This is a tale of two Jeeps: The flyover model and the Italian Job. Former is the new Gladiator Mojave pickup truck, tricked out to validate those videos showing Jeeps launched airborne off sand dunes; the latter is the Renegade Trailhawk, a small crossover sport utility vehicle with modest off-road credentials.
That they are both Jeeps, with what that implies, goes without saying. The vehicles, which date back to World War II, have maintained their reputations as solid, go-anywhere military and civilian machines that can handle almost any terrain anywhere. Jeep now is a division of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA).
The decision to squish two Jeeps into one DriveWays review happens because of circumstances. In the case of the Renegade Trailhawk, which is assembled at a Fiat factory in Melifi, Italy, and uses 63% Italian parts — hence the Italian Job moniker — there have been few changes since the 2019 model year.
It uses the same 1.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which delivers 177 hp and 210 lb-ft of torque to all four wheels through a nine-speed automatic transmission. The Renegade’s underpinnings are similar to that of the less capable Fiat 500X.
On the road, the Renegade Trailhawk is not particularly fast though noisy under hard acceleration. Like almost all Jeeps, it has a choppy ride. The handling, however, is reasonably competent because of its small size.
Unlike some other Renegade models, the Trailhawk is “Trail Rated,” meaning it comes with off-road equipment, including all-terrain tires, skid plates and a two-speed transfer case for the four-wheel drive. There’s also hill descent control, and four selectable driving modes: automatic, snow, sand, mud and rock.
If you plan to drive mostly on paved roads, there are other choices in small crossovers, including Renegades that are not trail rated. Among them: Kia Seltos, Hyundai Kona, Mazda CX-30, Nissan Kicks, Toyota C-HR and Honda HR-V.
The Renegade starts at $23,770, including the destination charge. The tested Trailhawk model started at $29,290 and, with options, had a sticker of $35,770.
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At the other end of the spectrum in this evaluation is the Gladiator Mojave 4X4, a new version of the Jeep pickup truck. It is a sort of evil twin of the Gladiator Rubicon, which is designed for serious off-road duty like that found on the famed Rubicon trail in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California and Nevada, traversed by all manner of Land Rovers, Jeeps and trucks with four-wheel drive.
The entry-level Gladiator pickup, with a six-speed manual gearbox, was previously featured in a DriveWays review, and the new Mojave shares many parts and features with that machine. It uses the same 3.6-liter V6 engine with 285 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque and an eight-speed automatic transmission with a two-speed transfer case. However, the Mohave is a higher trim level, more akin to the Rubicon. The base Gladiator with the six-speed manual gearbox had a base price of $35,040 and, as tested, came to $36,330. The Mojave model tested here had a base price of $45,370 and, with many options, climbed to $61,795.
Traditional off-roading is mostly done in tough terrain like the Rubicon trail at walking speed, challenging driver skills and vehicle capabilities. But you’d hardly know it to witness some advertising videos, which often show four-wheel-drive vehicles racing at high speeds around desert locales like Mexico’s Baja California.
Those machines are often modified. But the new Gladiator Mojave was specifically designed for that sort of off-road duty. It has some of the same equipment as the Rubicon model, and adds a beefed up frame as well as stronger shock absorbers and suspension system parts. Though it can do some of the same rock crawling as the Rubicon model, it can manage higher speeds through rough outback.
There was no opportunity to evaluate those Mojave bones. The introduction in the California desert between Ocotillo Wells and Borrego Springs was canceled because of the Covid-19 pandemic. So for now the focus is on pavement performance.
It has the typical choppy Jeep ride and, with solid axles front and rear, the Mojave requires frequent steering corrections on straight-line roads. But its heft, stiff suspension and fat tires keep it tracking well on curves, though you wouldn’t want to be chasing Porsches or Corvette Stingrays.
But they wouldn’t want to chase the Mojave at the beach either.
- Model: 2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave four-door pickup truck.
- Engine: 3.6-liter V6; 285 hp, 260 lb-ft torque.
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with four-wheel drive, two-speed transfer case and manually locking rear differential.
- Overall length: 18 feet 2 inches.
- Height: 6 feet 4 inches.
- EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 109/36 cubic feet.
- Weight: 4,970 pounds.
- Payload: 1,200 pounds.
- Towing capability: 6,000 pounds.
- EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 17/22/19 mpg.
- Base price, including destination charge: $45,370.
- Price as tested: $61,795.
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- Model: 2020 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk 4X4 four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
- Engine: 1.3-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 177 hp, 210 lb-ft torque.
- Transmission: Nine-speed automatic.
- Overall length: 13 feet 11 inches.
- Height: 5 feet 6 inches.
- EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 100/19 cubic feet.
- Weight: 3,320 pounds.
- Towing capability: 2,000 pounds.
- EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 22/27/24 mpg.
- Base price, including destination charge: $29,290.
- Price as tested: $35,770.
Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.
Photos (c) Jeep