Are you a Jeep loyalist? If so, the all-new '07 Jeep Patriot will likely not find a docking station in your garage...or backyard. Those of us that know that true wheeling without a low-range set ofgears is just wrong will call the expected horde of Patriot owners The Great Unwashed. Why? Because this new model has no low range and shares its platform with the recently introduced Jeep Compass and related Dodge Caliber, which are better classified as hatchback crossover vehicles appealing to fashion-conscious consumers.
But hold up a minute before you burn the flag! The Patriot does have modern-classic Jeep SUV styling-think a smaller Jeep Cherokee for looks-and some true practicality. Offered in both front-wheel drive (ouch!) and four-wheel drive, the Patriot flushes out Jeep's entry-level lineup. There are two trims-Sport and Limited-with three drive configurations: front-wheel drive, Freedom Drive I four-wheel drive, and the Freedom Drive II Off-Road Package 4WD. One engine, a 2.4L inline four-cylinder, powers all, shifted via a five-speed manual or continuously variable transmission (CVT). Patriots with Freedom Drive II get Jeep's Trail Rated distinction, meaning this model has been designed with ground clearance, maneuverability, water fording, traction, and articulation. It can be fun in an off-road playground (which is where we took it), but doesn't have the grunt and growl to tackle the Rubicon.
Freedom Drive I functions as full-time, active (whatever that really means) 4WD with a locking center coupling good for low-traction situations such as deep snow and sand. Jeep says this particular 4WD solution offers "year-round assurance" in rain, snow, or other low-traction situations, but it's good as a daily-driver. We say City Slicker!
Freedom Drive II Off-Road Package uses the CVT to achieve pseudo low-range gearing (an even bigger ouch!), which engages when off-road mode is selected, and triggers a 19:1 low ratio, touted by Jeep as "best-in-class." Brake Traction Control gives the Patriot forward momentum on tough surfaces when grip is gone. Hill Descent Control applies the braking system when needed to allow safe 4-6 mph downhilling, without driver input. Three-mode ESP helps stabilization when needed. Other Off-Road stock includes 17-inch all-terrain 215/65-series tires, skidplates, tow hooks, foglights, seat height adjustment, and an air filtration system. As equipped, Freedom Drive II models sit 1 inch higher than their siblings, giving 9 inches rub and scrub clearance.
The advanced 2.4L World Engine has variable valve timing on both the intake and exhaust camshafts, yielding 172 hp at 6,000 rpm and 165 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm. The fuel economy in FWD/five-speed manual trim rates up to 30 mpg on the highway and approximately 26 mpg around town, while 4x4/five-speed Patriots achieve just 1 mpg less in city/highway settings. The available CVT is a second-gen unit that Chrysler Group engineers have tuned for maximum response and precise control. Compared with a four-speed automatic, fuel economy will improve by 6-8 percent, according to Jeep. Not surprisingly, the Jeep Compass shares this exact powertrain. Don't get us started.
So why? Jeep says the compact SUV segment is growing, believing that the approximately 300,000 units sold in 2004 will double by 2010 and nearly triple by 2016. Thus, Jeep's strategy of marketing two vehicles-the Compass and Patriot-at low price points in the market. Offered in FWD format to start, both are likely to attract buyers who may not have considered the Jeep brand before. And with a base MSRP under $15,000, the Jeep Patriot should prove attractive to budget shoppers and others who want to be weekend players...but not warriors.
Vehicle: 2007 Jeep Patriot
Base Price: $14,985 Sport 4x2; $16,735 Sport 4x4; $19,985 Limited 4x2; $21,735 Limited 4x4
Engine: 2.4L inline four-cylinder
Horsepower: 172 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft): 165 @ 4,400 rpm
Transmission: Five-speed manual standard; continuously variable, transmission available
Curb Weight (lb): 3,108 Sport 4x2, 3,326 Limited 4x4
EPA Mileage (city/hwy. mpg): 26/30 (4x2, five-speed manual), 25/29 (4x4, five-speed manual), 23/26 (4x4, CVT)
Wheelbase (in): 103.7
Length (in): 173.6
Width (in): 69.1
Height (in): 64.4, 65.6
Seating Capacity: Five
Head Room (in., front/rear): 41.0/39.3 (with sunroof)
Leg Room (in., front/rear): 40.6/39.4
Maximum Cargo Volume (cu ft): 62.7
Approach Angle (degrees): 29 (with Off-Road Package)
Breakover Angle (degrees): 23 (with Off-Road Package)
Departure Angle (degrees): 33 (with Off-Road Package)
Ground Clearance (in): 9.0 (with Off-Road Package)