In spite of the Jeep brand already being somewhat synonymous with four-wheel-drive performance, Jeep international product planning chief Adrian van Campenhout told CarAdvice at the launch of the new Jeep Renegade that plans are afoot to expand the Trailhawk model line to further the recognition of the brand’s heritage in light of more SUVs making it to market.
“Trail Rated, that badge is starting to make its way on to more of our product,’’ van Campenhout said.
“You’re going to see it on the new B [segment] and C [segment models], it’s been on the Cherokee, it’s going to actually get put on to Wranglers and Grand Cherokees. And there’s a continuum to our spectrum of Trail Rated,” he said.
The push comes from a point of view of recognition among potential buyers, according to van Campenhout.
“Is that [off-road capability] spectrum recognised, or is the badge enough?" he posited. "If the badge says Trail Rated, then [the owner might think] ‘I’m never going to do it, but it says it can do it, so I don’t know what that is but I’m good to go’.”
However, van Campenhout admitted that the Trailhawk badge – which is brandished upon the most hardcore off-road versions of the brand’s models – isn’t a one badge fits all approach. In short, not all Trailhawk models, nor all Trail Rated models, will be capable of the same stuff.
“In our line-up as we move forward, those will be synonymous except for maybe the Wrangler,” he said.
“The Trail Rating is a continuum of performance,” he said. “In our line-up a Wrangler two-door Rubicon is the pinnacle. It’s got the disconnecting stabiliser bars. The Trail Rated Patriot is a different continuum in terms of performance – but it does have skid plates, tow hooks, the features that enable it to be able to climb a level of stuff, and be protected against that environment, full stop.”
The all-new Renegade is one model that has a Trailhawk version and is Trail Rated, but the company has admitted it isn’t capable of the same level of off-road menace. In short “it won’t do the Rubicon”.
“Trail Rating is a function of a lot of things. It’s a function of geometry, it’s a function of ground clearance, it’s a function of tractive capability, right?” he said.
“The Cherokee we said we had to be Trail Rated. When you go down to our other levels, we need to be the best off-road vehicle in the segment.
“Renegade is going to be our entry-level Trail Rated vehicle. So on the spectrum of things it will be able to cross the logs, it will be able to go rock-hopping,” he said. “But think about what it takes to go across the Rubicon Trail – it takes V6s with 300 horsepower and 72:1 crawl ratios – and it doesn't have those things. And that’s where we measure the continuum.”
The Renegade Trailhawk is sold exclusively with a 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine teamed to a nine-speed automatic, while the Cherokee Trailhawk has a 3.6-litre with the nine-speed.
But CarAdvice has learnt that a manual Renegade Trailhawk – fitted with the 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder and six-speed gearbox – could be on the cards, while a diesel version of the Cherokee Trailhawk using the 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine currently reserved for the regular models is also in the works.
“The whole notion of Trail Rated is an evolution that we’ve created ourselves,” van Campenhout said when asked if the badge is chiefly a marketing tool rather than a strong indicator of off-road capability.