Rock and roll as Jeep in it for the long haul to celebrate 75th anniversary with off-road adventure
- Credit: supplied
It was a celebration of 75 years of Jeep and a chance to check out the go-anywhere ability that have made its models so iconic. Motoring editor Andy Russell puts Jeep's big-selling Renegade to a rugged, rocky, off-road test.
The sign at the bottom of the boulder-strewn, rocky slope said it all – 'Welcome to Yorkshire's Rubicon Trail'.
Any Jeep enthusiast will know the Rubicon Trail is part of the brand's heritage and folklore.
This track across the North York Moors was not quite up to gruelling Rubicon Trail – a 22-mile off-road route, originally a native American footpath, used by explorers searching for a clear path across the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California – now used as the ultimate test for both Jeeps and their owners.
But, trust me, passing a Jeep Wrangler perched over a gully and seeing the rocky incline ahead, it still seemed it would prove both impossible and impassable. Even the expert guides from Yorkshire 4x4 Training needed the agility of mountain goats to make their way up it, hopping from boulder to boulder, while hardy hikers opted to walk up the well-worn sides, taking to the heather-covered heathland when the going got too tough.
The Jeeps didn't have that option.
It would have been difficult enough if I had been driving the adventurous Wrangler 4x4 or Grand Cherokee or smaller Cherokee sport utility vehicles but I was in the compact Renegade. At least it was the Trailhawk version – the model with the most ability off-road thanks to the Jeep Active Drive Low and Selec-Terrain system with Hill Descent Control and an extra rock mode which was clearly going to be needed.
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It also has special front and rear bumpers to improve approach and departure angles and underbody skid plates to protect the suspension, transfer case and fuel tank.
And it is the only Renegade to get the 170hp version of the 2.0-litre turbo diesel with the nine-speed automatic transmission. That slippery, rocky slope was going to need a lot of low-down grunt and top-end power to haul the Renegade to the top.
And haul it it did. We inched our way up and over the boulders, following the instructors' guidance to move left or right, ease off the throttle or give it some welly when only two or three wheels had any purchase.
Only once did we come to a halt and then it was a case of gently reversing back and giving it a bit more gas to force the Renegade forward over a particularly difficult obstacle.
The most disconcerting part of the exciting experience was hearing the protective shields under the body doing their job with loud clangs as they made contact with the rocks but Renegade came out unscathed.
The only casualty was a front, nearside tyre which developed a slow puncture once clear of the rocky slope and finally brought me to a halt on top of the North York Moors. The standard tyre repair sealant was unlikely to do the job so I waited for a spare wheel to be brought by the support vehicle.
With superb views from my lofty perch it wasn't going to be hardship – certainly not compared to what the Renegade had endured and excelled in beyond my expectations.