On the Road: Jeep Renegade Trailhawk
When a car company acquires a new parent, you expect to eventually see a blending of the two company's DNA.
When Chrysler left the cold, Teutonic embrace of Mercedes Benz, and joined the fun loving Italians at Fiat, it was only a matter of time.
First came the delightful new Dodge Dart which has underpinnings from Alfa Romeo, which means it actually handles like a sporty sedan should.
And now, a brand that is sacred to many, including me, has gotten the Fiat touch.
The little Fiat 500 compact has a big brother with bulging muscular flanks, and four-wheel-drive and it's called the 500X.
That car is the basis for the newest Jeep, the Renegade.
It is part of an automotive segment with the unfortunate label of Cute-Utes. It includes the Kia Soul, Nissan Juke, Chevy Trax and others.
And now, we have the Renegade, which, if you order the wrong color, like orange, can look like a Pokemon character.
I confess, I'm not smitten by the shape, looking too much like the Kia for this old Jeep guy. But as an English auto writer once observed, you don't see the outside of your car when your driving, only the inside.
And inside, the Renegade is everything I wish my old Jeep was. It is full of cool, Jeep styling cues and useful space and storage that it is actually more useful than the classic Wrangler inside.
The beefed up, butch, Trailhawk edition, is the most off-road capable, and it shows. Jacked up to 8.7 inches of ground clearance, with a 4-wheel-drive system using Jeep's Active Drive Low, the Trailhawk version can creep over virtually anything in front of it.
Lesser Renegades get the turbocharged, 1.4-liter four cylinder mill which can be ordered with a lovely 6-speed standard transmission. But the Trailhawk can only be had with a 180-horsepower, 2.4-liter four with a 9-speed automatic. I wish you could get the little turbo and the manual because it actually has a bit more torque.
Now, this is a truck that is meant to take you to where the deer and antelope play, but we took it on the road for a 3-hour highway trip, and other than a bit of engine noise, and noise from the aggressive off-road tires, it was a delight.
The Renegade starts at just over $18,000 for a two-sheel-drive model up to the Trailhawk that starts at $27-large. Our tester had the upgraded touch screen and audio package, navigation, heated everything, and a cool double sunroof which takes you in the $30-grand neighborhood. That's a neighborhood that includes Wranglers and Cherokees so you have choices to make.
I like the little truck, at least on the inside. Outside, it's a bit too precious for me, but off-road, it's a little beast and will take you places its competitors can't.