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Reviews

2015 Jeep Renegade Walk Around


Jeep Renegade has at least 10 headlight/grille visages, though most are no bigger than a mobile phone. Look at the bulb cover inside the headlight or in the middle of the back-up light and you’ll find one; keep looking inside and out and you will find many more. They’re commonly referred to as Easter eggs, little amusements designers sneak in to keep your attention.

While it has nothing in common with the original Jeep apart from the name and height (it’s nearly four feet longer) Jeep has thrown every traditional styling cue at it while conforming to regulations and standards. Round headlights frame a seven-slot grille, the windshield is fairly flat and upright and has a hill-climbing Willys in the shaded edge, the wheel arches (and some wheel cutouts) echo Willys fenders and protrude slightly from the flattish sides, the side window line drops from the base of the windshield and the ends are kept short.

With the hood, fenders and bumper ahead of the grille and headlights, Renegade looks like an inquisitive puppy dog. The entire lower periphery is plastic so it doesn’t scuff or chip paint and most have fog lamps. The Trailhawk gets unique trim including bright red tow hooks that are each rated for twice the vehicle’s loaded weight (a third in back) and an optional matte-black center hood section if you’re into wallpaper.

The rear is dominated by big, square tail lights with an X-shaped backup light in center. That shape, which is also repeated on the MySky roof and cupholder bases, was inspired by the same-shape reinforcing stamp in the side of fuel jerry cans hung on the side of original Jeeps. Limiteds get twin-pipe chrome exhaust exits, and the muffler below the rear bumper is shaped to resemble a skid plate.

Optional on all is a MySky roof with removable panels; all but Sport offer a power retractable version. The panels stow in a dedicated bag in the subfloor cargo compartment so you can open or close up any time.

Like many in this segment, Renegade has lots of visual character and some amusing paint shades. Of the 10 paints only one is metallic, Limited is too restrained for Omaha Orange or Solar Yellow, and Anvil gray is unique to Trailhawk.

Interior

Renegade’s cabin finishes and materials appear mission appropriate. While the Renegade Sport is clearly the budget model (air conditioning is optional), soft-touch panels and fabric upholstery doesn’t give a penalty-box impression. Top-line Renegade models with two-tone leather, heated steering wheel and bright trim pieces demonstrate size doesn’t equate to cheap.

Your six-foot-plus correspondent fit front and rear, though three of us that size might crimp someone’s knees. We managed more than an hour in back or front with no complaints but did appreciate the lumbar support on the upper-trim models on longer-duration drives. It’s easier to get in and out of the back than we expected and while the data show Cherokee has a five-inch advantage in rear-seat legroom we didn’t notice it. The upgraded rear seat adds a center armrest with cupholders that may prove handy for comfort or separating juvenile delinquents.

There are no small controls in Renegade, everything from the windshield pillars to the shake-the-car grab handle are substantially sized pieces to impart ruggedness. While they’re large, the big pillars are far enough forward that they don’t obstruct the view as much as you’d expect.

An analog speedometer and rev counter (with brightly colored splash to mark redline) frame vertical-dot scales for engine temperature and fuel level. The central trip computer/display is 3.5-inch on lower trims, a reconfigurable 7-inch full-color screen on higher trims. Save the Jeep horn button, the top-flight steering wheel looks, feels and works as well as that in a Chrysler 200 or Grand Cherokee.

As it’s a compact cabin, the switch plates, climate controls and touch-screen stacked amidships are skewed to the right of center but remain within easy reach; it also gives the driver a bit more right-legroom with noticeably impacting passenger comfort. Of course there’s more heritage silliness like a contour map in the stowage pocket liner and “Since 1941” atop technology that clearly wasn’t available in 1941, but all controls are easy to use and navigate, and the only difference between the 6.5-inch touchscreen navigation/infotainment and other Jeep or Chrysler product 8.4-inch Uconnect systems is the screen size and a few hard keys below it.

The top-rung Uconnect 6.5 includes Bluetooth hands-free and streaming, text-to-voice along with 18 standardized text replies, HD radio, 180-watt 6-speaker stereo, navigation with 3D graphics, SiriusXM with Traffic and Travel Link, SD card, and camera display. Uconnect Access works through your smartphone to provide Yelp search and on-demand Wi-Fi hotspot, among others, and an app for your mobile sets up things like remote-start (not with manual gearbox).

Drive controls are centered around the shifter; automatics use the racier downshift forward, upshifts back on the manual gate.

The cargo floor at hatch-opening height is a removable panel that can (except Trailhawk) be stowed a few inches higher for dual-load decks. The space beneath can accommodate roof panels or small items, and a temporary-use spare is available for most, a full-size for some. Cargo capacity is 18.5 cubic feet behind the rear seat and 50.8 behind front seats, just a few percent less than the much longer Cherokee. A solid (as opposed to roll-up) cargo area cover is available.

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