The Case of the Reluctant Renegade

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Nov 15, 2016

Dear Car Talk:

I recently purchased a 2015 Jeep Renegade, which I love. It's smart, gets reasonable mileage and is great fun to drive. At 77, I don't do a lot of four-wheeling anymore, but it's nice to know it's there if I get the urge. Living near the top of one of San Francisco's steepest hills, I do get to live wildly for seven blocks of four-wheel energy on a daily basis. The only problem I have with it is with the initial acceleration response. Stepping on the gas produces a momentary (one- to three-second) delay before the engine understands its instruction. It can be very dangerous when changing lanes at 70 mph, and it puts me at a slight disadvantage when I'm first in line at a stoplight. (I'm not too old to still get a kick out of being first off the line.)

The service manager at the dealership explained that cars no longer use linkage to communicate with the engine and that it is now all electronic through sensors, and it just takes time for the instructions to get through to the engine. He told me all new cars have this problem. For some reason, this just doesn't cut the butter for me, and I'm wondering if this is, in fact, a problem universally with the new cars, or do I need to four-wheel it to Italy and confront the Fiat Chrysler Company?

-- Ken

What the service manager told you is unmitigated horsefeathers, Ken. While it's true that all cars now communicate the throttle position electronically, if anything, the signal travels faster than the old cable connection did.

And not all new cars hesitate from one to three seconds after you step on the gas. This kind of cock-and-bull story is what gives car dealers a bad name. This service manager clearly needs to take our two-week course in "gaslighting" customers. We call it "Two Weeks to Better Horsefeathers."

This car has a new nine-speed automatic transmission that was the subject of many customer complaints -- and at least one class-action lawsuit. My guess is that the hesitation has to do with the transmission.

Perhaps Jeep has come up with a software upgrade that improves the transmission's performance. It's worth asking specifically about that and seeing if it helps. The other thing you should do is ask the service manager to go with you for a drive in another car on the lot. If his argument is that all new cars do this, then the 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee on the lot will do it too, right?

And then drive a new 2016 or 2017 Renegade, and see if it's any better than your 2015. If it's the same, you may be out of luck, and Fiat Chrysler may have been unable to make this transmission work correctly.

But if a newer Renegade doesn't hesitate, then you're perfectly justified in telling the service manager that there's something wrong with yours, and that you expect Jeep to fix it under warranty.

You also might want to familiarize yourself with your state's lemon law provisions, to keep your options open.

We hope it gets fixed, Ken. And we hope you enjoy many happy years of four-wheeling in the Denny's parking lot.


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