Over the past several months I’ve tested different Jeep Renegades in cold, snow and sand in Chicago and Tampa, with Altitude, Latitude and Trailhawk in between.
For 2018, the silhouette of the Renegade is a carry over. The SUVs leading-edge sports seven grille slots flanked by the familiar twin-round headlights. The wheel openings have the squared-off Jeep look, and Jeep family style wheels.
Stylists pulled a “where’s Waldo game” by including small Jeep cues like a small Jeep etched into both headlights, a graduated Jeep sunshade around the windshield, big Family Feud-style “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.
Under the flat hood, Renegade has a 2.4-liter I4, 16-valve MultiAir engine with multiport fuel injection. It’s backed with a 9-speed automatic that is more geared for on-road driving than off.
The Renegade’s cabin translates the Jeep look to a compact-car space. All of the various Renegades I tested received new seat fabrics, colors and bezel treatments. From Orange tints and bright splatter fabrics to crisp heated leather/cloth seats my test 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 Tampa Renegade tester, but not on my Latitude model. I feel you need them to have more of the ‘open’ experience. 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, the Renegade exhibits tall-wagon sway and slightly sloppy cornering. The brakes and steering are adequate, but on-road feel and response could be tightened up.
On smooth roads, the ride quality suffered as the test vehicles were shod with 18-inch wheels, but in sand and light off-road trails they excel. Each of my testers were 4×4 models (4×2 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 and what I call a “traction dial” (Select-Terrain w/rock crawl) that can be set to deal with mud, snow, sand, or steep downhill descents.
Smash the accelerator and the engine springs to life, but brings cabin noise with the acceleration. Unfortunately, there are too many gears and not enough engine as it kind of “loafs” too long before upshifts. A 7- or even a 6-speed would probably be better and not affect fuel economy too bad as the 9-speed doesn’t provide great numbers.
The 2018 Renegade Latitude definitely has some off-road limitations, but if you need more, Trailhawk can accommodate, but Latitude does provide space for four passengers and some camping gear. It’s a good “starter” Jeep, or better Jeep for young teen drivers.