My parents, who have now entered their autumn years, decided to move from their mountain home overlooking humanity to a low-land, civilization-adjacent retirement community. As part of their downsizing efforts I was gifted a tool chest that had been clogging their garage; a chest filled with tools whose heft and infinite durability betray their mid-20th century metallurgy and design. Turns out my grandfather swiped a good number of useful items from his employer prior to retirement.

Given the load’s imposing weight normal transport options wouldn’t suffice. My dad already earned a hernia during a previous move and I’d hoped not to follow his lead muscling Grumman Aerospace Corporation’s former gear into a pickup truck. A trailer with a ramp was the logical solution. In looking over Kelley Blue Book’s current fleet of long-term test vehicles, of which more than half are SUVs, exactly one vehicle was equipped for tow duty, the subcompact 2016 Jeep Renegade. Ah…of course. The most-cuddly of Jeeps was not an optimal solution but, as they say, any port in a storm. 

The long haul

Equipped with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder and 9-speed automatic transmission our 4x4 Renegade’s 2,000 pound tow rating was 62% exhausted simply pulling the empty Uhaul trailer I’d rented. Sure enough, the hilly 160-mile drive to my parent’s place exploited all 180-horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque the 2.4-liter had to offer. Fighting steep grades and gusty headwinds the transmission regularly zipped along in 5th gear occasionally dipping to 4th in an effort to keep pace with freeway traffic. Long story short, the Renegade is a light-duty tow machine, doubly so once PopPop’s ill-gotten tool chest joined the parade.

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The Renegade’s struggle to haul mass was fully expected, as was a major drop in fuel economy (roughly 15 mpg versus our Jeep’s 21city/29hwy rating). What wasn’t expected was an array of warning lights emblazoned in the gauge cluster. Somehow the presence of a trailer had deactivated the forward collision alert and blind spot warning systems. The Renegade also warned that the trailer might not be properly connected despite clear visual evidence that the hitch and 4-pin connectors were copacetic. Even stranger, these warnings appeared with utter inconsistency.

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I’m not sure what to make of our long-term Renegade’s electronic gremlins but I do know a massive tool chest now occupies the southeast corner of my garage. I suppose credit for any future problems those tools fix will have to be shared with an Omaha Orange subcompact Jeep. Based on my experience the 2016 Jeep Renegade Latitude 4x4 is not the ultimate tow rig. But, as my grandfather proved, you solve problems with the tools you have, not the tools you wish you had. 

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