THREE years ago I packed up my life in Adelaide for an opportunity to take on the big smoke in Melbourne as a journalist at 4X4 Australia.
There was so much to love about that job: like Captain Jack Sparrow on the hunt for Davy Jones’ Locker, it brought the opportunity to breathe in the fresher air of Australia’s most far-flung locations and hunt for the ultimate hidden treasure of solitude.
There was one thing I just couldn’t get used to, though. Coming from wide-laned, traffic-rare Adelaide to congested, poorly urban-planned Melbourne was a daunting experience. Throw in oversized 4x4 press cars and endless bottleneck traffic and I felt like a rat in a sewer pipe.
You can therefore imagine my excitement when Fiat Chrysler Australia announced they’d be bringing a baby Jeep to Australia.
So when 4X4 Australia editor Matt Raudonikis showed me photos of the new pint-sized Renegade, I begged for a long-termer. Trailhawk model only, of course – a Jeep that can’t go offroad is no Jeep at all.
Fast-forward three years and I’m now the proud holder of the keys to a bright orange Jeep Renegade Trailhawk, which thanks to new Wheels staffer Cameron has already been dubbed Donald because it’s orange, obnoxious and American.
On first impressions, there’s a lot to like about the Renegade. I like its boxy design and rainbow colour palette, off-road ability in a segment that otherwise sticks to bitumen, and its stature – it’s compact enough for city streets, but tall enough to still feel like you’re sitting above other cars.
It’s as if Jeep designers took the Patriot, procreated it with a Cherokee and threw in a bit of Wrangler DNA for fun.
But it’s the design story of the Renegade that really caught my attention.
Styled in America and built in Italy, the Renegade is based on a similar body to the Fiat 500X, only cooler and less conceited.
The designers at Jeep HQ in the US took the Renegade’s core values of freedom, authenticity, adventure and passion, instilled them in their day-to-day life through snowboarding, paintballing and, of course, off-roading, then used that adrenaline-fuelled lifestyle to shape the Jeep. And it has certainly rubbed off.
On the local launch of the new car, Jeep designer Vince Galante told us that the team had hidden a bunch of ‘Easter eggs’ in the Renegade’s design. There are said to be multiple hidden design cues drawn from the adventurous lifestyle of the designers, and more that hark back to Jeep’s heritage.
No one has yet put an exact number on how many of these hidden motifs are to be found, but I love as Easter egg hunt so I’ve made it my mission to find them.
I’ve only found 11 so far, but given that I’ve only had the keys to The Donald for a week, I don’t yet consider this a defeat.
Here’s what I’ve found so far: 1 The Jeep brand’s iconic seven-slat grille is featured throughout the Renegade. First up, on the headlights and tail-lights. 2 The oversize rear-view mirror has a grille motif on either side. 3 Then there’s the grille on the speakers. 4 And under the tailgate. 5 The unusual X-shape on the tail-lights is a throwback to the X formed on US Army fuel cans during World War II. 6 The X also features inside the cupholders. 7 A silhouette of an old Willys Jeep on the lower edge of the windscreen, homage to the original Jeep used during the war. 8 Don’t jump when you go to refuel… that’s not a real spider behind the fuel cap. 9 There’s a map of Moab, Utah in the storage compartment below the 4WD system controls; this is homage to the spot where Jeep holds its annual Easter Jeep Safari. 10 The redline area of the tacho is a splash-of-paint-like graphic. Apparently this pays homage to the design team’s favourite team-bonding exercise, paintballing. 11 Above the infotainment screen is etched ‘Since 1941’, which is Jeep’s way of reminding you how long it has been around.
The mission continues…
Our orange baby Jeep sits atop the Renegade’s five-spec line-up.
As the only one to offer genuine off-road capability, albeit minus low-range, it’s the only Renegade that’s true to Jeep’s off-road heritage. Its siblings, starting with the $26,000 manual Sport, come with a 5.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, Bluetooth and a rear-view camera. The Sport is also the only Renegade to offer the choice of manual or automatic transmission. Longitude spec at $6K extra brings electric seats, dual-zone climate control, automatic
headlights, blind-spot monitoring, auto wipers and extra speakers.
Add another $3K for the Limited and you get leather seats, sat-nav, more speakers again and a 6.5-inch touchscreen. But a Jeep just isn’t a Jeep if it can’t go off-road. The $39,000 Trailhawk offers a higher clearance of 211mm, full-size spare, 2.4-litre engine linked to a nine-speed automatic, underbody bashplates and Jeep’s four-wheel-drive system that includes Selec-Terrain technology.
The only option on our long-termer is metallic paint at $500.
Date acquired: July 2016 Price as tested: $39,500 This month: 91km @ n/a Overall: 91km @ n/a
URBAN COUNTRY SPORTS FAMILY MOTORWAY