2015 Jeep Renegade Sport 4x4 Quick Spin [w/video]
Fun Is This Baby Jeep's Middle Name
EngineTurbo 1.4L I4
Power160 HP / 184 LB-FT
Curb Weight3,183 LBS
Cargo50.8 CU-FT (max)
MPG24 City / 31 HWY
As Tested Price$23,775
Instead, I submit the turbocharged, 1.4-liter base engine and its accompanying six-speed manual, a position that was reinforced after a recent stint behind the wheel of a very basic Sport 4x4. Not only do you get a fair amount of the Trailhawk's off-road ability – the Selec-Terrain system and a 4WD Lock mode are standard, but you'll be without the 20:1 crawl ratio and Rock off-road mode – you'll also enjoy a more dynamically interesting powertrain. Read on to see why the force-induced Renegade might just be the way to go.
- My first date with the Renegade was on the mostly empty, winding roads of northern California. There, the 1.4-liter turbocharged inline-four with 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque felt fine – with no traffic and few stoplights along the drive route, it was easy to keep the engine on boil. But this engine isn't as enjoyable in day-to-day suburban traffic. Power arrives suddenly – peak torque comes between 2,500 and 4,000 rpm – and if you don't use it, you lose it. There's not much oomph in the higher end of the rev range.
- With such a peaky powerband, it's easy to get caught flat-footed if you're not paying attention. Thankfully the manual transmission makes it simple to stay engaged and in the correct gear. The stick-shift is enjoyable to use, with a firm clutch that's easy to modulate and shift action that isn't sloppy or vague.
- The 1.4-liter engine sounds good. Turn down the stereo, stomp on the throttle, and you'll be treated to a delicious turbo whistle and a smooth exhaust note. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I want Mopar to offer the Fiat 500 Abarth's exhaust on the Renegade. It'd be fun.
- If you do prefer the stereo, know that the Renegade's standard four-speaker unit is weak. Base models don't offer Bluetooth or satellite radio, but you can add both of those luxuries, two extra speakers, and a five-inch touchscreen for just $695. Not a bad bargain.
- The Koni frequency selective dampers do an excellent job of managing both small, frequent imperfections (like freeway expansion joints), and the bigger potholes that still haven't been fixed after the havoc of Detroit's winter. It's not all good, though. The Renegade has a lot of roll. Place the blame on the standard 16-inch wheels and the thick sidewalls of the 215/65-series tires. Larger 17- and 18-inch rolling stock is available on more premium trim levels.
- The MySky removable roof panels are cool. But in the interest of full disclosure, I did encounter a pretty serious problem while attempting to take the front section of the roof off. After using the accompanying key to unlock the panel, I pulled down on the release lever only to have a small, yellow piece fall off – the handle that releases a covering for the keyhole. That made putting the panel back on a challenge, and removing it again didn't seem possible. I'd like to stress this happened in very basic operation – I wasn't forcing anything. According to Jeep spokesperson Angela Bianchi, other pre-production Renegades have exhibited a similar issue, but the design of the roof panels has since been updated for full-scale production models. In other words, don't expect to encounter this problem if you add the baby Jeep to your driveway. Executive producer Adam Morath explains more about the MySky system in the attached video (which was recorded before this was written, hence the comments about the tab breaking).
- The Renegade Sport starts at $18,990 with front-wheel drive. If you want the all-wheel-drive variant (you do), that's an extra $2,000. From there, this tester adds the $1,495 Power and Air Group (air conditioning, powered/heated mirrors, and cruise control), the $1,095 MySky system, and black roof rails, for an extra $195. That brings the total price to $23,775. For comparison, you can get a similarly equipped Kia Soul for $24,215, a mid-level Honda HR-V EX AWD for $24,095, or a Chevrolet Trax LT AWD for $24,820, all of which offer significantly more standard equipment. They can't match that Jeep on ruggedly cute style, though.
The Jeep Renegade is more refined with its larger, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. But this 1.4-liter/manual setup is far more entertaining. It keeps the driver engaged and focused, and it can still be had with all-wheel drive. In short, the Renegade Sport is a whole lot of fun this way, and is a great package that undercuts the competition. No, it doesn't come packed with as much equipment as its classmates. But what it lacks in standard features, it makes up for in behind-the-wheel joy. Now, if Jeep would just build a turbocharged Trailhawk...
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