Jeep Authenticity

By Derek Price

The Renegade, Jeep’s entry-level vehicle with a starting price under $19,000, could be forgiven if it took the cooke-cutter approach.
Crossover vehicles are so popular these days that Jeep could slap its badge onto almost anything with four wheels and sell a zillion copies. That plan seems to be working for other brands, which are launching small SUVs and CUVs as fast as they can ramp up the factories to make them.
There’s only one problem: authenticity.

The Renegade takes the classic, boxy shape of historic Jeep models and rounds off the corners for a more modern look. It stands out for its appearance and real off-road capability amid a sea of cookie-cutter crossovers.

Jeep has a reputation to uphold. More than a cheesy marketing gimmick, this brand with roots dating back to World War II is known for tackling some of the toughest trails on the planet. While base versions of the Renegade are clearly meant more for on-pavement cruising than off-pavement bruising, the version I’m driving this week has Jeep’s well-earned reputation riding on its muddy shoulders.
The Renegade Trailhawk is the most affordable way to get authentic Jeep trail-climbing capability, starting at $27,095. While that’s a big-percentage price jump over the base model, it comes with some luxuries — such as push-button start and a 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay — along with a hefty list of off-road upgrades that make it worthy of the Jeep mystique.
Skid plates help keep the transmission, transfer case, suspension and fuel tank protected from rocks. A 20-to-1 crawl ratio, 8.7 inches of ground clearance, generous suspension articulation and beefy tow hooks — painted in a bright, showy red — add up to some serious capability. Jeep says the Renegade Trailhawk can cross 19 inches of water and tow up to 2,000 pounds.
While I’ve driven the Renegade on trails in the past, this week my experience was almost entirely limited to pavement, which is clearly not a native habitat for the Trailhawk. Keeping those skid plates perfectly clean felt a bit silly.

Despite its tall, tough suspension and all its off-road-focused tuning, the Trailhawk version performed admirably the entire week, both on city streets and interstate highways. It was impressively quiet and reasonably comfortable for long drives, given its trail-ready nature.
I like the overall look of the Renegade, an updated take on the classic boxy Jeep. I wasn’t as wild about the color combination of my tester, with its electric-green paint and rusty red accents in the cabin, a mix that made me feel like Father Christmas.
My test vehicle, a 2018 model, was powered by a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine that sends 180 horsepower through a nine-speed automatic transmission. The combo feels merely adequate under acceleration like most of its competitors in this class, although the transmission offers a more responsive, engaging feel than some.
The 2019 model year brings some additional changes, including a new 1.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, revised front styling, new wheel designs and a slightly better crawl ratio on the Trailhawk.

At A Glance

What was tested? 2019 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk 4X4 ($26,945). Options: Safety and security group ($895), cold weather group II ($645), trailer tow group ($445), UConnect 8.4 NAV Group ($1,245), My Sky power retractable panels ($1,495). Price as tested (including $1,495 destination charge): $33,165
Wheelbase: 101.2 in.
Length: 166.6 in.
Width: 79.6 in.
Height: 66.5 in.
Engine: 2.4-liter four cylinder (180 hp, 175 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 21 city, 29 highway

Style: 7
Performance: 8
Price: 8
Handling: 7
Ride: 6
Comfort: 7
Quality: 7
Overall: 8

Why buy it? 
An off-road suspension, tow hooks, traction settings, skid plates and more make the Renegade Trailhawk a legitimate performer on trails.

Posted in Jeep

Edge Adds Features, Style

By Derek Price

The Ford Edge has a new look this year, but what’s under the skin gets even more attention.
Instead of making it an extra-cost upgrade like many of its competitors, Ford’s suite of driver assistance features — lane-keeping assist, blind-spot sensors, automatic emergency braking and more — are now standard equipment, including on the base model. Rain-sensing wipers and automatic high-beam headlights are also standard equipment.
Those bonus features make the Edge a good value among midsize crossovers, helping it stand out for reasons beyond its supple ride and roomy cabin.
Minor styling updates in front and rear keep it looking sleek and contemporary for 2019, but fast-changing competitors are making its cabin and infotainment system feel dated. Its plastics and knob layout, along with clunky graphics on the touchscreen, show its age.

The Ford Edge gets several upgrades for 2019. Perhaps the biggest news for this two-row crossover is the introduction of the high-performance Edge ST model, the first vehicle of its kind from Ford Performance.

Functionally, though, I have no complaints. Even though the block-like graphics of Ford’s SYNC interface look like museum relics, it’s actually designed very well. It responds quickly and is intuitive to use. And if you want to see the best of 2019’s in-car digital goodies, just plug in your smartphone to use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, which run perfectly smoothly.
The same applies to its cabin, especially the newly designed center console.
The Edge gets an eight-speed automatic transmission this year, something that not only delivers crisp, smooth shifts from its 2.0-liter turbocharged engine but also frees up extra space for storage in two new bins thanks to a rotary shifter.
I spent a week driving the new Edge in its upscale Titanium trim level, a pleasant experience for practical and logical reasons. Good gas mileage — rated for 28 miles per gallon on the highway, even with all-wheel drive — and a spacious two-row cabin are clear justification why crossovers like this are outselling sedans these days.

A new eight-speed transmission gave Ford the opportunity to incorporate a rotary shifter in the 2019 Edge, freeing up a bit more cabin space to add two new storage bins in its redesigned center console.

For people who want to add emotion into that mix, Ford is also doing something surprising and exciting this year by rolling out the Edge ST, the first SUV created by Ford Performance.
With 335 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque from its turbocharged V6, speed is the Edge ST’s biggest selling point. It also has a sport-tuned suspension and selectable traction control for performance driving if you ever want to push your family SUV hard on a track.
Pricing starts at $29,995 for the base Edge SE and ranges up to $40,545 for the upmarket Titanium model including optional all-wheel drive.
The high-performance Edge ST starts at $42,355, including standard all-wheel drive.

At A Glance

What was tested? 2019 Ford Edge Titanium AWD ($40,545). Options: Equipment group 301A ($4,150), burgundy velvet paint ($395), cold weather package ($495), titanium elite package ($1,195), Class II trailer tow package ($435). Price as tested (including $995 destination charge): $48,210
Wheelbase: 112.2 in.
Length: 188.8 in.
Width: 85.8 in.
Height: 68.3 in.
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder (250 hp, 275 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 21 city, 28 highway

Style: 8
Performance: 7
Price: 8
Handling: 7
Ride: 9
Comfort: 9
Quality: 7
Overall: 7

Why buy it? 
A new package of standard features makes it an even better value. It retains its spacious cabin and notably smooth ride.

Posted in Ford

Symphony of a Thousand

By Derek Price

Although clearly intended for shock-and-awe marketplace warfare, it’s not brute strength that’s surprising in Ram’s freshly designed line of heavy-duty pickups.
It’s how refined it feels while delivering mind-blowing performance.
This is the automotive equivalent of Gustav Mahler’s eighth symphony, known for its monumental scale as much as its sensitivity. And for people who need to pull heavy loads for work or play, it’s a masterpiece.
The fact that the new Ram Heavy Duty raises the industry’s bar for capability — rated to tow 35,100 pounds, haul 7,680 pounds of payload and generate 1,000 pound-feet of torque from its strongest diesel engine — is still not exactly flabbergasting in this segment. Even with jaw-dropping numbers, watching new trucks roll out in a parade of one-upmanship becomes routine after a while.

The Ram Heavy Duty gets a new design for 2019 that makes it the most capable pickup in its class. It’s capable of towing up to 35,100 pounds.

It’s a numbers game, and Ram plays it well this year, relishing its Chuck Yeager role of being the first to break the four-digit-torque barrier.
The Ram 2500 and 3500 have been redesigned not just to win the numbers game but to do so without sacrificing ride or comfort.
That was my biggest takeaway from driving this truck in the southern Nevada desert, a place where brutal weather and an unforgiving landscape push trucks to their physical limits.
While these trucks feel every bit the commercial-grade machines they are, with a heft and swagger that underlies each motion, they’re also impressively silent over the road. Active noise cancellation through the sound system, devices that eliminate vibration, acoustic glass and a slipperier aero shape all combine for a ghostly silence at highway speeds, at least compared to the racket-filled cabins of its ancestors.
The mixture of comfort and capability starts with the frame, constructed almost entirely of high-strength steel now, which makes it both stronger and lighter than before. Combined with an aluminum hood and weight reductions in the powertrain, the new truck is up to 143 pounds lighter than the old one, something Ram claims helps improve its fuel economy.
New shock absorbers at all four corners are not just designed to carry heavy loads for sustained periods of time — the bane of ride comfort in most heavy-duty trucks — but also have valves that automatically adjust for differing levels of vertical wheel movement. This means it feels more responsive on pavement and more supple when off-roading, all while remaining rugged enough to carry insanely heavy loads when needed.
The 2019 Ram Heavy Duty benefits greatly from carrying over much of the new Ram 1500’s brilliant cabin design.
Ram’s light-duty truck is sweeping up awards everywhere it goes, including Motor Trend’s Truck of the Year, Truck Trend’s Pickup Truck of the Year and the Texas Auto Writers Association’s Truck of Texas. The 1500’s flexible center console design, quality fabrics and leathers, soft-touch materials and functional layout all help the HD line now, making it the best heavy-duty truck cabin I’ve ever experienced.

The Ram Heavy Duty’s cabin is now based largely on the Ram 1500’s award-winning design. It’s a comfortable, quiet space to spend hours on the highway.

It’s also available with the most eye-popping technological candy available in any truck today, Ram’s 12-inch reconfigurable touchscreen. It can be easily personalized with a drag-and-drop layout, and its satellite radio system with on-demand content keeps it a step ahead of most other in-car entertainment options — even those on luxury cars.
Pricing starts at $33,395. Its high-output diesel engine with the monumental 1,000 pound-feet of torque costs as much as a decent used car at $11,795.
My favorite version, the Power Wagon off-roader, starts at $52,900. It adds a 360-degree camera with guide lines that help you navigate over obstacles and a synthetic cable for its Warn winch this year.
At the luxury end of the spectrum, the Ram 3500 Limited Mega Cab 4×4 with the 12-inch Uconnect touchscreen is priced at $67,050.

At A Glance

What was tested? Ram 3500 Limited Mega Cab 4×4 with 12-inch Uconnect 4C touchscreen ($67,050). Options: None. Price as tested (including $1,695 destination charge): $68,745
Wheelbase: 160.4 in.
Length: 249.9 in.
Width: 83.5 in.
Height: 80.1 in.
Engine: 6.4-liter HEMI V8 (410 hp, 429 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy: Not rated

Style: 9
Performance: 10
Price: 7
Handling: 6
Ride: 8
Comfort: 8
Quality: 8
Overall: 9

Why buy it? 
It can do monumental work while still feeling refined and comfortable. Its towing and payload numbers are the best on the market, and its cabin is largely based around the award-winning Ram 1500’s fantastic interior design.

Posted in Ram