THE GUIDELINES from Chrysler Daimler at Rocklea were pretty straight forward: “Put the Renegade through any test you like. You won’t find it lacking”. It was a pretty ambitious call, but after spending some time with the car, both on- off-road, I have to admit that the Cherokee Renegade auto is a very capable vehicle.
Smooth and powerful on the bitumen, the Jeep was just as soft riding and very hard to stop in the off-road situation as well. Gullies, washouts, muddy going… I took the car through the lot and at no time did the powerful engine and well engineered suspension let me down.
The Cherokee Renegade is the right size for many buyers. Just to get its size into perspective, the Renegade has a wheel base of 2649mm and over all length of 4496mm. By way of comparison the Pajero has a wheel base of 2780mm and overall length of 4775mm, while the Nissan Patrol’s wheel base is 2970mm with an overall length of 4885mm.
As you can see, the new Cherokee is a little shorter on the exterior than the Pajero, but that short wheel base can make off-road work very easy, given the generous approach and departure angles of 36 and 20 degrees respectively. And although the ground clearance of around 200mm might be considered a limiting factor for off-road work, you have to remember that there’s absolutely nothing below the Jeep to hang up on obstacles. The under-body pan is as clean as a whistle, unlike some 4x4 vehicles where you can look below the door sills and see things protruding, inviting damage from rocks and the like.
The Jeep suspension is as good as it comes, too. There are coil springs all round linked to low pressure gas shockers, and with an independent front suspension plus a solid rear axle the ride – even on deep corrugations or washouts – is one that keeps passengers thoroughly insulated from bumps and thumps. I purposely hammered over some very rough sections of gravel road and the Jeep was completely unfussed. It was pleasing to note that there was very little feedback through the steering wheel, too.
Just an aside, Jeep have come ahead in leaps and bounds in latter years. The company’s link to Chrysler-Daimler (and parent Mercedes Benz) has proved very fruitful, with a marked improvement in the vehicles right across the board. This is reflected in such things as the very high level of finish, fit of exterior panels and interior trim, and the way the new Cherokee provides drivers with high comfort levels through excellent design.
I found the Renegade to be one of the most comfortable four-wheel-drives in the business. It’s a five seater with lots and lots of interior room for both front and rear seat passengers alike. The front seats are beauties. Thankfully, Jeep have not skimped on the size of both driver and passenger seats, and the wide, firm and very supportive seats make long stints at the wheel an absolute pleasure. Back seat passengers don’t miss out either, as the padding there is deep and quite firm as well.
Inside the Cherokee Renegade, both driver and passengers are pampered. There are electric windows and mirror controls, a great sound system and a general feeling of spaciousness due to ample head and side room. A carpeted floor and doors that close with a solid ‘chunk’ are part of the experience as is the particularly good sound system. Air-conditioning and dual air bags are standard as well.
Information on the vehicle’s fuel consumption and management systems is available on a central easily-monitored overhead console. It’s always nice to know how far you can travel on the remaining fuel, at a given present rate of consumption. On the highway the fuel consumption readout hovered around or below the 10km per litre mark.
Walking up to the Renegade and pressing the ‘unlock’ button on the remote door control will see no less than four lights come on inside the car. And when you go to depart they come on as well, as you open the door. The headlights even stay on for a few seconds as well, to further assist. Easing down a sun visor will reveal a lighted mirror for both driver and passenger.
The silver Renegade I reviewed was an ultra-smooth auto – a five-speed job that changed gears so rapidly and with such smoothness that it was very difficult to detect changes once past second gear. Only the tachometer told the story – engine revs climbing and then dropping with each change. At a highway cruising speed of 100km/h the tacho showed a miserly 2000rpm, the engine doing it very easy in fifth gear.
New for the Renegarde was Jeep’s acclaimed 2.8-litre four-cylinder CRD (Common Rail Direct injection) turbo charged inter-cooled diesel engine. This potent power-plant features 16 valves (four per cylinder) and double overhead cam shafts. The common rail injection system makes use of a pressure pump to deliver fuel to electronically controlled injectors via a single fuel rail, and the people at Jeep claim that the pump used in their system is capable of delivering fuel at almost twice the pressure of previous designs. What this technology means to you and I is that the engine churns out 110kW of power and 360Nm of torque which, put simply, means that the Jeep has real get up and go.
I noted that as soon as the Renegade’s gear selector was in ‘D’ and the pedal was depressed, the Jeep moved forward very smartly. In truth, the response of the relatively small capacity (by competitor’s standards) 2.8-litre engine was remarkable, both in linear acceleration and when towing. And it’s very frugal to run, too, which is a big bonus when we consider that power and economy seldom go hand in hand.
The new Renegade has a macho look about it thanks to fancy, ‘bolted on’ look wheel flares, decent amounts of moulded side body protection panelling, side steps, and that neat roof bar with its powerful halogen spot lights was a great asset when travelling along country highways at night time.
I found the Cherokee Renegade 2.8 auto to be a very comfortable and easy to drive car. The driver will be impressed with the performance of the engine and the way the car picks up smoothly off the mark. There is absolutely no turbo lag – the bugbear of the manual vehicle I tested around six months back – and the power of the engine is matched brilliantly by the smooth five-speed auto unit. In off-road mode the driver simply moves the console mounted selector to the appropriate position and the four-wheel-drive system incorporates a rear Trac-Lok limited slip differential.
Loading up the Jeep for a weekend away is as easy as lifting the top section of the two-part rear door upwards, the lower section to the side. If more room is required within the cargo area it’s simply a matter of split folding (60/40) a section of the rear seat.
In summing up I’d give the auto Cherokee Renegade top marks, both for sheer performance and in regard to comfort levels. On long highway runs the firm seating and general ease of handling ensure that travelling is a pleasure; while around the city the snappy engine and gear box make keeping up with traffic as easy as if driving a family sedan. Given that most four-wheel-drives don’t leave the city much any way the compact Jeep with its very small turning circle is a treat to sneak in and out of tight super market car parks; a facet of its character I really appreciated.
1) The Cherokee Renegade made short working of towing a camper trailer.
2) The four cylinder turbo engine was a brilliant performer.
3) On the track. The new style Jeep is a tad macho but families will love the ride and easy road manners of the Cherokee. Like the lights?Reads: 995