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Northern Virginia Test Drive Impressions

3421 Views 2 Replies 2 Participants Last post by  Tombinator
Hi everyone,

Renegades have arrived in Northern Virginia! My local dealer has two Renegades in stock; an anvil Trailhawk and a Sierra Blue Latitude. Their website still isn't updated (shows vehicle is in transit), but they are definitely in stock. They couldn't find the keys to the Trailhawk so we drove the Latitude on a 11 mile test drive on city streets and the interstate... in the rain.

I saw them both on the way home tonight in the new car area, so after dinner I took the wife and son to the dealer to look them over. I'm a current Wrangler Unlimited owner, and we've owned three Jeeps previously (two Wranglers and a 2002 Grand Cherokee). I'm looking to move on from the Wrangler as I'm getting tired of 16-19 miles per gallon and I want more creature comforts. The new Wrangler offers more features than the 2007 model I drive; but I'm not looking at another Wrangler because of the poor mileage, and honestly, I don't need all the off road abilities the Wrangler has, so I can get a little smaller and less off road and still be happy. The Renegade seems to fit the bill... on paper at least.

Here's my test drive impressions:

Size/exterior: I like the size of the Renegade. They had the Trailhawk parked in a row of two door Wranglers, and the Renegade is about the same length as the two door Wrangler. The Trailhawk is not as tall as the Wrangler, but still sits nice and tall. It doesn't look small, cute like a puppy or like a "girl Jeep"; it looks like what it was designed to be (in my opinion), the Wrangler's little brother that gets better mileage, has more tech and is a more mainstream vehicle. It's much more stylish than a Patriot or Compass. IMHO.

Upon getting in, I noticed the same ocean/fish smell as others have, but figure that will go away as the car is detailed and time passes. I live less than an hour to the port of Baltimore, so between the car carrier and port storage lot, there wasn't much time for the smell to wear off before hitting the lot.

Interior: Also, upon getting in, I noticed the one thing that really mattered to me... that I fit. I'm 6'3", with a 34 inch inseam, and size 15 feet so fitting inside is really important to me and what makes a lot of other cars not work. The Renegade fit me well, and there was lots of headroom in the non My Sky equipped model I tested. I didn't sit in the back seat (it was raining), my son fit nicely in back and the salesman didn't hit is knees on the seat when he got in/out so I gather there's room back there. My wife sitting next to me was unable to get her non-power seat adjusted well (sitting a little low), but that might be adjustable, but the adjuster wasn't particular obvious so she dealt with it for our 20 minute test drive; I imagine the power passenger seat to be just as good as the driver's one. I do wish for about another inch or two of rearward driver's seat travel, but I think I could make it work. The seats were pretty comfortable, and the power lumbar support was great. I do wish that the seats also had a little different height adjustment for the driver as I really like to sit up high, but I think with some time, I could get everything adjusted to find the best seating position. Next to my right knee, there was no plastic faring/shroud in the way so I could find a comfortable position and didn't feel cramped, like I do in many cars that are more "cockpit" oriented. The ledge/shelf on top of the drivers door which holds my left elbow/arm was a perfect height for me and really comfortable. The "A" pillar (the pillar just behind the windshield) is massive, but Jeep has done a pretty good job of camouflaging it and isn't really noticeable until you really look at it. It does leave kind of a large blind spot there though, so you might need to adjust your driving style. Behind the rear sears was well sized and could easily fit a bunch of groceries, with the folding split back seat offering more room if needed. I didn't notice a cargo shade, but wasn't really looking for one either; I'll pay more attention next time. I didn't look under the hood as it was raining, so can't speak to that.

The controls are well laid out and everything was easy to understand, as I need to use a lot of it quickly as it started to rain. The dashboard screen has a bunch of adjustments / options so I put the speed in about 3 inch high numbers in the middle. There's a lot of glass in the Renegade, and the wipers did a good job clearing the windows, including the back glass. The dual climate control worked well, the AC was cold and the defroster cleared the glass quickly. Also, the back up camera worked well (though a little hard to see through the rain), and with a tweak of the options, I got back up grid lines that bent as you turned the wheel, so you got a real sense of where you would end up while backing. Some cars have static grid lines (I'm looking at you, Toyota Camry), so the bendable ones are nice. The cupholders are lit which is also a nice feature. The Renegade is wide enough where my wife's and my shoulders weren't touching, so you can get comfortable in the cabin.

Test drive: On the test drive, I noted that the wheel was well weighted and the steering precise, if not a little numb feeling like many electrically steered front drive cars. The turning radius is very small, so this will be easy to maneuver in the city or parking lots (and on the trail). In regards to performance, this is the piece that may still need a little work. I found the engine to be a little underpowered and the transmission always being in too high of a gear, so it felt a little "draggy". Keeping it in a higher gear is probably best for fuel economy purposes, but I felt I really needed to get my foot into it to really get responsiveness out of the engine/transmission. The Renegade is primarily a front drive vehicle with a four cylinder engine, so this is probably just the way it is. But it does make a great case for a "sport" mode in the settings someplace (which I didn't find) or a turbocharger on the 2.4L engine. The manual with the smaller turbo engine may be better mated to the Renegade (I didn't drive one, so I don't know); but whatever I buy next is going to have an automatic, as I'm tired us using the clutch so often in very heavy stop and go traffic found in the Washington DC metro. If a manual transmission is OK with you, I'd recommend driving both and seeing which engine/transmission combination works for you. Also, it would be great to have a stop/start feature on the engine to save fuel while idling in traffic, so maybe that's a 2016 option as well.

Remember, I'm coming from a bigger, more powerful Jeep, and the Renegade isn't my wife's very nice 2 year old, well optioned BMW X3 (also with a four cylinder) so I need to manage my expectations as well.

Overall Impressions: I like the Renegade and will test drive again and I'm leaning towards purchasing. The one I drove was a Latitude, with the only options being the 2.4L/Auto, the popular equipment group (9 speaker audio/power drivers seat/manual passenger seat/dual climate control/different back seats), keyless entry and push button start. I'm really looking for a loaded Limited with leather, Nav, My Sky and all the tech features. I think the seats and steering wheel may be a little different in the leather equipped car and looking forward to trying one out. For what it is, and the price it costs, I think it's very well done. Does it have all I want, well no... but it's similar to its peers (Honda HRV/Maxda CX3/Kia Soul - which I will drive and compare to the Renegade as they are all out soon as well) and not $50k like the wife's BMW, so for what it is, actually pretty darn good.

Look forward to your comments and seeing more test drive impressions from other forum members as the Renegade arrives nationwide. Here's to seeing you on the road and a Jeep wave coming your way from Northern Virginia.

~ Tombinator
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Thanks for the detailed review. Just a couple of points:

1) There is no option for a power passenger seat, only the drivers seat. And the passenger seat only has a 4 way manual adjustment, so no height adjustment, just forward/back & recline.

2) A cargo shade is a stand alone option on all but the sport model.

3) The seats should be the same in the Latitude and the Limited, except for being covered in leather. The steering wheel is the same in both models and is covered in leather even on the latitude. Only the Sport doesn't have a leather steering wheel.

4) The few reviews I've seen/read of the 1.4L Turbo with the 6-speed manual say that it's a ton of fun to drive and is peppy. Car & Driver said that combo was slightly faster 0-60 than the 2.4L. Only down side is you cannot get the 1.4L/6-speed in the trailhawk or limited trim.

I'm also coming from a BMW, but the X1 (not the X3). Obviously the Renegade is not going to perform like the X1 does on road. But I think it should soak up the bumps on rough roads quite a bit better (the X1 with the runflat tires and sports suspension is very rough on bad roads), and should do better in the bad weather.

My X1 is also pretty stripped, so I think the Renegade will be very comparable in terms of creature comforts.

After considering all of the options, I'm probably going to go with a base sport with a few options, and then consider adding some leather and wheels aftermarket. The cost of upgrading from a Sport to a Limited is like $5-8k depending on options. I can live without the power heated seats, auto climate control and auto start if it saves me $5k. They are nice options to have, but considering I'm the only one who drives the car, and how rare it is that I would use the heated seats, it's just not worth it for me. I did the same thing with my X1 and walked out the door paying $32k.

What's funny is my first few new cars I used to always load them up with options. I would always think I would regret not having an option if I got the car without it. But then one day I just realized that if half of these options were not even offered, I would not really care. So I decided to think really hard about what is really of value to me and what is not. In the end I realized that I don't need much to make me happy, and if I'm going to spend more money on a car, I'd rather get a better car than a cheaper car with more extras. There are quite a few people driving around in Honda CR-Vs and Toyota RAV4s that paid what I paid for my X1. If I'm going to spend $30k+ on a car, it's not going to be a Renegade. Maybe it would be an Audi Q3 or Mercedes GLA250.
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Thanks for the reply.

After my post, I looked at the Jeep website and realized that only the driver's seat is power, and now I know there's no height adjustment for the passenger.

Nice to know that a cargo cover is an option; will have to see one to see if it makes $$$ sense to get one.

I'm interested in the leather seats because some automakers lay the leather over the cloth, vice just leather over the foam underneath. Might it make a difference in comfort, who knows, but I'd to sit in one with leather to find out.

Understand about you liking a more base vehicle and then aftermarket features you want. I've got that now in my Wrangler Unlimited, both because it's a Wrangler and only base type features were available in 2007. I guess I'm getting old though in the fact that I'd like some of the tech a Limited offers, vice the plain Jane experience of my current vehicle. I guess that's why there's four models, so there's something for us all.

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