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Moonfiat
08-09-2016, 02:29 AM
Depending on how you view things, my rental car luck on last week's vacation to Kona, Hawaii, was deplorable or test car nirvana. I'm quite happy and complimentative with my X Lounge FWD and few cars offer the sense of occasion when I sit in or even look at them. Thus, accepting the key on a late night to a Jeep Compass was rental car cliche. Smooth at cruise but everything else was exactly as you read in reviews. Deplorable. Fortunately/unfortunately, with more than an acceptable share of bugs (a Kona thing to find out) we switched the next day to a Ford Escape 2.0 4x4. Perfectly fine vehicle with a very active AWD system. I found the power to be nice but not noticeably better than the Fiat 2.4 (weight) but I'd like a little more weight to the steering and a little more charisma all around. The Ford key fob did that car in and we traded for a Jeep Renegade with the Trailhawk package.

Ohhhhh, the chance to test the 9-spd in a different package! I have a love hate relationship with the transmission and kinda wish the Ford Escape had a similar trans to keep the turbo on boost and less dramatic gear changes, something I like about our multi-gear exchanges. First thought, weight, weight, weight. According to MSN autos, the Trailhawk has just over 500lbs of weight added for the 4x4 system and other things. You can feel it. Oddly, despite all the trail settings for the 4x4, there is no sport/auto/snow settings. It could use it. The trans often starts off in 2nd and frowns at a kickdown to first. This makes for awkward merging and starts. Compared to my FWD 500x, I was often saying, "Let's go! Giddy-up!" There is a lot of transmission and gears to go through so I thought much better of the Trailhawk when we tackled 13,800ft Mauna Kea mountain on the Big Island with a 25% grade gravel road. Poor NA 2.4 had nothing above 3000rpm in 2nd on the way up but did well on the way down with all that gear friction to work through to keep the brakes cool. Nicely, the Trailhawk package provides a transmission temp gauge and it went from 160F (half) to 190F (3/4th) but not beyond. I stopped two times to feel the brakes and the wheels were cool to touch. The engine temp never moved from normal. I'd have felt better had the trans temp not went up to 1/4th of critical but it didn't go beyond that.

Back at the airport in NYC and my FWD Lounge, I was happy I picked the FWD X. The Fiat AWD system is a slip-only system, not a dynamic system like on the Ford which engages at low speed, heavy braking and corner acceleration. That said, my normal life never dictates a need for locked differentials and 4x4 low, ever.