If you’re a novice off roader thinking about the right vehicle that’s both super capable and fun to drive, read on for more about the 2020 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk 4×4. If you’re the parent of a teen that just can’t seem to do anything these days but sulk and play video games, you’ll want to read on as well.
Taking a Teenager Off Roading
I still feel funny every time I say that I’m a mom of a teenager. There’s a part of me that still feels the pull of my youth. But my 13 tear old reminds me of his age by displaying all the classic teenage boy symptoms. He retreats into his cave and spends a lot of time online.
Every time I’ve got a vehicle to review, I can pull him out of his shell for at least a little while. He’s my assistant camera man and helps me shoot a lot of footage. By working on these things together, he’s learning about cars, about video and photography, and sometimes he gets to visit some really cool locations.
He can tolerate short stints in nature with me so I was determined o get him to an outdoor location we could both appreciate.
For the Jeep Renegade Trailhawk review, it seemed like a complete waste if I didn’t attempt to at least drive it in some rugged conditions. So I asked some colleagues where they recommended we go (locally) and I learned a thing or two.
- Off roading means OFF roading. It can mean driving through water or crawling on rocks.
- Don’t attempt it unless you’re experienced.
- Don’t go alone. (Check out my friend Bern’s video on what can go wrong when you’re off roading. You do NOT want to be in this situation alone.)
So we decided to play it safe and head to a rugged area called the Frederick Watershed Cooperative Wildlife Management Area (CWMA) in Frederick, MD.
What Happened with the Jeep Renegade at Frederick Watershed
As usual, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing or what I was getting into so I looked up some recommended trail information from others that have explored Frederick Watershed and found my way there.
You’ll read a lot of mixed messages about off roading in the area but the official City of Frederick Facebook page stated “off-roading in any motorized vehicle is NOT permitted in the Watershed.”
I wasn’t looking to get crazy. I was just looking to drive the Renegade in its natural environment. So we entered the park area and found some rough and gravelly roads. My son coined a new term when he said, “We’re not going off roading. We’re going underdeveloped roading!”
We traversed the gravel roads and fielded some pretty big holes in the roads with a few major dips. Nothing that required anything beyond the standard 4×4 mode but it was nice to know that the Selec-Terrain System with Rock Mode was there if I got in over my head.
The Trailhawk trim level ensures that the Renegade is fully prepared for serious off roading, with skid plates on the transmission and front suspension and skid plate shields for the fuel tank and transfer case. Additionally, it has features like anti-lock 4-wheel disc brakes, electronic stability control, hill descent control. hill start assist, and electronic roll mitigation.
I put none of those features to the test but I am working on getting my comfort level up to go off roading in a group (check out that time I did some legit off roading in Bend, Oregon). And I would definitely head back to the Frederick Watershed for a little more underdeveloped roading!
Putting the Jeep Renegade to the Test
After driving the Jeep Renegade all week, I was ready to explore it in a little more detail and have a little fun with it. So I did a quick walkaround, taking note of all of the Renegade Trailhawk specific features, including tow hooks in the front and rear bumpers, Trailhawk branding, and red accents throughout the interior.
It’s also clear on the interior that they are proud of their Jeep heritage, with the branded Jeep grille speckled throughout the vehicle design.
But my favorite use of the Jeep grille was on the key to unlock the My Sky removable sunroof. The MySky feature on the Jeep Renegade consisted of two roof panels – one over each row of the vehicle. Using the key to unlock the panels, they can be unlatched and lifted off of the vehicle and stored in the back, giving the Renegade an open air feel, much like you’d find on a Jeep Wrangler.
We hit the dusty trail and loved driving with the roof panels off. In fact, driving the Jeep Renegade was a fun experience on road and off. The 1.3L inline 4 cylinder turbo engine was quick and responsive. You won’t win any drag races but the power feels appropriate for the vehicle size.
We also found that it had all the conveniences you’d want in a vehicle, including a Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, touch screen display (which was a tad small for my taste), power outlets, USB connections, and standard safety features
With the Premium Leather Group added, we had leather-trimmed bucket seats with the Trailhawk stitching, 40/20/40 rear seat with a trunk pass through (as opposed to a typical 60/40 split), heated front sears, power driver’s seat, heated steering wheel.
In terms of the Renegade being an off road capable vehicle, the Trailhawk badge ensures that it offers best-in-class capabilities and with the MySky roof panels off, I dubbed it a Jeep Wrangler Jr.
In fact, if I were to recommend the Jeep Renegade Trailhawk, it would be for someone who feels intimidated by a Wrangler or someone who wants a smaller ride that may be more suitable for a daily commute, especially with an average fuel economy of 24 mpg.
What Needs Improvement on the Jeep Renegade
As with most vehicles I review, I always find room for improvement and the Renegade is no exception. To put it simply, Jeep designed a perfect vehicle for a smaller person (like me!) but seemed to forget to have someone (like me!) put it to the test.
I had some issues with the fit of the vehicle. It took me quite a while to find the right seating position so that my feet were aligned with the gas pedals and my arms were at the correct length for the steering wheel. And when I reached down for the window controls, I realized that my hand was positioned perfectly over the rear window controls.
But my biggest beef was with the turn stalk. The distance between the steering wheel and the turn stalk was so wide that I had to take my hand partially off of the steering wheel to use my turn signal or adjust my headlights. It sounds like a really minor detail but the next time you drive your car, take notice of that same action. It should be second nature and nothing you need to think about. Clearly, Jeep needs some smaller testers in their vehicles (or on their engineering teams!).
And finally, let’s take a minute and talk about the MySky panels. When they’re on, it’s great. When they’re off, it’s awesome! But putting them on and taking them off is no easy feat (I show you how to do both in my video review below). I love the concept but it definitely needs to be a bit more user friendly.
Overall Thoughts on the Jeep Renegade Trailhawk
It’s a solid on road and off road SUV perfect for the part-time enthusiast that doesn’t want to fully commit to the Jeep Wrangler lifestyle. It’s perfect for people like me that don’t always “fit” into a Wrangler and are still learning a bit about the joys of off roading.
I’m pleased with the fuel economy and the price tag seem on par with what you get. The base price for the Jeep Renegade Trailhawk is $27,795. (Note that other trim levels start at just over $22K). With optional like paint color upgrade, trailer-tow group, LED lighting group, remote start, safety and security group, premium leather group, MySky sunroof, audio upgrade, and leather wrapped steering wheel, the vehicle I drove has an MSRP of $35,770.
Want to see more of the Renegade and the Frederick Watershed? Check out my video review below.