Of the two new car-based Jeeps to enter the line-up in 2007, the Patriot is evidently the more trail-capable. Its counterpart, the Compass, can be content in its role as a cute-ute, but the Patriot, reminiscent of the gone-but-not-forgotten Cherokee, looks as if it wants to leave the pavement.
Destined to be a younger set's entry into the world of Jeep, this car-based SUV uses the Dodge Caliber's platform and incorporates features such as rack-and-pinion steering and a softer, independent suspension to better suit it for on-road driving.
Freedom-Drive I, which can be left engaged for everyday use, is the default 4WD system. is available It engages the rear wheels when it detects front-wheel slippage, making it sufficient for poor-weather driving, and features a lock mode for low-speed (10 mph max) travel in really challenging snow and sand conditions.
For those planning any real off-road fun, the optional Freedom-Drive II is a must-have. As part of the Freedom Drive II Off-Road Package, it adds a continuously variable transaxle (CVT) for low-range gearing, but that isn't all. The requisite grouping of options also includes low-range gearing, brake-lock differentials, hill-descent mode, skid plates, tow hooks, fog lamps, a serious cooling system, and a full-sized spare tire.
Ground clearance also rises by an inch with the Off-Road package, thanks to the larger tires and rims; ultimate water-fording ability caps out at a fairly impressive 19 inches. This 3100-pound rig can pull 2000 pounds when properly equipped with the Trailer Tow package.
A choice of two World Engines will power the Patriot: a 2.0-liter, 158-horsepower, 4-cylinder double-overhead cam, or a 2.4-liter, 172-horsepower DOHC. A chief goal of the Patriot is fuel economy worth talking about, which will be a first for Jeep. The carmaker asserts that a 4x2 Sport with manual transmission can achieve 30 mpg. If the buyer opts for the continuously-variable automatic transmission, he will save money at the pump (6 to 8 percent, according to Jeep literature) over a traditional four-speed automatic. The timing on the latter is electronically-controlled and adjusts itself continuously according to the driving situation, maximizing efficiency and minimizing roughness and noise.
The Sport trim skips the aesthetic accoutrements of the higher-priced Limited; for instance, with black door handles and simple, 16-inch wheels. This should be perfectly fine with most budget-minded buyers, who may in fact be purchasing their first brand-new car. When purchased without the E Package of options, it even comes with manual windows, door locks, and side mirrors. The standard upholstery is a stain- and odor-resistant synthetic known as Vinyl Tech, which is also said to minimize static. Leather seating with front heaters can be added as an option.
Although it had not been yet safety-rated, the Patriot is certainly going to do well, as the well-being of occupants was given huge priority. It was built with a safety cage, crumple zones, door beams, and a steel crossbeam mounted to the rear body pan. Front and side-curtain air bags and available seat-mounted side units combine with the aforementioned to make for a pretty secure transportation situation.
Also joining the roster of safety features is the Electronic Stability Program, which integrates all-speed traction control, ABS with hydraulic brake assist, and Electronic Roll Mitigation to maximize directional stability. All of this should make it popular as a family car that one can trust to transport one's most precious cargo Ã?Â¢Ã¢Â?Â¬Ã¢Â?Â? the little ones, that is.
The E Package of options adds power windows and locks, keyless entry, height-adjustable driver's seat, removable/rechargeable flashlight, dome lamps, and passenger-assist handles. Those last two sound as if they ought to be unquestionably standard, but then again Jeep is the company that charges 30-some dollars to add an ashtray and lighter. Also available are 17-inch wheels, a power sunroof, and an upgraded audio system with 6-CD changer and Sirius Satellite Radio capability.