Ford Mustang and Jeep Renegade

| November 1, 2015


Starting Price $24,000

By Kelly Foss

Ford Mustang

It’s no small thing that the Ford Mustang turns 50 this year. As America’s “pony car,” the Mustang has come to symbolize freedom and the open road and has inspired generations of car-loving enthusiasts around the world. With all that heritage behind it, what could Ford possibly do to make this Mustang something special?

They did what most of us do when we reach a certain age: go back to our roots.

Visually, there are definitely some style cues from the mid-’60s. Visit Ford’s website, and they’ll tell you themselves this is “an entirely new, totally classic Mustang.” Designers honored the original fastback design and kept signature icons like the tri-bar tail lights and shark-like nose. HID headlamps with LED accent lighting, a lowered deck lid and optional 20-inch wheels give it a thoroughly modern look and level of sophistication.

The heritage feel continues within the cockpit, where round glass gauges, the double brow instrument panel design and spherical gearshift knob hearken back to the car’s storied past. Modern conveniences like climate control, navigation and satellite radio, thankfully, are also included. The rear seat is tight, but that is also something of a trademark for the Mustang.

The anticipation of driving it can almost be as good as the actual experience. There is something to be said for sitting in the seat and wrapping your fingers around the horse-emblazoned steering wheel. Yet, hit the start button and the familiar growl instantly makes you forget the anticipation.

Mustang now comes with a range of engine choices: the iconic 5.0-liter V8, yielding 435 horsepower and the classic 300-horsepower 3.7-liter V6. New to the lineup is Ford’s fuel-efficient 2.3-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder, which yields an impressive 310 horsepower. This little turbocharged powerhouse manages 22 city/31 highway. Undoubtedly, you will feel ample amounts of power as you hit the accelerator, no matter which engine you opt for.

Driving it just feels darn good. You can choose between a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic with optional paddle shifters. The long-awaited independent rear suspension completes Mustang’s modern transformation. Weight distribution is almost even, which means you’re going to get a well-balanced, finely-tuned ride. This Mustang drives, handles and corners better than ever; and whether you want a relaxed cruise on a Saturday night or want to push it to the limits of the red line, the Mustang is happy at any pace. And therein lies the true heritage of this icon: it can garner the gawks and gazes of everyone as you cruise by and leave them with whiplash as you launch out of view. Power is well-disciplined, meaning the car will behave itself in heavy traffic. In other words, even if you’re stuck in rush hour, you’ll feel awfully good sitting there.

The new Mustang is so capable and cool that pony car collectors should forget the 1968 version and just buy a new one. It’s faster, quieter, safer, cleaner, more comfortable and air-conditioned, and it has great infotainment options, starts every time and is cheaper.

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Starting Price $18,000

Jeep Renegade

When it comes to cars, the Italians are known for their sophisticated sense of style (Maserati, Ferrari) and for their quirkiness (Fiat, Pininfarina). So what happens when you take one of those quirky Fiats and Americanize it? You get the Jeep Renegade.

While the category of subcompact crossovers continues to grow and define itself, it seems to stand out as a class of quirky misfits. Some are cute, some are edgy, some are advertised with hamsters. The Renegade seems to be both cute and edgy; but what really sets it apart, of course, is its Jeepness.

The 2015 Jeep Renegade shares architecture with its sibling, the Fiat 500X. However, this vehicle is unmistakable as a Jeep, with its trademark grille and big round headlights. It bulges in just the right places, and the protruding taillights are reminiscent of the Wrangler’s. The Renegade is small but confident.

Inside, Jeep offers its “Tek-Tonic” design, which is a nice combination of soft-touch surfaces, color accents and satin trims. The cabin is “tall,” meaning there is ample headroom, (even if legroom is somewhat limited) and great visibility. For fun, there’s the My Sky open-air, dual-panel roof. Two glass panels can be retracted or entirely removed when you need some sun. This starter Jeep also comes packed with the tech we’ve all come to know and love, including navigation, satellite radio, blind spot monitoring and other items. The fully loaded Trailhawk will run into the low $30s, but you can get a base model for about $19,000. Four trim levels are available: Sport, Limited, Latitude and the fully outfitted Trailhawk. Jeep designers hid “easter eggs” throughout the car, so be sure to look for tiny grille logos inside and out.

The Renegade is powered by two engines: a 160-horsepower turbo­charged and intercooled 1.4-liter inline-4, or a 180-horsepower 2.4-liter inline-4. The Trailhawk weighs in at a beefy 3,500 pounds, so the naturally aspirated engine with 20 more horses may be the better choice. For transmissions, there’s a 6-speed manual or Chrysler’s sophisticated 9-speed automatic. The Renegade handles reasonably well, though its boxy shape tends to lean in the corners. Steering feels good, as does braking. It’s not a fast Jeep, but it’s surely a capable one.

As you would expect from a Jeep, the Renegade can go pretty much anywhere. It comes as a front-wheel drive, and adding the 4X4 option adds $2,000 to every trim level. It’s got enough ground clearance to get into and out of some pretty sticky situations. The four-wheel-drive system is outfitted with a dial that lets you select a driver mode based on the terrain you’re driving in: mud, snow, sand, and in the Trailhawk, a rock-climbing mode.

Small enough for city driving but geared for weekends, the Rengade fits the bill. It’s cute, edgy and Jeepy enough to stand out in a class of misfits.

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Category: New Automobiles

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