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Jeep Renegade: A Boondocks Basher

By Frank A. Aukofer, July 4th, 2015

Renegade is Jeep's brand new boondocks basher. It's an honest to gosh Jeep, with all that implies.

Manufacturer photo: The 2015 Renegade offers the open-air freedom and iconic styling Jeep is known for in an all-new efficient, trail and urban-friendly size -- designed to take the growing global small SUV segment head-on with its beefy proportions and purposeful design elements
Manufacturer photo: The 2015 Renegade offers the open-air freedom and iconic styling Jeep is known for in an all-new efficient, trail and urban-friendly size -- designed to take the growing global small SUV segment head-on with its beefy proportions and purposeful design elements

Though the 2015 Renegade is marketed as a subcompact SUV, so as not to tread on its sibling, the compact Cherokee, it actually has interior room bordering on that of a large sedan, though some of it is vertical.

Its 119 cubic feet of interior volume -- 100 for passengers and 19 cubic feet for cargo behind the rear seat -- puts it at the top of the EPA's midsize sedan classification. Large cars start at 120 cubic feet.

The Renegade comes in a tidy package an inch shy of 14 feet long, which gives it the maneuverability to tackle rugged trails in the countryside. At the same time, it doesn't skimp on highway handling.

Out of the box, the Renegade comes with traditional Jeep styling and pays homage to the 1941 original with tiny emblems scattered throughout the interior that the designers nicknamed Easter eggs.

Manufacturer photo: The 2015 Renegade offers the open-air freedom and iconic styling Jeep is known for in an all-new efficient, trail and urban-friendly size -- designed to take the growing global small SUV segment head-on with its beefy proportions and purposeful design elements

The Renegade is a little more than a foot longer than the revered two-door Jeep Wrangler and just 6 inches wider. It doesn't have the same craggy look of the original and likely is not as capable in trackless terrain, but it comes close. At the same time, it is a way more useful overall vehicle with comfortable seating for four and plenty of cargo space.

In a nod to people who like to run Wranglers with the roof and doors removed, the Renegade even offers optional double roof openings called My Sky. Remove the panels, store them in a special pouch that fits neatly on the cargo floor and you get some of the open air feel of a Wrangler. The doors, however, are not removable.

All Renegades come with handsome styled wheels -- steel on lower trim models and aluminum alloy on the others.

Seven Renegades are offered in four trim levels. Base Sport and Latitude models, with front- or all-wheel drive, come with a 160-horsepower 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a delightful six-speed manual gearbox.

A 180-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder with a nine-speed automatic transmission is optional. Limited models come only with the 2.4-liter and automatic, as does the top of the line 4x4 Trailhawk. Base prices range from $18,990 for the 4x2 Sport to $26,990 for the Trailhawk.

Manufacturer photo: The 2015 Renegade offers the open-air freedom and iconic styling Jeep is known for in an all-new efficient, trail and urban-friendly size -- designed to take the growing global small SUV segment head-on with its beefy proportions and purposeful design elements

All 4x4 Renegades come with Jeep's Selec-Terrain traction system with driver selectable modes for different conditions: automatic for everyday conditions, as well as snow, sand and mud. The Trailhawk adds a rock setting with a low range that delivers a slow crawl ratio. It also has hill descent control and underside skid plates.

The focus of this review is the $20,990 4x4 Sport model with the 180-hp engine and unobtrusive nine-speed automatic, which has enough gears to keep the engine revs in a sweet spot.

With a fairly wide stance, the tester handled competently on twisting roads, though with a bit of body lean. The steering has a heavy feel, which enhances straight line tracking. For a vehicle with off-road capability, it had a surprisingly supple ride. Unlike the Wrangler, this one could be driven all day without fatigue.

Seats, covered in a sturdy cloth, delivered good support and comfort, and head room throughout was generous, even with the $1,095 optional removable sunroofs. The rear seatbacks fold flat to expand the cargo area to 51 cubic feet. The center rear fifth seating position was an uncomfortable perch with truncated foot space.

This is a superb addition to the Jeep family, intended to be a bit exaggerated and more lovable. It has the credentials to satisfy everyday drivers, as well as die-hard off roaders.

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