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Jeep Renegade Trailhawk 2016 review

Derek Ogden road tests and reviews the 2016 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk.

The new Jeep Renegade Trailhawk lives up to its name by not fitting in with rival compact sports utility vehicles.

Designed to desert the bitumen for some stiff off-road stuff, there’s nothing namby-pamby about this little Jeep.

On the other hand, it’s no utilitarian bare bones transportation, owing little to Wells Fargo or Cobb and Co in the comfort and convenience department. Designed in the United States and put together by Fiat in Italy, it calls on high level automotive technology coupled with European style.

In a bid by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to expand the Jeep brand globally, the Trailhawk includes genuine off-road capability, the open-air option of a removable roof system, the segment debut of a nine-speed automatic transmission, three engine options, good refinement and up to date technology.

Renegade designers started with a clean sheet and told to come up with something they would aspire to own.

The Trailhawk is the top-flight model of the new Renegade range – others are Sport, Longitude and Limited - which went on sale in Australia early this year. It wasn’t cheap and buyers said so - and there have been price cuts across the Renegade board; $1500 in the case of the Trailhawk putting it at a neat $40,000, plus on-road costs.

Designers were told to create an SUV that would showcase the Jeep brand’s first entry into this segment. At the same time offering the open-air freedom that dates back to its 1941 roots with the Willys MB Jeep. No pressure.

It’s Jeep, with the seven slot radiator grille; it’s Wrangler, with body-colour vertical windscreen surround providing visual strength; large circular headlamps tucked under the bonnet; and square tail lamps, featuring a new ‘X’ theme inspired by the Jerry cans carried by the original 1941 Willys.

The Trailhawk has best-in-class approach and departure angles for excellent off-road performance.

‘My Sky’ roof panels stow flat in the cargo space to provide passengers with a feeling of open-air freedom.

Wind tunnel testing came up with integrated, aerodynamic-tuned body and underbelly pans and sill spats; tail lamp designed to kick air off the side of the body. Even the alloy wheels that were tested for aerodynamic efficiency.

Renegade designers started with a clean sheet and told to come up with something they would aspire to own. The result is the Tek-Tonic theme defined by the meeting of soft and tactile forms with rugged and functional detail.

The steering wheel has a thick rim section including integrated audio, voice, and vehicle controls. For cold-weather, a 360-degree heated steering wheel is available.

Seats are ergonomically designed to support the body and are trimmed with cloth or leather. The Renegade includes a second-row of 60 / 40 split seats, or optional 40 / 20 /40 split.

In addition to 351 litres of cargo storage (1297 litres with rear seats folded flat), the vehicle neatly stows the removable My Sky roof panels in a bag under a two-position rear cargo area shelf. A fold-forward front passenger seat adds even more space.

The instrument cluster includes a large analogue speedometer and tachometer featuring a paintball-splatter graphic, a nod to the design team’s weekend adventures.

Straddling both gauges is a 7.0-inch TFT display that provides full-colour vehicle information, while the lower instrument panel combines climate controls, a dampened glove box and the media centre with USB, auxiliary input and 12-volt power connectivity for mobile devices.

outing its tough-Jeep design DNA and capability is a rubberised tray behind the media centre, moulded with a topography map of Moab, Utah – a legendary off-road spot for Jeep enthusiasts.

The Trailhawk has FCA’s 2.4-litre Tigershark four-cylinder engine with the MultiAir electro-hydraulic fully variable valve-lift system. It produces 129kW and 230Nm.

Paired exclusively to a segment first nine-speed automatic transmission, the wide ratio spread delivers a first-gear ratio of 4.71:1 for low-end performance, and small gear-ratio steps.

The Renegade Trailhawk carries seven standard airbags, including seat-mounted side pelvic-thorax airbags and full-length side-curtain airbags.

Advanced safety features include optional Forward Collision Warning-Plus that deploys brakes to alert the driver about a potential impact and assists with driver response; Lane Sense Departure Warning-Plus which instigates electronic power steering to deliver an alert and help the driver with corrective action and Blind-spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Path traffic detection.

Standard equipment includes a ParkView reverse camera with guidelines and electronic stability control with electronic roll mitigation.

There’s no swoopy-coupe roof line to the new Jeep Renegade, as in many SUVs today, the flat sides of the vehicle presenting a cabin with generous head room in all seating positions.

The My Sky open-air roof set-up needs a bit of bookwork to figure out. A front panel has the traditional tilt-and-slide opening mechanism, while front and rear panels can be removed altogether, giving a real open-air driving experience.

The honeycomb glass fibre polyurethane panels are light enough to be manageable and stow away in a bag in the rear cargo area. The My Sky roof system features an embossed ‘X’ in the roof - a throw-back to the fuel cans carried by the original Willy’s Jeep.

On the road the nine-speed automatic gearbox of the Trailhawk has virtually seamless operation reminiscent of a constantly variable transmission.

Backing this up is Jeep Active Drive Low which automatically switches between 2WD and 4WD at any speed to deliver yaw correction during ‘dynamic’ events and improves understeer and oversteer conditions.

Off road, Jeep’s Selec-Terrain traction-control system allows the driver to dial in the desired setting for optimum performance, from Auto, Snow, Sand, Mud, to Rock modes. The Trailhawk also includes Selec-Speed Control with Hill-descent Control. The result is trail rated badging.


Forty grand might seem a bit much for a compact SUV, some of which tip the scales around $30,000; on the other hand, European rivals can cost up to $30K more. So the Trailhawk’s true off-road status – it has mastered the Rubicon Trail – and extensive equipment package puts it in a class of its own.

Does Jeep's new Renegade have enough rough-and-tumble appeal for you? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Click here to see more 2016 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk pricing and spec info.

Pricing guides

Based on 23 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
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Range and Specs

Limited 1.4L, PULP, 6 SP DUAL-CLUTCH AUTO $15,500 – 21,890 2016 Jeep Renegade 2016 Limited Pricing and Specs
Longitude 1.4L, PULP, 6 SP DUAL-CLUTCH AUTO $14,200 – 20,020 2016 Jeep Renegade 2016 Longitude Pricing and Specs
Longitude 75th Anniversary 1.4L, PULP, 6 SP DUAL-CLUTCH AUTO $15,900 – 22,110 2016 Jeep Renegade 2016 Longitude 75th Anniversary Pricing and Specs
Sport 1.4L, PULP, 6 SP DUAL-CLUTCH AUTO $12,800 – 18,480 2016 Jeep Renegade 2016 Sport Pricing and Specs