Trailhawk:

Jeep Renegade Survives Costco Challenge

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2017 Jeep Renegade Deserthawk

Having a new Jeep Renegade Trailhawk over the long July 4th weekend, I took it to Costco for the quarterly bird seed, cat food replenishment.  At first I was wondering if the Renegade was up to the task.  Does a small crossover SUV have the capacity to take the load?

There were fourteen bags of bird seed and two of cat food.  Plus the package of 30 rolls of toilet paper.  Would they fit?  Plus, would they fit with the other stuff we bought?  Removing the tonneau cover over the cargo area and folding the rear seats were required to fit in the load.  There was room to spare.  Probably could have doubled the number of bird seed and cat food bags.

Renegade Survives Costco Run

Renegade Easily Takes Load from Costco

Small Crossover SUVs are Very Capable  Even the smallest of the new generation crossover SUVs are extremely capable as this brief test shows.  The booming sales of small and mid-size crossover SUVs is the reason sales of traditional passenger cars are down.  Responding to what vehicle buyers have been telling us they want since the late 1980s, the new crossovers fit the bill.  They are easy to get into and out of.  You don’t have to drop down into one like in a car.  The seating position is chair like.  Your legs are not extended forward.  More glass and the higher seating position provide optimum visibility.  The fold down rear seat combined with an open rear cargo area maximize load carrying capability.

Trailhawk “Deserthawk”  This Jeep Renegade had the Deserthawk 4×4 package ($1,395) to yield the ultimate off-road Renegade.  It is another answer from Jeep on their old saying “a Jeep is for the occasional use prerogative”.  On-road or off-road, the Deserthawk can do it all.  Taking this particular Renegade off-road even with the full load, would have been no problem.  The challenge would be to keep the cargo in place, or to fill it even more deeply so nothing could move around.

Pricing for Everybody  Not only can the Jeep Renegade carry an impressive amount of cargo and be capable off-road, the vehicle can be loaded with amenities.  The base price for the front wheel drive Sport model is $17,995.  The Trailhawk is $26,895.  Adding practically all the optional features and selecting the Deserthawk package you can pay $33,265.  At that level you get a blind spot monitoring system, UConnect navigation system, automatic temperature control, Selec-Terrain 4×4 system, hill descent control, hill start assist, and more.  One thing oddly missing is a remote liftgate release. There is a nice blank spot on the key fob for that feature, but it is not there.  Go figure.  In July 2017, Jeep is offering a lease discount of $4,250.

Powertrain a Bit Balky  The 180-horsepower 2.4L 4-cylinder Multi-Air engine is mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission.  This combination is fine most of the time around town, but when you need to quickly accelerate there is an unwelcome hesitation.  Slam the accelerator to the floor, wait, wait, then the engine decides you really do want full power and it gives it to you.  Too much hesitation for my book. Maybe an owner would learn to compensate after driving the Renegade for a week or so.


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New York Auto Show – A3 and Cherokee Most Important

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The 2013 New York International Auto Show was full of important reveals this year… renewed crossovers –  Toyota Highlander, Acura MDX, an all new Range Rover Sport, the new BMW 335GT, freshened Dodge Durango, the all new Cadillac CTS and many more.  The most important, however, were the Audi A3 and the Jeep Cherokee.  Why?  Both vehicles are very important to their brands and have the potential to generate substantial sales.

Audi Takes the Safe Route with A3: The 2015 Audi A3 really was not at the New York Auto Show.  The A3 will be officially introduced at the Shanghai Auto Show in late April 2013, but there was a reveal for about 120 journalists the evening before the first press day.  It will be launched in the USA in early 2014.

The smaller Audi A3 has anchored the Audi lineup with a five-door hatchback (“Sportback”) that never had much sales potential in the USA.  American buyers continue to perceive liftback cars as cheaper, flimsier and less desirable.  In Europe, the five-door is the preferred bodystyle primarily because European car-owners do not have the American-style family fleets where there is a vehicle for every purpose. For a one vehicle family,  the hatchback can carry out a multitude of duties.

Recognizing that to really succeed in the USA market, the 2014 Audi A3 becomes a much more traditional three-box four-door sedan.   This gives Audi an opportunity to really step up sales in the face of the upcoming front wheel drive Mercedes-Benz CLA and the already-on-the-market BMW 1-Series.  Audi did not stray from its own winning formula.  Audi DNA is present in the exterior styling and the interior with an A8-like sweep at the front of the instrument panel.  Very nicely done, but not one obvious risk.

The A3 comes with four 4-cylinder engine choices – 170HP 1.8L turbo, 2.0L turbo (we’re guessing at about 230HP), 150HP 2.0L turbo diesel and high output 2.0L turbo (we’re guessing at about 275HP).  The high output goes in the S3 model.  The Sportback will return in the 2014 calendar year with e-tron plug-in hybrid technology.

The A3 will not be a Spartan A-Segment car.  Audi is positioning it as a fully-featured Audi – just smaller.  It will offer Audi’s MMI system, 4G LTE connectivity and even Audi’s Bang & Olufsen audio system.

One key takeaway from the A3 reveal is that the car is the same size as 1994 model year A4.  A very successful car with solid sales results, the A4 was key in establishing Audi as a very desirable premium brand in the USA.

Something tells us that the A3 will not be an inexpensive car with its impressive standard equipment load (leather seating, bluetooth, rain sensing wipers and panoramic moon roof standard).  With the slightly larger Mercedes CLA announced at a sub-$30,000 price we are wondering where the new A3 will be positioned?

Jeep Cherokee Returns While the Audi A3 is a low risk opportunity for volume growth, Jeep’s new Cherokee is at the polar opposite on the risk scale.  Jeep describes the Cherokee’s styling as “polarizing” and it certainly is.  Mike Manley, President of Jeep cautioned journalists in a December briefing before the Detroit Auto Show that “you might not understand” the vehicle.  This was somewhat reminiscent of Wayne Cherry’s (head of GM styling in the late ’90s) statement that “you are too old to understand the (Pontiac) Aztek.  In Manley’s defense, he describes the styling direction for the Cherokee as “something that will be fresh in 2019”.  So Jeep has not taken this path lightly.  It is a calculated step.

What is so polarizing about the Cherokee?  First, it takes the name of one of the most successful SUVs ever produced.  The 1980s Cherokee was the first high volume SUV to add a 4-door bodystyle to the lineup and soon proved that 4-doors, not 2-doors, were the way to go.  The Cherokee had the seven vertical slot grill that is part of Jeep’s DNA, but it had rectangular headlamps that, while modern for the time, broke away from the traditional round headlamps Jeep used.

While the new Cherokee is relatively conventional from the A-Pillar rearward, its front end design is the most surprising and, yes, controversial.  Instead of round headlamps, the Cherokee has horizontal units styled into the front fascia and fenders.  Cherokee still has the seven vertical slots in the front fascia – part of Jeep DNA since the beginning – but they now are bent in the center giving the vehicle a more aerodynamic appearance.  The story of the capability of the vehicle is being lost in the commentary about its front end styling.

Under the skin, the Cherokee uses the same Alfa/Fiat platform used by the new Dodge Dart.  It has a 9-speed automatic transmission and three advanced 4×4 systems.  The Trailhawk model is fully “Trail Rated”. Think of Trailhawk as the Cherokee Rubicon.  Powered by a 184HP 2.4L Multi-Air TigerShark 4-cylinder engine, Jeep claims a cruising range of up to 490 miles and highway fuel economy of 31mpg.  The optional 3.2L Pentastar V6 gets 271HP.

Cherokee has a full array of Chrysler’s latest features available from its UConnect information system with an 8.4-inch center screen and programmable instrument cluster, new steering wheel controls, parking assist systems, blind spot monitoring, cross path detection and adaptive cruise control with stop and go capability. These features are becoming the price of entry in mid-size vehicles and even some smaller entries.

When Bob Lutz was a Chrysler he once said (of the early 2000’s Peterbilt style Ram pickup), “I don’t care if people love it or hate it as long as 15% of them love it enough to buy it”.  That may be the case with the new Cherokee.  A Polarizing design will certainly get people talking and writers writing.  So far, it seems that the negatives are outweighing the positives on the Cherokee.  It won’t take long to tell if the vehicle is a sales success.  It begins production in April 2013.


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2007 Detroit Auto Show: Is Jeep's Trailhawk Ready to Fly?

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Jeep Looks to the Sky for Inspiration.
Among the Chrysler Group concept and production cars shown at the 2007 North American International Auto Show was the Jeep TrailHawk. As unsuccessful as the Chrysler Nassau concept was as a design study, the Trailhawk successfully takes Jeep design a step further. This is best seen in the front view, where the cropped headlights and backward-angled traditional seven-slot Jeep grille give the concept its hawkish face.
VehicleVoice and AutoPacific staffers were on hand to see the reveal of the Trailhawk.

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Wrangler Ability, Grand Cherokee Comfort
Trailhawk inherits all the off-road capability of the Wrangler platform, based as it is on the four-door Wrangler. The Trailhawk suggests that the platform is big enough to support a larger Grand Cherokee replacement, though there is no certain indication Jeep is headed this way. Platform aside, with any luck the next Grand Cherokee will take some of the TrailHawk’s styling cues.


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Dueling Auto Shows: Detroit and LA Still Fighting for Attention

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While the LA Auto Show opens to the public at the beginning of December, Detroit’s North American International Auto Show is also just around the corner, in January 2007. With the holidays, it’ll be here before you know it.
Detroit’s show has long been the most important in North America, in terms of media attendance and coverage as well as industry attention and presence. By comparison, the other U.S. shows are but a blip in the media clip file. But several others claim more consumer attendance, and Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York rank as significant events in the U.S. automotive calendar.
In past years Detroit and Los Angeles started within days of one another, and while manufacturers are drumming up news with the closer Los Angeles show, several strategic announcements are being made about what we’ll see in Detroit as well.

Nassau_concept_front.jpg

Just this week, the Chrysler Group released sketches of two of its 2007 concept vehicles, the four-door coupe Chrysler Nassau and what looks to be an ultimate Jeep in the TrailHawk. Chevrolet has announced we’ll get our first look at the 2008 Malibu in Detroit (and released a photo of the interior as a tease).
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Hyundai announced the Veracruz will be in Detroit, seemingly ages ago (click here for our Veracruz story). We’ve already commented on Nissan’s Rogue (and its European sibling Qashqai), scheduled for Detroit as well (click here). Cadillac will show the updated 2008 CTS, Hummer is rumored to be showing a concept H4 that could take aim at the Wrangler about 2010MY (if they can find a platform), Infiniti may show the G35 coupe, and Mitsubishi will show their Lancer (though we will have a drive review available ahead of the reveal). Though MINI revealed the latest Cooper in Paris in September (click here for our story), U.S. buyers get their first look in Detroit.
The winner here? You, the consumer, with lots of new products coming down the pipe and exciting new vehicles to see when it comes time for your local auto show, even if you can’t get to the big events.
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