My trusty 2003 Dodge Durango finally bit the dust. It was a great workhorse, albeit a thirsty one, and could go almost anywhere. I knew the end was near, and have been shopping for a new ‘real estate car’ for a few months. (I have a cool little Chevy Sonic, too, for runs to the city. I street park there, where little and short is a blessing.) Finding a replacement for the Durango has been an interesting quest.
For a Realtor, a vehicle is one of your most important tools. Besides being an office on wheels, it makes a statement and creates a first impression, and has to strike the right note for your market. While in Westchester, a Mercedes might be a real estate agent’s car of choice because it says “I’m successful”, here in Sullivan County it absolutely wouldn’t strike the right note.
Out here in the country, a vehicle also has to have off road and back road capabilities that would be overkill in other areas. All wheel drive crossovers are all the rage, but most aren’t designed to navigate old logging trails or washed out roads, or drive through rock strewn fields. The list of vehicles that can really rough it is pretty short. The rural Realtor successmobile of choice is the Jeep Grand Cherokee. It’s big, sufficiently luxurious and most important, can go most anywhere. (The step up from that is the Range Rover, but at $80K+, is a little too upmarket for Sullivan.) I drove the Grand Cherokee, but for me, it was just too big. I like small. I also drove the rock-capable offroaders from GMC and Chevy, but they didn’t ring my chimes. And those land yachts like the Cadillac Escalade and Chevy Suburban? I didn’t even bother, because they’re just not my style.
The vehicle that finally got my sign-on-the-dotted-line love was the new Jeep Renegade Trailhawk. It’s one of the new, small “cute utes”, measuring only 8 inches longer than my Sonic. It’s got some style to it and true off-road capability, with 8.7″ of ground clearance, skid plates and rock-crawl gearing if I need it (and yes, I’ve been in situations where I’ve needed it.) I picked it up yesterday afternoon, and took it on some really rough farm roads to test its chops. This little powerhouse did great. It felt like driving a really good pair of hiking boots. (Note: if you’re thinking about one of these, only the Trailhawk version has the full off road capability.)
Most people don’t know that Jeep (along with the rest of the Chrysler family) was bought by Fiat a couple of years ago, and this Jeep is actually made in Italy. Yes, it’s clearly a Jeep, but you can see the Fiat influence, from softer lines to contrast stitching to color touches on the interior. It’s like a rough and tumble Jeep was sent to Milan for a style makeover. The whole package is so totally me.
The runner up? The Subaru Forester. It had a lot going for it — better gas mileage, more rear seat leg room and more cargo capacity. But it’s not as off-road capable, and in the end, it didn’t have the little extra style zip that tipped the scale to the Renegade.