2016 Jeep Renegade Latitude | Test Drive

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Overview:

Jeep launched the Renegade just last year, and, well, it wasn’t welcomed with open arms by the Jeep crowd. Largely based off of and built at the same plant as it’s Fiat cousin, the 500X, the Renegade was seen as a “sheep in wolf’s clothing.” The problem is every time an automaker debuts a new model the hardcore enthusiasts reach for their keyboards and start to complain. No the Renegade does not come with solid axles or lockers, and no you aren’t going to build this little SUV into a rock crawler, but that isn’t the market Jeep is going after here. Compact SUVs are becoming incredibly popular, but until the Renegade came out, there really wasn’t an option that you could take on a weekend camping trip to a Forest Service campground.

I have had an opportunity to rent two Renegade Latitudes over the past three months, putting miles down in city, highway, and BLM road driving conditions.

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What Sets the Latitude Apart:

Jeep’s four standard trim levels for the 2016 Renegade include Sport, Latitude, Limited, and Trailhawk. The Latitude trim level sees the addition of air conditioning, larger touchscreen display, Bluetooth, and roof rails over the Sport (base) trim level. Moving up to the Limited or Trailhawk trim levels offers the driver Leather or “Sport Cloth” upholstery, 18-in or 17-in wheels, and an enhanced all-wheel-drive system found in the Trailhawk.

What We Like:

Expedition Portal, Overland Journal, Car & Driver, AutoTrader, Jalopnik, Fiat 500LI was quite pleased with the amount of interior room the Renegade offers. At 6’ 6” tall I had ample headroom and excellent visibility out of the front and side windows. One major problem I have with other vehicles in this class are the driver’s seat, which tend to be extremely uncomfortable for tall folks like me. I was incredibly relieved when after a three-hour drive in the Renegade that rear end and back were feeling great. In fact, I took an hour break from driving and hopped back in the Renegade for an additional three hours, arriving at home without any aching!

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My initial trip had me driving a nice mix of Wyoming’s highways and dirt/gravel county roads. If you have driven through Central Wyoming, you will know our highways are bumpy and the gravel roads are even worse. This didn’t phase the Renegade in the least bit; as the suspension soaked up every bump but was still firm enough to take corners with confidence. A lot of people compliment the Renegade for its on-pavement handling, but I believe off-pavement driving is really where credit is due. The short-wheelbase and quick turning make the Renegade a lot of fun to drive on the dirt!

What We Don’t Like:

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The two things I do not like about the Renegade are the very things I dislike about most modern cars. First, as a self-described “Person of Height,” I love how automakers provide ample adjustments in the seat for my legroom, but only giving me ¾” of adjustment in the steering wheel is absurd! With the seat in a position to provide enough legroom, my arms and shoulders became fatigued by their needing to be outstretched to grab the steering wheel. To find balance, I needed to move the seat up to the point where my knees were “kissing” the dash. I know I am probably too tall for this class of vehicle, but adding an extra ½” of steering column extension would mean a lot.

Expedition Portal, Overland Journal, Car & Driver, AutoTrader, Jalopnik, Fiat 500LThe second thing I do not like about the Renegade is the shift points on the 9-speed automatic transmission. As with my first gripe, this is something with which every automaker struggles. I know Jeep is trying to balance performance with fuel efficiency and ride comfort, but I feel like the downshifts take forever. Driving in mixed terrain caused the transmission to continually “hunt” for the right gear. The transmission’s saving grace is it’s “Manual” shift mode, which allows the driver to “manually” shift the transmission into the desired gear.

Conclusion:

Expedition Portal, Overland Journal, Car & Driver, AutoTrader, Jalopnik, Fiat 500LDespite my gripes with the transmission and steering wheel adjustments, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the two Renegades I rented. I believe the Renegade is an excellent platform for the weekend warrior who is looking for a fuel-efficient commuter that can tackle mild adventure into the backcountry. If we didn’t have two large dogs to haul around on our camping trips, I could see Krista and I picking one of these up for quick weekend fly fishing and camping trips.




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Author
Living Overland, Toyota Cruisers & Trucks
Beau Johnston is an engineer, writer, and photographer who is dedicated to proving you can find a balance between work and life. He is the Co-Founder and Publisher of Living Overland, and when he isn't working, you can find him exploring National Parks, fly fishing, and camping with his wife (Krista) and their two dogs.


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