Road Test Review – 2016 Jeep RENEGADE Trailhawk – By Tim Esterdahl

What looks like a box on wheels, rides like a car and can scale the side of a mountain? Why a 2016 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk can and its off-road prowess is downright surprising.

When Jeep launched the Renegade, it was a bit of a shock to many with its European-like styling, odd-looking taillights and its flat front grille punctuated by two round headlights. Frankly, it just doesn’t resemble what most in the U.S. think of when they think Jeep.

While the exterior looks are subjective and non-traditional Jeep, inside it is closer to a Jeep and especially the Patriot kind of Jeep. It is downright spacious inside the compact SUV with the design favoring a wide-open feel versus more of a cockpit. This allows for many different sizes of people to drive with plenty of head and leg room. Plus, it provides for a wide panoramic like view from the driver’s seat with the boxy shape.

This wide view is great in this small size since it makes maneuvering it really easy. Around town and on the highways, the smooth riding Jeep (yes smooth riding Jeep) is easy to operate with plenty of visibility and adequate power for most situations. It is not a sports car, though, and a burst off the line or car-like responsive steering simply isn’t its forte. Yet, for the shape and size, it does a good job of getting you around.

The really interesting thing about the styling and handling is how it surprises you. Walking up to it, you wouldn’t think it is capable of doing much more than running around town. Driving it around, it feels much more “SUV” than “Jeep.” Yet, Jeep threw its arsenal of legendary equipment into it. The reality is the Renegade Trailhawk may not look like a Jeep, drive like a Jeep or feel like a Jeep, but it can go off-roading like a Jeep.

For the Renegade Trailhawk, this off-road ability is pushed to the max with various Jeep off-road technology like Active Drive Low and Selec-Terrain System with Renegade Trailhawk exclusive Rock mode. Rock mode is available due to the Active Drive Low system which features a rear axle disconnect and a 20:1 crawl ratio. Essentially, in Rock mode, the SUV’s systems work together to maximize low-speed power in order to climb up and over things without slippage thus maintaining control and minimizing getting stuck. While you aren’t going to be climbing boulders with the Renegade Trailhawk, you can ascend and descend rocky trails much more confidentially.

While I didn’t do much off-roading with the Renegade Trailhawk this time, I can say I’ve driven it over icy-covered hills at a winter driving event and I’ve experienced these various features. It is really quite impressive what it can do.

Besides the mechanical benefits of the Renegade Trailhawk, Jeep gave it a variety of other features to help off-roading. For example, it has front and rear tow hooks, skid plates and new front and rear fascias designed to improve approach and departure angles (clearance). Plus, it sits taller than the base unit and has roof rails for carrying your gear into your camp site.

What’s truly special about the 2016 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk is you get all of this equipment, 4wd, seating for 4, amble amount of cargo room in the rear and an EPA estimated 21/29/24 city/highway/combined fuel economy for a price of just $30,075 in the case of our test model. The entry price is even better at $26,495 without options. This opens the door for many first-time, new-car buyers to get both a commuter vehicle as well as a weekend toy. And that could be the most impressive thing about the Renegade Trailhawk.

Model: 2016 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk 4×4

Engine: 2.4L four-cylinder

Transmission: 9-speed automatic

Fuel Economy: 21/29/24


Cold Weather Group (heated front seats, windshield wiper de-icer, heated steering wheel) – $495

Passive Entry Keyless Enter ’n Go – $125

6.5” Navigation system with Uconnect – $1,245

Popular Equipment Group (auto-dimming rearview mirror, 40/20/40 rear seat, a/c auto temperature control with dual zone control, power 4-way driver lumbar adjust, power 8-way driver seat and manual 4-way pass seat) – $595

Remote Start System – $125

Price as Tested: $30,075 with $995 destination charge

Road Test Review – 2016 Jeep RENEGADE Trailhawk – By Tim Esterdahl

What do you think?

About The Author

Tim Esterdahl is a married father of three who enjoys all things automotive including wrenching on his collection of old pickups. You can find his work here and in print in Truck Trend magazine as well as on He also plays an absurd amount of golf. Like really absurd.