As Jeep prepares to celebrate its 75th anniversary, it has launched an SUV in New Zealand harking back to the famous Willys MB that made its mark during World War II.
While the Willys MB was produced from 1941-45 and evolved into the civilian Jeep CJ, the Renegade is a compact SUV that does combat in the off-road stakes against the likes of Toyota RAV4 and Suzuki’s Vitara.
The New Zealand distributor of Renegade, Fiat Chrysler NZ, decided to import one model, the tough-as-nails Trailhawk, that is built to take on sand, snow, mud and step inclines.
The Renegade is built on an all-new platform and features Jeep’s “small-wide 4x4 architecture”.
It weighs 1550kg, is 4259mm long, 1805mm wide, and 1697mm high, with the ride height enforced with the 17in alloys and trapezoidal wheel arches.
The Renegade Trailhawk was powered by Jeep’s 2.4-litre four-cylinder Tigershark engine producing 129kW of power and 230Nm of torque. Paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission, the Trailhawk is priced from $49,990.
Standard safety equipment for the Trailhawk included blind spot monitoring, reverse parking camera, rear parking sensor, and rear cross path detection.
Inside, the Trailhawk has a nine-speaker BeatsAudio system, a 6.5in touchscreen infotainment system. The Trailhawk is also beefed up over the standard Jeep Renegade to make it trail rated, meaning it’s certified totackle some of the toughest off-road tracks.
To handle that, it has hill descent control, and the brand’s Select-Terrain system that has five modes: auto, snow, sand, mud and rock — so basically you’re covered for any scenario (except maybe for a Zombie apocalypse).
It also has skid plates, a rear tow hook, 480mm water fording depth, and up to 907kg towing ability. While the Renegade Trailhawk is more than capable with its wading depth and tough attitude, Jeep has also brought a wonderful fun factor to the SUV.
The grille is all Willys Jeep, the front headlights give it a ‘smile’ appeal, it has X-shaped rear lights, and all around are wonderful little nods to the vehicle’s heritage.
Tiny decals abound on the Renegade: a Willys Jeep driving up the front windscreen, a Sasquatch on the rear window, a spider on fuel cap. The tachometer gets a splash of mud instead of redline and the rubber tray behind the media centre is moulded with the topography map of Moab, Utah, a famous off-road track.
All that adds up to creating a Jeep that looks dinky but is also fun. It brought a smile to my face every time I walked towards it, and it had driving capability for not only off-road but also around town.
When Driven attended the international launch early last year in Northern California, the Trailhawk demonstrated the ‘Rock’ setting, which is essentially a low mode with a 20:1 crawl ratio.
“This makes the Trailhawk remarkably capable off road, tackling the surprisingly challenging course at Hollister Hills 4WD park,” our reviewer said at the launch.
Off the dirt tracks of Northern California and on the rough streets of Auckland, the Renegade is a capable urban vehicle with a second row 60:40 split seat, and 350 litres of storage waiting in the boot.
The Renegade Trailhawk may wins points for being an allrounder but there are some negatives.
While the cabin has plenty of headroom, the rear legroom is limited if the driver is of average height, and the nine-speed transmission has a lag between third and fourth gears.
The Trailhawk is also galvanising in its looks.
Though I may be a fan of it, there were a few negative comments from my colleagues and a few puzzled stares from other motorists. Still, with 75 years of heritage behind it, the Jeep Renegade wouldn’t be fazed by such negatives.