Flash Drive/Event: 2018 Jeep Wrangler and 2019 Jeep Cherokee

Flash Drive/Event: 2018 Jeep Wrangler and 2019 Jeep Cherokee

Legendary 4X4 Tradition Continues in New Skins

Jeep invited the media to the Santa Monica Mountains in early March to drive the all-new 2018 Wrangler and the new 2019 Cherokee. Our off-road driving reinforced the long tradition of Jeep being sure-footed off the pavement—and impressively so. But stay on the roadways, and the driving attributes, especially of the Cherokee, continue to impress.

Clean Fleet Report takes a look at our brief time in both vehicles and will follow-up in the coming months with in-depth Road Test reviews.

2018 Jeep Wrangler

2018 Jeep Wranglers are all-new, but keep the Jeep look

The All-new 2018 Wrangler

The last time the Wrangler was redesigned was in 2006, which is more than a few lifetimes for a design re-do. Wrangler fans are loyal and were excited that the all-new 2018 Wrangler retained much of the same look, but with refined features that only enhance the off- and on-road driving capability.

The 2018 Wrangler comes in two- and four-door models in up to four trim levels with these base MSRP.

Sport                      $26,995 (2DR); $30,495 (4DR)

Sport S                   $30,195 (2DR); $33,695 (4DR)

Rubicon                 $36,995 (2DR); $40,495 (4DR)

Sahara                    $37,345 (4DR)

Each trim level adds increased features as standard equipment, with the Rubicon being the version that is the most off-road capable. First introduced in 1986, the Wrangler continues as a body-on-frame design that has a removable windshield, roof, side windows and door panels. Stripped-down, the Wrangler is ready for serious off-road adventuring.

2018 Jeep Wrangler

The Wrangler remains a capable off-road machine

The 2018 Wrangler has two power plants. The 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 has Jeep’s eTorque mild-hybrid technology, which includes automatic stop/start, electric power assist and regenerative braking.  The 2.0-liter engine has an output of 270 horsepower (hp) and 295 pound-feet of torque (lb.-ft.) and is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

The 3.6-liter Pentastar V6, with 285 hp and 260 lb.-ft. of torque, is mated to a standard six-speed manual, with the eight-speed automatic transmission being optional.

Clean Fleet Report had the opportunity to drive Wranglers with both transmissions (with the V6) off-road, and felt the manual offered a bit more old-school driving fun. However, the automatic was smooth and gave us complete confidence, whether climbing or descending a steep and rutted grade. Out on the pavement, the automatic shifted smoothly and would be a good option for those who spend the majority of their time commuting.

A 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 with 260 hp and a whopping 442 lb.-ft. of torque is scheduled for the 2019 model year. It should get the 2019 Wrangler into the AWD 30 MPG Club.

The New 2019 Jeep Cherokee

The Jeep Cherokee has a more premium look for 2019 with a new front fascia, hood and LED headlamps. There are five wheel designs, hands-free power lift gate and a dual-pane sunroof. The interior has been massaged with satin chrome and piano black trim.

The 2019 Cherokee comes in six trim levels with these base MSRP.

2019 Jeep Cherokee

More conventional looks, but a Jeep underneath

Latitude                   $24,690

Latitude Plus          $26,495

Limited                    $30,375

Trailhawk                $33,320

Overland                  $36,275

Trailhawk Elite       $36,315

Clean Fleet Report recently reviewed the 2017 Jeep Cherokee Overland here.

There are three engine options for the 2019 Cherokee. The all-new 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 engine (shared with the Wrangler and other models) has 270 hp and 295 lb.-ft. of torque. The 3.2-liter Pentastar V6 delivers 271 hp and 239 lb.-ft. of torque. The most fuel-efficient engine is the 2.4-liter Tigershark MultiAir2 with 180 hp and 170 lb.-ft. of torque. All are mated to a nine-speed automatic with the 4X4 models getting the Jeep Active Drive system with Drive Lock.

Clean Fleet Report drove the V6 Cherokee Trailhawk off-road and were impressed with the grip level for a vehicle most owners will keep on the highway.

Observations: 2018 Wrangler and 2019 Cherokee

2019 Jeep Cherokee, 2018 Jeep Wrangler

Jeep holds onto its customers by being consistent

Jeep arguably has the most loyal and devoted fans and owners. Ever heard of the Jeep Jamboree? No other manufacturer has a program where their vehicles are put through such a rugged test by the actual owners. Of course, the Jamboree was created by Jeep owners 65 years ago and only garnered Jeep’s full endorsement well into its now life. Jamboree and the Jeep’s manufacturer are now inseparable.

Clean Fleet Report will drive several Jeep models in the coming months, so make sure to check back for news and reviews. Until then, know that if you are looking for off-road fun combined with a well-mannered street SUV, both the 2018 Wrangler and 2019 Cherokee will meet your needs.

Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!

Related Stories You Might Enjoy: Other Jeep Adventures

Road Test: 2017 Jeep Cherokee Overland

Road Test: 2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude

News: New Jeep Wrangler to Get Hybrid, Diesel, Plug-in Options

Road Test: 2017 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk

First Drive: 2015 Jeep Renegade

Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

Road Test: 2017 Jeep Cherokee Overland 4X4

Road Test: 2017 Jeep Cherokee Overland 4X4

Legendary Jeep Off-Road Capability + Comfortable On-Road Ride

The Jeep Cherokee Overland is not to be confused with the Grand Cherokee. The difference is in the word Grand, which indicates it is a midsize SUV compared to the compact 2017 Jeep Cherokee Overland 4X4 that Clean Fleet Report tested recently. The Jeep Overland is a family-friendly SUV with the legendary Jeep off-road capability.

2017 Jeep Cherokee

Unmistakable Jeep with modern updates

Drivetrain

Clean Fleet Report drove the 2017 Jeep Overland 4X4 equipped with a 3.2L, V6 that produces 271 horsepower (hp) and 239 pounds-feet (lb-ft) of torque through a nine-speed automatic transmission. The EPA fuel economy rating was 18 city/26 highway/21 combined. Clean Fleet Report drove the Overland 354 miles, with the majority of the time on the highway, and achieved a combined average of 25.1 mpg. However, in two, 100-mile freeway runs with the cruise control set to 65 mph, we achieved 31.2 mpg, allowing the Cherokee to join our AWD 30 MPG Club. Also available is the 2.4L, Tigershark I4 engine, producing 184 hp and 171 lb-ft of torque, that is EPA rated at 21 city/30 highway/25 combined.

Driving Experience: On the Road

Clean Fleet Report’s 2017 Jeep Cherokee Overland 4X4, with the 3.2L, was smooth cruising at highway speeds. Coming away from a stoplight, we felt a bit of stumbling after the engine start/stop kicked back in. Acceleration was more than adequate and the V6 was quiet at all times, even when accelerating hard while climbing a grade.

The Overland 4X4 utilizes Jeep’s Active Drive II system that sends power only to the front wheels during normal street driving. If that surface gets wet or icy, then the computer automatically sends power to the rear wheels to assist in traction. When venturing off pavement, the Selec-Terrain traction control system has driver-selectable settings of Auto, Snow, Sport, Sand/Mud and Rock. Add-in all-speed traction control, hill descent control, hill start assist and off-road suspension to aid in the Overland’s driving stability. The Continental ProContact TX 225/60R all-season tires were equally capable for street and off-road driving.

Clean Fleet Report’s Overland 4X4 had the Heavy Duty Protection Group option which included skid plates for front suspension, fuel tank, transmission and underbody protection. Not that we drove the Overland 4X4 so hard to need the skid plates, but it was nice knowing they were there.

Stopping was very good, confident, solid and straight through the front vented and solid rear rotor power-assist brakes. The Overland comes with an anti-lock brake system, vacuum brake assist and electronic stability control.

Driving Experience: Interior

The Overland has a good size interior where two adults and a child fit comfortably in the rear seat. Front seat legroom was generous, and legroom was more than adequate for the rear seat passengers. Storage with the 60/40 rear seat laid flat is large enough for a bicycle without removing the wheels. Otherwise, with the rear seat in the up position, the cargo area is adequate for compact SUVs. Access was easy through wide doors leading to a high driver and front passenger seating positions.

2017 Jeep Cherokee

Touches of luxury invade the Jeep

The Overland is a premium compact SUV, and the interior shows it. Nappa leather is everywhere, including all the seats, with the front ones being ventilated and power adjustable, including lumbar. The Overland’s dash is clean and straight-forward in design with tasteful matte-finish aluminum trim. The dark, Zebrano high-gloss wood trim on the heated steering wheel is very attractive and the Berber floor mats were a nice change from what is found on other SUVs.

Everything for the driver is laid-out in logical, easy-to-read locations. The 8.4-inch color touch screen is the command center for the Uconnect operating system, which includes navigation and SiriusXM satellite radio (one-year subscription included.) The nine amplified speakers and a subwoofer push out quality sounds for the Alpine audio system that includes AM/FM/CD/MP3 HD radio. Voice command, with Bluetooth, for handsfree phone and streaming audio are operated by the steering wheel controls.

The 2017 Jeep Cherokee Overland had convenience features such as remote start, cruise control, memory for the driver seat and exterior rearview mirrors, tilt and telescopic steering column, rear window/wiper, power windows with one-touch express up and down, power door locks, heated power exterior mirrors with turn signals, automatic, dual zone climate control, remote keyless entry, push button start, 12V power outlet, rear seat fold down armrest, remote charge-only USB and AUX ports and multiple cup holders.

Driving Experience: Exterior

2017 Jeep Cherokee

Details in the Overland edition drive home the upscale nature of the model

Clean Fleet Report’s Overland was painted in a striking Deep Cherry Red Crystal Pearl that popped against the sharp looking 18-inch polished aluminum wheels. The streamline look starts upfront with the signature grille that still rubs a few Jeep purists the wrong way. Clean Fleet Report is not in that camp and likes the modern design with the sleek bi-xenon high intensity headlamps that blend smoothly into the fenders. There is no unnecessary cladding or chrome work.

The roof comes with rack rails, a shark fin antenna and spoiler over the power liftgate, which incorporates the LED taillights and rear window wiper. The rear has dual chrome exhaust tips. It all works very well as a contemporary SUV that will hold its design for years to come.

Safety and Convenience

The 2017 Jeep Cherokee Overland has been rated by NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), earning 4 Stars overall. Our Overland was equipped with 10 airbags, a ParkView rear backup camera, blind spot and cross path detection, ParkSense rear park assist, tire pressure monitoring system and a full-size spare.

Pricing and Warranties

Clean Fleet Report’s 2017 Jeep Cherokee Overland 4X4 had a base price of $37,695. With optional packages of Technology, Heavy Duty Protection and the dual-pane panoramic sunroof, added $4,900 for a total MSRP of $42,595. All prices exclude the $1,095 destination charge.

All 2017 Jeep Cherokee Overland models come with these warranties:

  • Basic Three years/36,000 miles
  • Powertrain Five-years/60,000 miles

Observations: 2017 Jeep Cherokee Overland 4X4

2017 Jeep Cherokee

Lots to like here, starting with the Jeep name and heritage

Nimble around town and easy-to-drive on the open road sums up this SUV. Need to venture off road? Sure, go ahead. For all but serious rock crawling, the 2017 Jeep Cherokee Overland 4X4 will do just fine. Seats five adults in an absolute pinch, four is more comfortable. A contemporary design and leather everywhere. If only the fuel economy was a few miles per gallons more and the Cherokee Overland 4X4 would have pretty much everything going for it.

Jeep has several Cherokee models to choose from–Limited, Altitude, High Altitude, Sport and Overland. Each has something a bit different to offer, so visiting your local Jeep dealer and driving all the Cherokee models just might be where you will be spending a weekend day.

Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!

Related Stories You Might Enjoy—More Jeeps & Competitive Compact SUVs

Road Test: 2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude

News: Jeep Wrangler Gets Hybrid, Diesel, Plug-in Hybrid

Road Test: 2018 Chevrolet Equinox

Road Test: 2018 Subaru Outback

Road Test: 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport AWD

Road Test: 2018 Honda CR-V

Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

Road Test: 2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude 4X4

Road Test: 2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude 4X4

Playful Compact Crossover

The last time a Jeep was so popular in Italy was when the durable, go anywhere workhorse of World War II was helping liberate the country. Seventy years later, Jeep is making its mark again in Italy. The 2017 Renegade is built in the small town of Melfi, about 100 miles east of Naples, in the southern part of the country, near the Boot. So why the geography lesson?

2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude

Does this make me look Italian?

The Renegade is built in the same plant, and shares much of the same pieces, as the Fiat 500X, a small crossover Clean Fleet Report found to be the best-looking and most versatile in the Fiat 500 family. So, we were curious how the Renegade would perform–it brought a smile to our face.

Introduced in 2015, Jeep enthusiasts were wary about this small Italian creature, wondering if it truly was a Jeep. As Clean Fleet Reported, at the time of its launch, Jeep engineers and designers were very involved with the Renegade’s development. So yes, it really is a Jeep.

Drivetrain

Clean Fleet Report drove the 2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude 4X4, equipped with a 1.4-liter turbocharged I4 engine producing 160 horsepower and 184 pounds-feet of torque. If you want a bit more horsepower (180), but don’t mind a bit less torque (175), you can opt for the 2.4-liter naturally aspirated Tigershark I4 engine, with the nine-speed automatic transmission. Clean Fleet Report’s Renegade had a six-speed manual transmission that had a solid feel and went through the gears smoothly.

2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude

From the nose, everything looks Jeep

Running on regular gasoline, the 1.4L Renegade has an EPA rating of 24 city/31 highway/26 combined fuel economy. Clean Fleet Report drove the Renegade 389 miles, with an even mix of highway, city and some mountain roads, and achieved a respectable combined average of 27.2 mpg. However, in two 100-mile freeway runs with the cruise control set to 65 mph, we achieved 32.2 mpg.

The 1.4L was smooth at both around-town driving and cruising at highway speeds. The 0-60 time of around 10 seconds was unspectacular, which is about the same as its competitors in this class of small crossovers. The benefit of having the six-speed manual was that when climbing a grade, downshifting to move the Renegade’s 3,210 lbs. was a relatively easy task. When revved pulling a grade, the engine was a bit buzzy, but this is not only to be expected but is normal.

Driving Experience: On the Road

Clean Fleet Report’s Renegade 4X4 was equipped with Kumho Crugen Premium 225/55R all-season tires. The Altitude trim level is noticeable for its “blacked-out” look. Our tester was the none-to-subtle Hypergreen Clear with 18-inch gloss black wheels. Maybe this Jeep should have been called “Attitude” because it certainly had a lot of sass just sitting still.

The Renegade line is designed to be equally capable for street and off-road driving, with the latter the special focus for the Trailhawk trim. The 1.4L turbo engine ran smooth and provide enough power when needed for getting on the freeway and zipping around in town. Handling was agile and great for getting errands done. The overall ride was refined to the point of not being reminded you are driving a small, all-wheel drive crossover.

2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude

Ready to get dialed in

The Renegade comes in FWD and 4WD. Clean Fleet Report’s 4WD Renegade used Jeep’s Active Drive system that sends power to the front wheels during normal street driving. If that surface gets wet or icy, then the computer automatically sends power to the rear wheels to assist in traction. Selec-Terrain and All-speed Traction Control also add to the Renegade’s stability. For more capability off-road, check-out the Renegade Trailhawk model.

Clean Fleet Report had the opportunity to drive on a rutted, gravel road, which was not the most challenging test of how the Renegade can perform off-road. We did get a feel for the electric power rack and pinion steering, the McPherson strut front suspension with coil springs and the rear struts, coil springs and stabilizer bars, making for a very surefooted driving experience on steep hills and even muddy river banks. We were glad we did not need it, but were glad the Renegade was equipped with electronic roll mitigation.

Stopping was very good, confident, solid and straight through the single-piston front vented and solid rear rotor power-assist brakes. The Renegade comes with an anti-lock brake system, brake assist and electronic stability control.

Driving Experience: Interior

The Renegade isn’t very long but is tall and wide, making for a roomy interior. It has lots of headroom and legroom in front, but the rear seat, while providing for three-across seating for adults, shorts them on legroom. For safety, the center rear seat passenger gets a three-point seat belt. Storage behind the second row handles a few bags, but expands nicely with the 60/40 rear seat laid flat. The Renegade had a nifty feature of a height adjustable rear cargo floor, which came in handy when hauling a taller object.

2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude

A surprisingly comfortable interior

Access was easy through wide doors leading to a high driver and front passenger seat positions. Like the exterior, the Altitude means you get a blacked-out interior as well. Premium cloth front seats have Jeep branded mesh inserts and are six-way manually adjustable. If you opt for the Premium Leather Group, then the seats are power adjustable, including lumbar.

The Renegade Altitude’s dash is clean and straight-forward in design. Again, it is all blacked-out, save for the chrome accents around the radio and temperature wheels and the gearshift lever. Everything is laid-out in logical, easy-to-read locations. Our Renegade was equipped with the optional Altitude Package that includes a six-speaker sound system and a 6.5-inch color touchscreen for the Uconnect operating system with navigation and SiriusXM satellite radio (one-year subscription included)/AM/FM/CD/MP3/HD radio. The leather-wrapped steering wheel has controls for audio, Bluetooth phone and cruise control that are easy to use on a system with a quick learning curve.

The Renegade Altitude had convenience features such as tilt and telescopic steering column, rear window/wiper, power windows with one-touch express up and down, power door locks, heated power exterior mirrors with turn signals, manual heat and A/C, front and rear floor mats, remote keyless entry, push button start, 12V power outlet, remote charge-only USB and AUX ports and multiple cup holders.

Driving Experience: Exterior

The Renegade Altitude looks non-threateningly aggressive with the blacked-out trim and wheels. The round headlights offsetting the grill tells you it is a Jeep. The grill’s vertical bars harken back decades and the Renegade has absolutely no unnecessary cladding or chrome work. The hood and roof are near-flat, with an integrated spoiler shading the rear hatch. There are several little hidden design gems–Easter eggs–on the Renegade, including the “X” pattern in the rear taillights, that go all the way back to WWII and the gasoline jerrycans that were strapped to the side of an open-air Jeep. Take a few minutes to peruse the Renegade for more Easter eggs, hint: front windshield.

2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude

It’s middle name is “utility”

A cool feature was the My Sky Open-Air sunroof that consisted of dual, manually removable panels, opening the Renegade to the sky. The panels when not in use are stored in a padded bag.

Safety and Convenience

The 2017 Jeep Renegade has been rated by NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), earning Four Stars overall. Our Renegade was equipped with eight airbags, a ParkView rear backup camera, ParkSense rear park assist, tire pressure monitoring system, tire service kit (no spare tire), brake assist, hill start assist and cruise control.

Pricing and Warranties

The 2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude has a base price of $23,495. Clean Fleet Report’s test Renegade had the Customer Preferred and Navigation Group packages and the My Sky Open-air Sunroof options for a total MSRP of $27,037. All prices exclude the $1,095 destination charge.

2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude

Remembering from whence they came

2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude

In many little ways

All 2017 Renegade models come with these warranties:

  • Basic Three years/36,000 miles
  • Powertrain Five years/60,000 miles

Observations: 2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude 4X4

Fun and easy to drive. On and off-road capability. Seats five adults. 30+ mpg on the highway. Just quirky enough to get attention, but no derision. All for under $24,000 base price.

Jeep has four different Renegade models to choose from, each offering something a bit different. This nifty little (I had one woman say it was “cute”) on-and off-roader just might be what you need to liven-up your life.

Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

First Drive: 2015 Jeep Renegade

Road Test: 2016 Fiat 500X

News: Jeep Wrangler Gets Mild Hybrid, Diesel

Road Test: 2017 Mazda CX-3

Road Test: 2017 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk

Road Test: 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

Events: A Day at the Track

Events: A Day at the Track

27 Brands and 52 Cars at MPG Track Day

Motor Press Guild (MPG) is the Southern California trade association for automotive journalists. MPG’s goal of bringing together writers with automotive industry representatives is best demonstrated by its annual Track Day at Willow Springs Raceway. For those of you that have never been to Willow Springs, it is guaranteed you are familiar with this track as it has appeared in hundreds of commercials. Recognizable by its twisting track with extreme elevation changes and barren landscape, Willow Springs offers a challenging test for journalists and racers alike.

MPG Track Day

Motor Press Guild hits the track at Willow Springs

In early November, journalists headed 90 miles northeast of Los Angeles to strap on a helmet and get behind the wheel of some pretty cool cars. After a safety talk, warnings and driving rules, off we went in a very orderly and polite manner to get in as many cars as we could in a seven-hour timeframe.

My first drive was the 2017 Subaru BRZ Series Yellow. This limited-edition version is designed for track use with improved performance and handling and includes a Track Mode setting. In other words, it’s ideal for a few laps on a racetrack. A quick summary is the car was an absolute blast to drive and continues the good reputation Subaru has for designing fun sports cars.

I then got into these 2017 cars that all begged to be driven fast around the track.

  • Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio
  • BMW X3 M40i
  • Dodge Durango SRT
  • Fiat 124 Abarth
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk
  • VW Jetta GLI

On To the Off-Road

The auto manufacturers also brought a few SUVs and trucks for off-road driving. The off-road course is intense, with a near-sheer drop off the mountain surrounding Willow Springs Raceway. There were several to choose from, and I opted for the Land Rover Discovery turbocharged V6 diesel. You want rock climbing in luxury? Look no further!

MPG Track Day

The off-road course offers some challenges

The permanent 4WD utilizes Land Rover’s All-Terrain Progress Control technology. When engaged, the air suspension lifts for an additional 2.95-inches of ground clearance, and the speed can be set for as slow as 1.2 mph for a safe and confident feeling using the Hill Descent Control. I say safe and confident because the rutted, scree we were descending, in a near straight down pitch, required this fantastic technology to get to the bottom of the hill without scratching the roof.

Hot Laps

Next up was a visit to Willow Springs second and smaller track, the Streets Of Willow, where three cars were staged with factory, professional drivers that would provide white-knuckle hot laps.

MPG Track Day

Did someone say fast cars? And faster drivers

I had the opportunity to ride (maybe hang on is a better description!) with Patrick Long in the Porsche Panamera Executive AWD, Joel Miller in the Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Grand Touring and Adam Seaman thrashing a BMW M3. If you ever get the opportunity to have a professional driver, especially one from a factory race team, take you around a track in a high-performance car, don’t make the mistake of saying “no.” It is a blast!

The AWD Porsche Panamera Executive and the RWD BMW M3 were far more powerful cars than the RWD Mazda MX-5 Miata RF. So, while the rear end was sliding on the Porsche and BMW, the Mazda was controlled and smooth through the corners, and tracked like a MX-5 Miata is known to track.

It was fascinating to watch how each driver/car approached the corners differently, before all hitting the apex in the same place. As an automotive journalist, experiences with people that really really know how to handle a car are invaluable for my reviews.

The Real Test–Country Roads

To slow things down a bit as the day was coming to a close, I drove a few cars on the country roads surrounding Willow Springs Raceway.

  • Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti
  • Mini Countryman SE PHEV
  • Nissan 370Z Heritage Edition
  • Volvo V90
  • VW Atlas

After all the excitement of driving on the tracks and off-road, it may seem a let-down to drive on regular roads, but this though could not be further from the truth. Even on a short drive, journalists can get a quick feel for a car they will later request for a longer-term loan.

MPG Track Day

We were glad to get a preview of the plug-in Mini

Clean Fleet Report tests cars from seven to ten days before we write a ‘Road Test’ review. This is the best way we know to give you, our readers, the best evaluation of a car so you can add it to your shopping consideration list. Therefore, full reviews on many of the listed cars will be posted on Clean Fleet Report in the coming months.

The auto manufacturers work hard to develop good relationships and communication with journalists. They know that without honest and objective reviews, getting out the word, to you the consumer, would be difficult at best. Clean Fleet Report thanks all the participating auto manufacturers that were part of the Motor Press Guild’s Willow Springs Track Day.

First Drive: 2015 Jeep Renegade

First Drive: 2015 Jeep Renegade

The New Little Jeep

Let’s tackle the big thing first—is the 2015 Jeep Renegade really a Jeep? It’s got the seven-slot grille and little Jeep “Easter eggs” all over the place and even carries a “Trail-rated” badge on some

2015,Jeep Renegade,Trailhawk,4x4, 4WD,fuel economy

A real Jeep–whatever that means

models. But it’s made in Italy by Fiat and comes in a two-wheel drive model. We’ve been down this road before, going back as far as the Willys-Overland Jeepster and continuing through square-headlight Wrangers and the current Compass/Patriot models, so let’s set it aside and get to what this brand-new subcompact crossover offers. If Jeep wants to call it a Jeep, then it’s a Jeep.

This is a fun, capable little machine. I had a chance to drive it off-road (the Trail-rated Trailhawk version, which definitely deserves its Jeep label). It not only felt competent, it felt solid and ready to tackle everything the course (laid out by the Land Rover folks, so it was not a cakewalk) could throw its way. The six-speed manual might have been more fun and given even more control, but the nine-speed automatic has a manual-shifting mode that worked quite well. The short wheelbase and overhangs make the Renegade a natural out on the trail.

Jeep,Jeepster,2WD,4WD

Jeeps been down this road before

In spite of its Italian manufacturing origins, the Jeep designers clearly had their input into the vehicle, resulting in those short overhangs, a simple interior that harkens back to the CJ hose-it-out aesthetic. They sweated the little details and it shows in things like the “X” accents borrowed from the Jerry cans (spare gas cans) carried by Jeeps in days of yore. Inside, the easy-to-manipulate dials for HVAC and media control are a nod to practicality that is the hallmark of the Jeep brand.

Tech is available

Since this is 2015 (and not 1945) the Jeep also has a healthy dose of technology things like Rear Cross Path Detection; ParkView Rear Back Up Camera (automatic when in reverse); forward

2015 Jeep,Renegade, Trailhawk, interior

Some bells & whistles are standard; some optional

collision warning-plus (when approaching too rapidly, it will adjust speed); and blind sport monitoring. Power windows, steering wheel-mounted audio controls and hill-start assist (which I found very handy on the off-road course) are standard. Since it’s a hatchback with fold-down rear seats (and front passenger seat as well), the utility in sport utility comes through loud and clear.

Of course much of the tech is optional since at its core the Renegade is a do-it-yourself project. With a variety of cool colors (like the vibrant orange on our tester), a variety of interior materials and a long list of options, you can pretty much dial-up the Jeep that you want.

2015,Jeep Renegade,Trailhawk,pricing,mpg

DIY motif in play

So you start with the basic package—a five-passenger (or four-passenger for normal American males), four-door hatchback crossover. The front-wheel drive version starts at $17,995; four-wheel drive adds $2,000 to the sticker. All models have a $995 destination charge. Those base Sport models come with 16-inch steel wheels, a 1.4L MultiAir four-cylinder engine and six-speed manual transmission along with a basic AM/FM/MP3 audio system. The turbocharged and intercooled engine delivers 160 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, which can be very helpful off-road.

Moving up through the ranks are the Latitude model at $21,295 ($23,295 for 4WD); Limited at $24,795 ($26,795 for 4WD) and the 4WD-only Trailhawk at $25,995. The Limited bumps up to 18-inch aluminum wheels and the bigger 2.4L Tigershark engine (which offers 180 horsepower) and a nine-speed automatic transmission along with upgraded interior tech like the Uconnect system.

 

Fuel economy is standard

With most of the engine, transmission and 2WD/4WD choices, the 2015 Jeep Renegade can deliver up to 31 mpg highway, about what you might expect from this size vehicle. Of course, when the

2015 Jeep,Renegade Trailhawk,4x4,4WD,fuel economy

The gateway Jeep has arrived

add in the off-road capability of the Selec-Terrain traction control and its dial-in-your terrain challenge system, those fuel economy numbers look even more special. It’s not often you can squeeze out good fuel efficiency and this kind of go-anywhere capability. The Renegade also carries a 2,000-pound towing capacity.

Bottom line with the 2015 Jeep Renegade—it’s a great size both on and off-road, has got a load of fun tech and genuine ability packed into a compact frame. If you really plan to explore off-road, the Trailhawk version is worth a look. If you’ll stick mostly to pavement, check out some of the lower-level models. We predict Jeep is going to have another hit on its hands.

Some “Easter eggs” we found:

2015,Jeep Renegade,easter eggs

“Easter eggs” are everywhere (speakers)

2015 Jeep,Renegade,easter eggs,

Right below the vents

 

 

 

 

 

2015 ,Jeep,Renegade,easter eggs,

In the headlights

2015 Jeep,Renegade Trailhawk,easter eggs,design

Taillight 2fer–easter egg & jerry can reference

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

First Drive: 2015 Honda HR-V

Road Test: 2015 Fiat 500L Trekking  

Road Test: 2015 Nissan Juke SL