Brett Solomon is an editor and professional freelancer who writes about new models and the vehicle elecronic aftermarket. See additional images below.
I recently had the opportunity to try out Jeep’s new Renegade for the weekend. Clearly a much more respectable representation of the Jeep name than the non-lamented Jeep Compass, the Renegade is still primed for aftermarket upgrades.
From the factory, the Jeep is no slouch in the off-road department, even without the Trailhawk guise. With over 7-inches of ground clearance and 19-inches of water fording capability, the Jeep is a ripe little platform—it can give most people what they need while still having a daily driver that is not as hardcore as a Wrangler. Moreover, it is much more secure being parked in urban areas with the steel top.
I tested a Renegade Limited 4x4 model. Although there is a two-wheel drive 1.6-liter turbo Renegade available (and I did have brief drive in that model too—it is a lot fun with the manual transmission), although most hardcore enthusiast buyers will opt for the 2.4-liter Tigershark 4x4 in either Trailhawk or Limited guise. My loaded tester came in at $31,390. The Limited model provides all the creature comforts enthusiasts would desire, including a backup camera, a 7-inch color display in the instrument cluster that can give all sorts of ancillary data, including transmission temperature and detailed fuel economy, a 5-inch touchscreen radio display, heated leather seats and a heated steering wheel. This gets the price tag to about $26,800.
If you go all-in, the Advanced Technology Group includes Lane Departure Warning Plus, ParkSense Rear Park Assist System, and the better 6.5-inch navigation radio with UConnect access and apps. Throw in an alarm, blind spot detection, and 18 x 7-inch aluminum polished wheels and you wind up a little over $31K. So, if it were me and I were playing typical aftermarket Jeep enthusiast and tinkerer, I would shell out the $26,800 for the Limited and have all of the creature comforts I need.
I loved the 40/20/40 rear seats with pass through—it makes it so easy for ski enthusiasts. Although I am giving up some of the safety features that get packaged in with other packages (and it may be tough to find one set up like this at the dealership), I would then turn to the aftermarket for a modest lift kit.
I enjoyed the luxury of the Limited even though I missed the nice skid plates and tow hooks found on the Trailhawk.
Turning to the vehicle dashboard and infotainment, I would personally elect to look to the aftermarket for an Alpine or Pioneer smart head units featuring the latest in infotainment, navigation, and connectivity. The dashboard will easily accommodate any double-DIN platform aftermarket head unit.
I would also add a subwoofer in the false floor in the cargo area because the Renegade needs some bass.
The Renegade delivered me over 26 miles per gallon with a nine-speed transmission. The transmission did make some hard shifts and clunks—aftermarket tuners would have the opportunity to make it firmer for off-road drivers.
So, the choice really for your Renegade customers is: take the Trailhawk and add infotainment and luxury features, or stick with the Limited and add some tasteful wheels, tires, and infotainment? Either way the aftermarket will be primed to provide much more bang-for-the-buck compared with the factory offerings.