We recently traveled over to the UK where Jeep are celebrating after a very successful 2015. Last year alone the company sold 10,794 units making it the fastest growing car brand in the UK. Most of this is obviously down to Jeep’s B segment SUV offering with the Renegade, which has been a roaring success. Out of that total figure, 6334 Renegades were sold helping the brand to sell more vehicles than they did in the four years previous combined. This is very fitting considering the company as a whole are celebrating 75 years in business. Jeep plan on celebrating this with a number of tribute vehicles but at this event they also announced the launch of a new Renegade and Cherokee Night Eagle Limited Edition versions. Both vehicles are limited to just 350 units and available now to order in the UK or on special order through your Irish dealer. These vehicles feature 17-inch black alloy wheels (18-inch for Cherokee), rear parking sensors, satin grey Jeep badges and unique Night Eagle badge, coloured roof bars and side mirrors, and satin grey grille rings on a black front grille. Inside you can expect the Night Eagle trim to feature exclusive seats in bark brown fabric with electric lumbar support for the driver, leather wrapped steering wheel, dual zone climate control, DAB UConnect radio with 5-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth and satnav, and cruise control. These will be very desirable vehicles particularly in the UK.
Although most of the range was available to drive at this event I took time out for a first drive in the Cherokee with the new 2.2-litre MultiJet II turbo diesel engine delivering 200hp. This is a vehicle readily available on Irish roads and combined with Jeep’s smooth nine-speed automatic transmission and tough Active Drive I 4×4 system it is an incredibly capable vehicle. I just enjoyed the way it handled on Yorkshires trickiest B roads, it feels robust and far more expensive than it actually is. 100 km/h comes up in just 8.5 seconds yet the Cherokee can still return 49.6-mpg fuel economy on the combined cycle, which is very impressive. After my Cherokee drive I opted for the Wrangler Limited. This is a vehicle we don’t see too many of, so when the opportunity presented itself to drive this rugged beast, I jumped at the chance. On start up the CRD 2.8 16V DOHC, 4-cylinder sounded slightly noisy but as she warmed up, the noise dulled down. As I worked my way through the 5-speed manual it felt potent enough with 200 hp and 460 Nm of torque. We found some old dirt lanes and opted for some four-wheel drive fun where the Wrangler laughed at everything in its path. It’s a vehicle full of character and so much fun to spend time with. I don’t compare this with modern vehicles because even though it has state of the art running gear it’s still based on a 70 year old design. Right now I think there will be more demand than ever for this retro vehicle given the recent demise of the Land Rover Defender.
The final vehicle I drove on the day was by far the icing on the cake. Again another very rare vehicle here in Ireland but we got the chance to drive the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT V8. Powered by a 6.4 litre HEMI engine this is a Jeep with attitude. From the moment you start it, the ground rumbles and a rye smile is guaranteed to appear. With 461hp and 624Nm or torque this tarmac-shredding monster was a hoot to drive. Yes all sensibility has been thrown out the window and we wont be talking fuel economy figures with this vehicle but life is for living and if you have an ounce of petrol coursing through your veins then you have to sample an SRT at some point in your life. It feels raucous to the point of violent in Sport mode but that’s what its all about. 100km/h comes up in 5 seconds although the on board launch control timer stated it have done it in 4.3! The top speed of this two tonne monster is 257 km/h and it feels capable everywhere. Through the bends, on country lanes or horsing down a motorway the SRT will be happy to take your money in the form of fuel. Overall it was an exciting day and a chance to see how well the UK market has taken to the new Renegade in particular. Here in Ireland the brand are still fighting an uphill battle but with so many great products to offer we would urge you to go and take a test-drive. Right now I don’t think they make a vehicle that I wouldn’t happily drive! Here’s to another 75 years.