude does pro­vide plenty of space for four pas­sen­gers and some ac­tive life­style gear. It’s a good “starter” Jeep, or bet­ter Jeep for young teen drivers.

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