With the introduction of the 2015 Jeep Renegade and it arriving in dealers soon the staff at Autoweek took it out for a mid-winter test drive. The newly designed Renegade will be here in Ottawa, Ontario at Ottawa Chrysler Jeep Dodge soon! Come in and make your order, to be the first in Ottawa to drive this funky, unique, off-road capable, winter driving machine!
What’s it like to drive?
Jeep brought us to a winter driving course just north of Montreal (and just south of Santa’s toy production facilities staffed by a non-union elf labor force) to try out the Renegade Trailhawk, which was equipped with studless winter tires. Our previous experiences with the Renegade were in sunny Malibu, Calif., but like ourselves, Jeep suspected that the Renegade was more likely to be pushed to the limit in the parts of North America that tend to be frozen solid during the winter months.
And the Renegade doesn’t mind the sort of weather when everything is frozen solid. Even before we got going on the course itself, complete with a skid pad, slalom course and a circuit with a variety of sharp corners, the Renegade negotiated winter rush-hour traffic with ease. The steering is responsive without being overly light, and the chassis still has that nimble feel that we remember from our first meeting with the Renegade last November. In Trailhawk trim, the pint-sized SUV still feels comfortable enough to be a long-distance highway cruiser, with very little road noise intruding into the cabin even with winter tires on. Wind noise is minimal as well, and there is no grinding or whirring sound from the 4×4 chassis even north of 65 mph. For a four-wheel-drive system, this one is pretty low-key, almost to the point of us forgetting it’s there on normal roads.
But there’s no forgetting four-wheel drive when it’s time to hit the figure-eight skid pad. The Renegade stayed impressively flat as we threw it sideways on the icy course, never really letting us lose control. ESC was minimally intrusive as we kept the Renegade sideways through the figure-eight; it didn’t cut power after the first powerslide, letting us recover with a nice helping of throttle. The Renegade stayed equally flat through the short slalom, rounding the cones with minimal body lean.
On the icy circuit, the Renegade stayed well-controlled at speeds approaching 70 mph across several inches of powder above 8 inches of ice. Its short wheelbase made course corrections easy to dial in, and it also helped the SUV get through the hairpin turns without going too wide.
Next up was the off-road course, with several steep hills to attempt. We’d taken the Renegade on an off-road course before, and it had proven itself easy to drive — but that was when the temperature was well above freezing. Out in the frozen tundra, the Trailhawk was just as sure-footed as it climbs a few mounds, and with the short approach and departure angles we were easily able to scale 33 percent grades of frozen dirt. The Renegade’s hill-descent control did all the work as the mini-SUV descended from the 20-foot-tall mounds of dirt and ice, with ABS brakes letting us down easily.
In a segment flooded with premium-priced small SUVs that can barely scurry up a slick driveway with their all-season tires mounted on manhole cover-sized wheels, the unpretentious, funky-styled Renegade is a breath of fresh arctic air.
JAY RAMEY – Jay Ramey is an Associate Editor with Autoweek, and has been with the magazine since 2013. Jay also likes to kayak and bike. http://autoweek.com/article/car-reviews/2015-jeep-renegade-trailhawk-drive-review