Jeep Vehicles Rustle Up 3 Awards at Texas Truck Rodeo

By - Jeep at TAWA Texas Truck Rodeo

Jeep Renegade, Compass, Grand Cherokee, and Wrangler go off road during the Texas Auto Writers Association’s annual Texas Truck Rodeo and end up bringing trophies back to Michigan.

You shouldn’t bring a knife to a gun fight, but there’s nothing wrong with bringing a Jeep to a truck war.
Early this week, I attended the Texas Auto Writers Association’s Texas Truck Rodeo. Seventy-four of my fellow journalists and I spent two days on the expansive Longhorn River Ranch in Dripping Springs driving crossovers, SUVs, and, of course, pickup trucks on and off road to determine the winners of a variety of categories.

Jeep brought six vehicles down to duke it out on the 1,632-acre battlefield. The limited-edition 2017 Renegade Desert Hawk went uncontested in the Sub-Compact SUV category. The 2018 Compass Limited and Compass Trailhawk siblings battled the 2018 Nissan Rogue Platinum and 2018 Toyota RAV4 Adventure in the Compact SUV segment. The 2017 Grand Cherokee Trailhawk had the Mid-Size SUV division to itself. In the Mid-Size Luxury SUV class, the 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit faced stiff competition from the 2017 Mercedes-Benz G550, 2017 Land Rover Discovery HSE Luxury Td6, 2017 Land Rover Discovery HSE Luxury Si6, 2018 Volvo XC60 Inscription T6, and 2018 Volvo XC60 Inscription T8. Jeep’s 2017 Wrangler Rubicon Recon took on the 2018 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro in the Off-Road Utility Vehicle division. Every Jeep competed for the top prize for sport utility vehicles at the event: the title of “SUV of Texas.”

The on-road portion of the Texas Truck Rodeo consisted of back roads with speed limits of around 60 mph. When it was time to take a vehicle on a trail, my colleagues and I had the choice of three routes. Level 1 was easy enough to drive a car over. Level 2 was a little bumpier. Level 3 was the roughest of all and featured a short series of whoops, a sharp decline into a pit, a view of the horizon while going up a steep grade, and miles of winding, rocky earth. For those who traveled the Level 3 path and craved more of a challenge, there was a turnoff that led to a so-called “gauntlet” trail which featured larger rocks and a stone ledge to climb over.

Having driven the Compass on pavement and off during its media launch and for an entire week afterward, I passed on it and chose to refresh my memory of the Grand Cherokee Summit. I used to love the Pentastar V6 in the WK2, but at the rodeo it seemed a little coarse and in need of more grunt. That did nothing to diminish my appreciation of the lengths Jeep’s designers went to to breathe life and luxury into the aging vehicle’s interior, though. Leather-wrapped everything, real wood accents, and a full-length moonroof never get old.


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There was no way I could be on a Texas ranch and not drive a Wrangler, so I made sure to hop into the only JK at the rodeo, a topless and doorless Rubicon Recon. For the first pass around the property, I rode shotgun with three ladies and jumped out at various points to take pictures. At least one of them experienced something that’s unique to the Wrangler when compared to its modern peers: the fun and freedom of open-air off-roading. I don’t think they cared much for the dirt that ended up coating all of us during our brief excursion up into the hills. I welcomed the swirling storm of grit.

Once it was my turn to drive, I pulled my red seat belt snug against me and picked up a friendly FCA representative to go along as my co-pilot. Although the Recon, thanks to its disconnecting front sway bar and lockers, could’ve probably gone around most of the ranch in two-wheel drive, I chose to use 4LO and all of the other off-road goodies. They helped me basically walk through the whoops and up and down the man-made obstacles. A bad line and a pesky chunk of tree stump that kept me from turning the wheel the direction I needed to turn it temporarily halted our progress up the gauntlet trail. After the removal of the world’s most annoying (and giant) splinter and a minor course change, we clawed our way up the rocky plateau without scraping or sliding. As long in the tooth as the JK is, its abilities in the rough are timeless.

It had also been a while since I had driven a Renegade, so I wandered over to it to discover it was a Renegade with a little extra. In addition to the Active Drive Low 4×4 System, the Desert Hawk model features factory rock rails and a cool hood map decal. Given that drive time was running out, I took it down the quicker, less arduous Level 2 trail. Just as it was when I first drove it during its media launch a few years ago, the Renegade was nimble and comfortable and adequately powered. Its Uconnect system was easy to use and responsive. The dose of Wrangler DNA and attitude in the form of the rock rails below me didn’t go unacknowledged or unappreciated.

Ultimately, the title of “SUV of Texas” went to the 2018 Volvo XC60. FCA reps went home with plenty of extra items in their suitcases, though. The uncontested Renegade Desert Hawk and Grand Cherokee Trailhawk of course came out first in their respective classes. Despite its distinctive off-road abilities, the Compass wasn’t able to best the Rogue in the Compact SUV category. The Volvo XC60 beat all comers in the Mid-size Luxury SUV segment.

Japanese vehicles did well at the Truck Rodeo, picking up 10 awards for four manufacturers. The prize for the top off-road utility vehicle wasn’t one of them. The 2018 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro came in second behind the Wrangler Rubicon Recon. Jeep knew better than to bring a knife to a gunfight. It brought a rotary cannon.

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Derek Shiekhi contributes to a variety of Internet Brands’ Auto sites, including J-K Forum, Jaguar Forums, and 5 Series. He's also a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association.

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