This cute, comfy, fun SUV is a rugged adventurer at heart.
I tried really hard to find someplace to drive the 2017 Jeep Renegade Deswerthawk compact SUV off road during my week-long test drive. The closest I got was the gravel parking lot at a local park.
But that’s OK. Even without climbing rocks, traversing gullies and splashing through creeks, I was closer to fresh air and nature, and my pup Eli was right at home.
This open air SUV is not your traditional drop-top convertible; it has removable roof panels that let your hair blow in the wind when you want but you still have the full protection of a car roof around you. It’s a great combination.
Who This Car is For
- Singles, couples or small families
- Buyers looking for a compact SUV
- Anyone who wants to drive off road
- Someone who wants an open air SUV but not the full-time exposure to the outdoors that can bring
- Drivers who want the capability of 4WD when they need it
- Buyers who want a car with an adventurous, outdoorsy personality
- Drivers who need the agility of an SUV but the smaller size of a compact car
What the Jeep Renegade Deserthawk Costs
(prices may have changed)
- Starting price $26,895
- Other trim levels (and starting price) include Sport ($17,995), Latitude ($21,495), Altitude ($22,190), Limited ($25,195) and Trailhawk ($26,895)
- Connectivity package adds a larger 6.5 touchscreen display, navigation and Uconnect wifi and apps, $1245
- Safety and security package add blind spot monitors, rear cross path detection and security alarm, $895
- Cold weather group adds heated front seats, heated steering wheel and windshield wiper de-icer, $545
- Trailer tow packages adds a 4-pin wiring harness and a receiver hitch, $395
- MySky sunroof and removable roof panels, $1495
- Preferred package (this is what designates it as a Deserthawk) including 40/20/40 split seats, Deserthawk styling and dual zone temperature control, $1,495
- Price of the car we test drove, $33,415 including destination charge of $1,095
What is a Deserthawk, anyway?
The Deserthawk is Jeep’s salute to Moab, Utah, the Emerald City of off-roading. Each April, Jeep holds its Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, where thousands of Jeep lovers gather to climb and clamber over the rocks and trails in the Utah desert. The Deserthawk gets its DNA from Jeep’s Trailhawk line of trail-rated 4-wheel drive vehicles which are designed and tested for off road capability.
The Deserthawk takes this idea a step further with design details like the map of Moab on the car’s hood and graphics of Moab map elevations on the seats and tray liners. You never forget that this car is designed to make the desert a more habitable place.
MySky Removable Roof Panels Make This a Hard Top and an Open Air SUV
This little feature is a $1500 upgrade, but it made me fall in love with the Renegade: you can take out the two roof panels for a full open sky feel. If you don’t want to go through the bother (or don’t want to spend the additional $1500), the front panel slides back to function like a regular sunroof.
The panels pop out and back in again; it was really easy and took only a few minutes—as you can see in my video. I was worried the panels would be heavy and unwieldy. I worried needlessly; they are very light and I could get them in and out while standing on the ground.
I also worried that the latches on the panels would scratch the roof, but they didn’t. The panels are made from a super light and resilient composite material, something like a cross between a lightweight metal and plastic, so they were easy to lift out and put back into place without gouging the roof.
An Open Air Top That Doesn’t Compromise in Freezing – or Blazing –Temperatures
I drove a convertible for years. And while I loved driving it with the top down on those perfect sunny 75-degree days, that wasn’t very often. More typical was a 30-degree day with a bit of freezing rain. Or blazing hot 95-degree days when just thinking about going outside made me sweat. And then there were plenty of those plain old rainy/cloudy/cold days when all I wanted was a strong latte and music to lift the mood. THOSE are not great days for a convertible.
While convertible tops are better now than they were, they can still let in the cold, the rain and the heat. The Renegade’s roof panels are a great alternative. With them in place, the car drives and feels just like any hard top car. With the panels out, it feels like a quasi-convertible. To not have rain dripping down the visor or to not feel the cold radiate from the roof of the car is great.
You’re Not An Off Road Driver But Want to Be? This is the Place To Start
Driving off road is a blast. Simply a thrill. If you have never tried it, it’s not hard to learn and make it your weekend warrior mission (or occasional pursuit). First, put an SUV like the Jeep Renegade on your next-car list, join an off-road club and sign up for a class. Soon, you’ll be spending your weekends planning trips and plotting coordinates on maps to conquer the unseen, or lightly seen, countryside. Jeep even assists with its Badge of Honor program that helps off roaders find new trails.
And don’t let the die-hard enthusiasts you meet intimidate you; you’ll learn from them about what you want to do in your off-road pursuits and what you don’t want to do. That is precious.
If you’re still not sure, head to your closest auto show this winter or spring and find the Camp Jeep experience; you’ll be able to hop in a Jeep and ride with a professional driver through an off-road course right there inside the convention center or in the parking lot. Get there early and if the line isn’t too long, try it a few times. You’ll be thrilled and a 4WD will be on your next car wish list.
Don’t Let the Renegade’s Compact SUV Size Fool You, It’s a Serious Player
If you love a cute car, Renegade pleases. Its design is a playful, animated version of its big sisters Wrangler, Rubicon and Patriot, all of which carry the classic Jeep look of the “Sarge grille,” a slotted front grille with round, wide-set headlights. Renegade also has the classic square shape, but with rounded hood and roof lines and tail lights that are illuminated with a center X. The look harkens back to the original days of the Willy’s general purpose military vehicle, or GP, which then became Jeep, and it’s become a classic; you might recognize the name of the grille from the Jeep-inspired Sarge character in the movie Cars.
The Renegade’s look is less serious (and its price tag often less weighty) than the Wrangler models, and it’s designed to provide a nice balance of off-road capability and creature comforts, great for life in the city or suburbs (like the push button sun roof). It’s as practical but more whimsical than the solid and sturdy Patriot.
The interior features leather trimmed seats with cloth inserts that feature a map of Moab, a compact but accommodating interior with cup holders between the front seats and a small tray to hold things like a phone, keys or change under the center console.
Jeep’s designers love to plant ‘Easter eggs’ throughout each model, iconic design details that harken to Jeep’s deep heritage as a trail blazer in off road driving. You’ll often find things such as the Sarge Grille on the speakers, headlights or in this case, on the MySky key; you’ll find “Since 1941” stamped on the frame of the touch screen, a map of Moab in the tray liner under the center console and there’s a silhouette of the Willy’s Jeep on the windshield.
Easter egg hunting is a game among Jeep owners and enthusiasts. For those of us not as obsessed as they are, finding Easter eggs is simply an occasional delight that reminds me that someone was thinking about me and wanted me to have fun with this car, even when I’m not challenging it on the rutted rocks of Moab.
What We Loved
- MySky removable roof panels and retractable sunroof
- Comfortable leather trimmed seats
- Animated, fun look of the car
- Fun to drive with 4 wheel drive capability
- Skid plates on the Jeep’s undercarriage protect critical systems, such as the fuel tank, from bumps on off-road trails
- Tons of upgrades in this car are standard, including 4 wheel drive system, rain sensitive wipers, capless fuel tank and one year of Sirius XM
- Two USB ports and a household plug on the back of the console (between the front seats)
- High ground clearance that always provides a clear view of the road
- All the fun design ‘Easter eggs’ throughout the car
What You Need To Know
- Seats 5, more comfortable for 4
- MySky removable roof panels are an extra charge ($1,495), as is the Moab design theme
- Base price is about $26,000; some key options (like safety technology) and delivery charge add another $7,000
- Fuel economy is estimated at 21 city/29 highway
- Regular fuel recommended
- 3 year/36 mile bumper to bumper warranty
- 5 year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty
What We Listened to in the Jeep Renegade Deserthawk
This car demands a special playlist: Classic, rugged, closer to nature and outdoors. We were inspired to by classic blues and rock and roll, tunes that might just make you want to pull over, open the windows, crank up the radio and grab a dance partner.