First, the rock-hopping hardware. Like its Cherokee big brother, the Renegade Trailhawk package slots in at the top of the model’s food chain, asking $25,995 for entry. In exchange, the Trailhawk boasts nearly an inch of additional ground clearance (8.7 inches total), four skid plates, three tow hooks, five different traction control settings, all-terrain tires on 17-inch wheels, and Jeep’s Active Drive Low 4×4 system, which totes a 20:1 crawl ratio. Sure, it’s a laundry list, but the recipe works.
After having driven a 2015 Wrangler through the exact same off-road course without incident, I hopped in the Trailhawk admittedly a bit nervous about getting hung up on a stump or mired in a bog.
To my surprise, the Renegade bounded along with relative ease—the electric brain of the Selec-Terrain system intervening where my off-road abilities ran out, and hill descent control keeping me from adding a tree to the Renegade’s front grille. Whew.
On only two occasions did the skid plates make their presence known…thankfully, though both bumps I probably could have averted by taking a better line. That aside, the Renegade’s suspension does a good job of sopping up dips and bumps without things feeling “crashy.” The CUV’s generous approach and departure angles (30.5 and 34.3 degrees, respectively) ensure that the grippy tires make first contact with terra firma…rather than the bumpers.
Would you want to attempt scaling any boulders in a Renegade Trailhawk? Probably not, 8.1 inches of wheel travel may have a tough time there. But for deep woods camping or a little overland expedition action, the Renegade definitely fits the bill. And if you do find that you need a winch, the mini Jeep readies two tow hooks in the front and one in the rear.
Renegade models ship with the option of two four-cylinder engines—a 1.4-liter turbo and a larger 2.4-liter unit. If you’re going full bore for the Trailhawk, you’re limited to the 2.4-liter engine, which mates to a nine-speed automatic transmission and provides 180 horsepower and 175 lb.-ft. of torque. When off-road, the torque and 20:1 crawl ratio come into play nicely.
Inside, the Renegade features a well laid out and snug interior, which doesn’t feel overly small. On the dash, passengers get access to Chrysler’s slick Uconnect system, and below that lies the push-button traction control toggles. The heated and umpteen-way power adjustable leather bucket seats are also quite comfy, though they’re part of an optional package.
All told, the Renegade Trailhawk may not be the 4×4 compact crossover for everyone—the Renegade Sport offers a lighter flavor of 4×4 for only $19,995—but for shoppers who want to drive small without sacrificing capability in the tough stuff…it’s a very tempting choice.
Engine: 2.4L 4-Cylinder
Price (base): $25,995