Rental Review: 2017 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk
I’ve told epic tales before. Specifically, I’ve told you a story or two about the times I’ve spent at EPIC Hotel in Miami. In your author’s humble opinion, it’s the best hotel in America. The combination of the brilliant customer service, the enormous suites overlooking Biscayne Bay, the rooftop pool, the jazz club, and the best Japanese steakhouse anywhere makes EPIC, well, epic, even before all the kids were saying it.
I stayed at EPIC this past week while working in Miami, and there was only one thing about my week that didn’t fit the description: my rental car — a 2017 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk.
In a place where everything about the experience is finely crafted and authentically brilliant, the Trailhawk is that awkward kid who’s trying too hard to fit in.
You might remember that I was quite fond of the Renegade’s cousin, the Fiat 500X (and that my dear friend, Rebecca, was not). So why did the Renegade Trailhawk leave me feeling like I had just bought a fake Rolex?
Everything about the Trailhawk feels like a lie. Here, let me give you an example.
Look at that. Will you just look at it? Is that “paintball splatter” (according to Jeep) or just fake dirt (which is what it looks like)? Whatever it is, why does it need to be there? To make you feel like you’re doing some sort of Active Lifestyle nonsense when all you’re doing is driving to Whole Foods?
I get it, though — because you paid $27,240 for it (for which you could have purchased a real fucking Jeep Wrangler), you wanna feel like you have some sort of Jeepy cred. I’m sorry. I promised myself before I started that I wouldn’t do that. Jeep me.
Oh, look, it’s Trail Rated. Let’s go conquer the peaks of the Himalayas right now! Or drop the kids off at school. You know. Whichever. In case we accidentally find ourselves climbing over the occasional parking block at the Home Depot, the Renegade Trailhawk’s off-roading capabilities will definitely come in handy.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m aware that the Trailhawk can off-road pretty well. I even took a ride around the off-roading course outside the New York International Auto Show in one earlier this year, and I remember being impressed by its capabilities. But the average Trailhawk is no more likely to be off-roaded than your average C7 Stingray is to be tracked. And even though I intellectually understand this, it still offends me.
But no amount of paintball splatter and aggressively styled red badging will save you from the inglorious combination of the Renegade’s 2.4-liter four-cylinder and FCA’s ubiquitous nine-speed transmission. It seemed kinda quirky and cute that the 500X wasn’t particularly fast. In the ridiculous squared-off packaging of the Renegade, it just made me angry. Jeeps are supposed to be manly. The Trailhawk actually sucks testosterone directly through the sole of your shoe every time that you attempt to accelerate. You put your foot down. And then you wait. And then you wait some more. And then you start to wonder what sort of Mustang you could have bought for this kind of money. (The answer to that: damn near a GT, especially if you opted for the bigger UConnect screen.)
Unfortunately, the fine people at National did not opt for the larger UConnect screen. Nor did they opt for power seats, or any leather anything (with the exception of the wrap on the FCA parts bin steering wheel, which was actually quite nice). The Renegade had one feature that was particularly annoying, too: every time I put it in Park (or when the valet did it), the electric parking brake went on immediately. The first four or five times I shifted from Park to Drive and tried to accelerate, I couldn’t figure out what the hell was going on. After that, I slowly started to hate the Renegade more and more with each press of the “P” button.
Now, with all that being said, you might be wondering: is there anything that you liked about the Renegade? Well, to be honest, there was one thing I liked about it. I liked how much women liked it.
Each and every time a female colleague or passerby saw the yellow eyesore that is the Jeep Renegade, I heard nothing but positive comments.
“Look how cute that thing is!”
“Wow, this is your rental? It’s so cute!”
“How is it? I think they’d be cute for a college kid or something.”
“I could totally see myself driving one of these.”
It was then that I realized Jeep did not make the Renegade Trailhawk for me. No, the Jeep Renegade Trailhawk was squarely aimed at the fairer sex, whether the folks up in Auburn Hills want to admit it or not. And while no self-respecting dude would spend his hard-earned cash on a Renegade when there are actual Jeeps to be had for the same money, it’s not hard to see why a woman with absolutely no interest in doing anything resembling off-roading would find the Renegade compelling.
The strategy appears to be working, too. Here’s a list of some of the vehicles that the Jeep Renegade outsells in America, according to our own Tim Cain’s statistics:
That’s kinda surprising. In fact, FCA sells more Renegades in a month than they do 500Xs in a year. It makes me want to stand in front of the Renegades at Jeep dealerships with a sign that says, “Do you want a better version of this car for less money that will make you look like less of a douche? Follow me to the Fiat store!”
I think the Renegade knew how much I disliked it, and on my way to drop it off, it made me suffer one final indignity. As I left my office, which was 4.2 miles from the airport, the low fuel light came on.
“No matter,” I thought to myself, quite cheerily. “I’ll refill it at the gas station by the rental car center.”
Approximately two miles later, I was stopped dead in the middle of Miami rush hour traffic. For the very first time in my life, I had run out of gas. Hell hath no fury like Miamians who are dealing with the crushing flow of humanity that hits the highways at 4 p.m. on a Friday. I sat there with my blinkers on, cowering apologetically behind the wheel as I tried in vain to get the young lady at National customer service to understand the various letters of my rental agreement number.
“NO, IT’S Z AS IN ‘ZOO!” Z! AS IN ‘ZOO!’ NOT G! NOPE, NOT D! ZEEEEEEE!”
Luckily, at that moment, I was saved by a nice man in a Ford Transit Connect whose only job was to provide roadside assistance to dipshits like me who were blocking traffic. He gave me a gallon of gas, refused to take the $20 bill I offered him, and went merrily on his way. It was then that I realized I had been averaging a whopping 20.4 miles per gallon the whole week, most of which was highway driving. No wonder I was surprised I had run out of gas.
As I dropped it off at the airport, I turned to look at it one more time before I headed back to the terminal. I had to admit that if I saw a young, blonde girl sporting Ray-Ban wayfarers, a ponytail, and a vacant expression behind the wheel, I’d think it was just about perfect.
But don’t call it a Jeep.
[Image: © 2016 Bark M./The Truth About Cars]
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