THE new Jeep Renegade S - the first special edition model of the newly-refreshed Renegade launched last summer - was only shown off for the first time at the Geneva Motor Show in March so it was great to have the chance to drive it on- and off-road in Italy recently.
The Renegade has proved amazing popular as an urban crossover meeting all the needs of a modern family while keeping that authentic Jeep styling. It may be the first Jeep SUV to be built in Italy but it is unmistakeably a member of the Stars and Stripes family.
Based on the top-of-the-range Limited trim level, the new S special edition model boasts a sportier look with black roof and granite crystal accents on its iconic seven-slot front grille and Jeep badge.
Model-specific roof bars and exclusive 19-inch alloy wheels complete the smart exterior look of the special edition model along with new full-LED daytime running lights, headlamps, tail lamps and fog lamps.
The same sporty appeal is found in the cabin, where premium seats with new tungsten stitching and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with black stitching enhance the dark, all-black environment.
The new Renegade S also offers a host of user-friendly technological features, including parent company FCA's fourth-generation Uconnect 8.4-inch full-colour touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The latest system has a more powerful processor for quicker response and allows the driver to control the climate system, sound system and much more directly from the display.
Additional features for comfort and safety include Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Warning with Active Emergency Braking, lane departure warning, and Intelligent Speed Assist with traffic sign recognition, dual-zone automatic aircon, and useful front and rear parking sensors.
There's a decent range of engines available including a new 1.3-litre, four-cylinder turbo petrol, with a choice of 150bhp or 180bhp, with a six-speed automatic dual clutch transmission and a nine-speed automatic gearbox respectively. Peak torque of both versions is a plentiful 270Nm.
There's also a 1.6-litre 120hp diesel engine mated to a six-speed manual or dual clutch auto transmission and a 2.0-litre MultiJet II diesel delivering 140hp in combination with the six-speed manual or the nine-speed automatic transmission. Peak torque is a more than useful 350Nm.
There's no word on pricing yet but the on-the-road cost of a 2.0-litre Renegade Limited starts at Â£28,200.
Importantly, although the Renegade has been winning the hearts and minds of European townies, the new S special edition model also retains all the legendary off-road capabilities of the Jeep brand and courtesy of its advanced 4x4 system, rear axle disconnect, Selec-Terrain traction control, and hill descent control.
All these were thoroughly put to the test in a rain-drenched, mud-carpeted marble quarry in the hills behind Lake Garda. Should you want it to, the Renegade S will go virtually anywhere.
The boxy Renegade's high roofline and range of seat adjustments mean you'll have no trouble getting comfortable in the front seats, even if you're more than 6ft tall.
Back seat passengers will find a little less legroom but won't find it unduly uncomfortable. - especially with all that headroom and the cabin's light and airy feel due to its large side windows.
With five seats and the parcel shelf in place, there's room for 351 litres of luggage - not a huge amount - but fold the 60:40 split rear seats down and there's 1,297 litres of space to fill. Unfortunately, there's quite a large load lip which can hamper the loading of heavier items.
On the road, the Renegade S doesn't quite match its off-road prowess. On smooth, major roads it motors along nicely, especially with the nine-speed auto taking the strain, but because of its boxy shape, even boxier wing mirrors and those 19-inch tyres, there's quite a bit of wind and road noise.
And, on twistier country roads, it loses much of its composure, leaning heavily through tight corners which also tend to catch out the nine-speed auto. Around town it will be sure-footed and steady, but for country comfort and cornering stability, it's no match for rivals such as Peugeot's 2008 or the SEAT Arona.
However, if it's that legendary ruggedness you want, it will leave those rivals stranded.