The Jeep Renegade Trailhawk is the SUV to take you to places you’ve never been before and more, says Kate Ginn.
They say: “The most capable small SUV ever” We say: “Go get one and explore!”
Cresting over the top of a hill with sand spraying everywhere, I paused at the top to catch my breath. An Omani driver in a Jeep Wrangler drove past and gave me a huge smile and thumbs-up gesture. Perhaps the sight of a woman behind the wheel of a Jeep indulging in a spot of low-key dune bashing in the beach area close to Al Mouj Muscat is not a common sight.
I was having such a great time that I was oblivious to most of the other drivers that I encountered during my mini sand bashing adventure. There’s something about a Jeep that just stirs up the adventurer in you. It’s the iconic 4×4 sport utility vehicle that has been transporting people around for the past 70 years with the promise of “Go anywhere, do anything”.
So, I took Jeep at their word, hence why I was careering round baby sand dunes, rocks and mud surfaces, having a whale of a time.
I’m familiar with the Jeep family, having driven a Wrangler and Grand Cherokee but not the Renegade, the youngest addition to the gang. My first impressions picking it up from the Dhofar Automotive showroom in Azaiba was how much fun it looked. It’s like a dinky version of a Jeep but still looks very much like one of the family.
There are different trims available and mine was the Trailhawk, one of the more expensive of the range, which promises real off-road capabilities. This model is a right little bruiser, with big tyres and boxy design. I liked the dark alloy wheels, contrasting with the grey bodywork. It also looks quite funky and unique, attracting attention when you’re out and about.
I mentioned to the guy from the showroom who gave me the keys that it looked more feminine than other Jeeps and it seemed to be targeting women, which he agreed.
Inside, it very definitely feels like a Jeep. It’s solid and well-built with an interior that looks like it could withstand anything. A nice touch was splashes of red trim around the cabin.
A commanding driving position gives you a nice sense of security on Oman’s unpredictable roads.
Jeep used to be renowned for its no-frills interior but times have, of course, changed. Drivers, even Jeep drivers, want a little more comfort these days, so the Trailhawk comes with some decent equipment, including a reversing camera (which also beeps to alert you when someone is about to cross your path behind), parking sensors and blind spot detection. There’s also a touchscreen to access navigation, media and entertainment. Some of these functions can also be controlled via buttons on the leather-wrapped steering wheel. It’s easy to pair up your smartphone by Bluetooth or simply plug into one of two USB ports in the front.
Setting off down Sultan Qaboos highway, I quickly realised that the Renegade’s on-road performance might have been compromised in return for its off-roading ability. That’s not to say it’s sluggish on the open road. It’s just that the 2.4-litre engine takes a while to get going when you stamp down on the accelerator, as I found when I tried to overtake a lorry swerving around the middle lane.
But then Jeeps are not built for excessive speed. These machines are meant for the mud and dirt. So who was I to hold it back?
I’d been told that you could do some minor off-roading next to Al Mouj Muscat near the public beach but had never ventured that way. But I didn’t have a Jeep Renegade Trailhawk then. Off we went, discovering a veritable 4×4 adventure playground with small sand dunes, mud, dirt tracks and rocky landscapes. Here, you can make use of the Selec-Terrain feature, which allows you to switch between five different settings according to the terrain. We tried sand, rock and mud but alas we don’t get much snow in Oman for me to try out that one! The performance was excellent, thundering up dunes and slipping down steep drops without flinching. The car and I were having a great time!
I also discovered that when you drive a Jeep, you become part of a select club. Passing other Jeeps, either on or off-road, you get beeped, flashed at or given the thumbs up by the drivers as a way of saying “hello”. It made me feel very special.
For an introduction to Jeeps or off-roading, the Renegade would be a great choice.
After my off-road adventures I took my Jeep to the mall for some retail time. By then, the vehicle was dirty, covered with sand and splashes of mud but I was so proud of this badge of off-road honour that I wouldn’t let the car washers clean it. We Jeep drivers are hardcore.
Engine: 2.4-litre Tigershark ￼4 cylinder
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Price: From RO9,990 (base trim)