2015 Jeep Renegade Latitude Review - The Sibling Complex
2015 Jeep Renegade Latitude 4x4
There are myriad ways to improve SUVs and Jeep won’t do any of them to the Wrangler.
Instead, the Wrangler remains hopelessly impractical, wonderfully unapologetic and, to own, like living with a Libertarian: there are no compromises and everything is wonderful when you play by their rules.
Thankfully for the rest of us, who welcome a little compromise, there are other Jeeps. A crowd of SUVs — and soon to be pickup — will sport the seven-slot grille for mountains of money to keep FCA running well into the black at the moment. When it’s convenient, those cars are compared to the Wrangler to tout their capabilities. When it’s not, well, let’s remember the Compass.
Like Robert Hunter said (kind of): The problem with the 2015 Jeep Renegade is the problem with me.
I have a theory that despite the out-there sheet metal (compared to the rest of the Jeep lineup), the paintball-splattered decals and funky neo-nostalgic look, the Renegade isn’t meant to attract the newly licensed, zit-faced driver. Jeep may be going after the old Honda Element buyers, the kind of people who ask for a senior discount at Wendy’s for their cup of chili and small frosty. The Renegade’s clunky curves and deliberate “heritage cues” are just enough to be cute. And I mean cute in the same way grandmothers mean cute.
From the outside, the Jeep Renegade oozes kitsch. Littered with a half dozen Easter Eggs that I couldn’t care less about, there are a few functional features such as the MySky removable roof panels (which require a remarkably heavy key or equivalent Torx screwdriver to remove) and large greenhouse that I appreciate.
Mark Stevenson makes a great point that the Renegade is longer than you’d imagine: it’s longer than the Wrangler and only one foot shorter than a Wrangler Unlimited. Still, the Renegade has short front and rear overhangs, large wheel arches and 118.6 cubic feet of total space inside. That figure is slightly smaller than the Wrangler’s 120 cubes, but the case could easily be made that the Renegade’s packaging is much better — but more on that later.
Access to cargo in the rear is easy and around hip level (30 inches), and the elevated seating position combined with a steeply raked windshield, lower belt line and higher roof offer better outward visibility than others in its segment.
Clearly, the Renegade isn’t exactly aerodynamic. Its boxy shape and upright posture collect plenty of wind on the interstate, with a measurable amount of road noise coming through the cabin.
Exterior appearances mean everything, and in the segment next to the Kia Soul and Nissan Juke, the Renegade doesn’t make the fatal flaw of being boring. If anything, the car’s excessive cuteness is an asset now (even if it’s a liability later); polarizing — but effective.
There are nicer places to be than inside a Jeep Renegade, we can admit that to each other now. A red Renegade Latitude darkened my doorway for two days before I finally had the courage to turn the key (figuratively, not literally) and fire up the cute ‘ute for a run up into the mountains.
Upon landing my ample rear in the Renegade’s budget thrones, I immediately thought: “This could be worse.” That’s true: Jeep will sell an $18,000 Renegade without air conditioning, hand-crank windows, steel wheels and misery as standard.
Inside the Latitude, the Renegade gets a respectable 5-inch screen, power driver and passenger seats, remote start and cloth buckets. Trimmed respectably, the Latitude is firmly in the middle of the road — and it’s better that way. I’ve been in Trailhawk-spec versions of the Renegade, and can report that it’s like tequila: paying more for a Renegade doesn’t mean you’ll feel better in the morning.
The 40/20/40 split folding rear seats come in handy for rear passengers who want a cupholder, or for a family dog to poke its head through while in the cargo area. I could fold my 6-foot-3-frame into the rear seats sans eagle pose.
The hip point is especially high in the Renegade and outward visibility is better than advertised. Its tall position and upright view make the Renegade a much easily maneuvered car, and more approachable than a Juke.
Or maybe looking out the window is better than scanning the insides. There are clever packaging tricks, such as putting the middle air vents on top of the dash, but overall, the Renegade feels halfway there. The shifter and speaker accents visually break up the sea of black, but look like poor aftermarket parts. The climate controls are FCA bin materials and there are just too many blanks in the center console.
The Renegade’s tech headline may well be its 7-inch multifunction display in the gauge cluster, which is available in Limited and Trailhawk trims. The display is bright and easily readable, a gee-whiz technology touch that starts at $24,795.
If you don’t spring for the Trailhawk or Limited, the Renegade is on par with much of its competition. In all trims, the Renegade sports Jeep’s Uconnect infotainment suite, a relatively unfussy but long-in-the-tooth entertainment unit that varies based on price and trim. In standard Sport models, a basic AM/FM radio with auxiliary ports comes standard. For $2,385 more, buyers upgrade to a 5-inch touchscreen display with Bluetooth connectivity, satellite radio, and a backup camera, among other upgrades. In Latitude, Limited, and Trailhawk versions, the system can be improved further to include navigation and a slightly larger, 6.5-inch display.
The 5-inch screen in the Latitude is passable without ambition. Like most of my college career.
The Renegade’s first priority is likely efficiency above anything else. The two available 4-cylinder engines, which produce 160 and 180 horsepower, deliver mileage in the high 20s, according to the EPA.
The bigger engine, a 2.4-liter four, dubbed TigerShark, was taken from the Chrysler 200, Jeep Cherokee, and other global cars and married to the same 9-speed automatic transmission in those previously mentioned cars. That gearbox has had a particularly difficult birth — when it first appeared in the Cherokee, it seemed wildly confused — but the transmission’s behavior is slightly better in the Renegade. The 2.4-liter engine’s 180 horsepower and 175 pounds feet of torque rating are only slightly more potent than the smaller motor’s might, but the TigerShark can tow 2,000 pounds and drinks regular fuel. With 4WD, the 2.4-liter returns 21/29/24.
Both engines are surprisingly competent in their respective arenas, although neither engine is particularly overpowering. If you’re expecting to need 4WD at some point in the future, you may want to lean toward the 2.4-liter engine, although there’s no way to avoid the 9-speed in that configuration.
And it’s the gearbox that lets the Renegade down, for now. Up at 11,000 feet, the Renegade huffed and puffed to 75 mph, but only after coaxing. The transmission hunted, stalked and traipsed through its gears before finding the right cog — often at the expense of speed. Going up the mountain, I set the cruise control at 75 mph only to find the car flummoxed around 69 mph. Manually pushing the gearbox into lower gears was the right solution, and I finally managed the speed limit — albeit at a penalty to mpg.
In short, the 2.4-liter is fine. The gearbox is a different story.
There will be no holes in a crossover-crazed market for a domestic automaker. As Jeep continues its march toward obscene profitability, they could put a Power Wheels motor on a Radio Flyer with a seven-slot grille and sell plenty. The bar for the Renegade is impossibly high when you have V-8 powered Grand Cherokees and Wranglers with 300 horsepower — only 10 years ago it was 190 horsepower.
The Renegade is adequate, albeit a little tied up by its transmission. It can pull up a mountain pass with some inspiration, and a heavy right foot, but around town it manages the slog just fine. There’s considerable lag (and noise) before it finally hikes up its pants and gets along, but the same could be said about comparable engines.
In reality, the Renegade suffers from having more popular, more potent stable mates that run and climb with more gusto. The Fiat 500X, which the Renegade shares a platform, doesn’t have the same encumbrances namely because it doesn’t have a seven slot grille.
(Interior photo courtesy Jeep)
More by Aaron Cole
Latest Car ReviewsRead more
Latest Product ReviewsRead more
- EBFlex Pretty awesome this thread is almost universally against this pile of garbage. Tesla really missed the mark.
- FreedMike I suppose that in some crowded city like Rome or Tokyo, there's a market for a luxurious pint-size car. I don't think they'll be able to give them away here in the U.S.
- TMA1 How much did exchange rates affect this decision? The Renegade is imported from Italy. I'm wondering if that's what caused the price to reach within a few hundred of the much bigger Compass. Kind of a no-brainer to pick the larger, more modern vehicle.
- CEastwood Everytime I see one of these I think there's a dummie who could have bought a real car , but has to say look at me driving this cool thing I can't drive in the rain like an actual motorcycle that I should have bought in the first place ! It's not Batman I see driving these - it's middle age Fatman .
- SilverCoupe I should be the potential audience for this (current A5 owner, considering an S5 in the future), but I can't say it excites me. I have never liked the vertical bars in the grilles of sporting Mercedes models, for one thing. The interior doesn't speak to me either.I would be more likely to consider a BMW 4 Series, though not the current version with the double Edsel grille. Still, I suppose it would be worth a look when the time comes to replace my current vehicle.