To quote an obscure U.S. Supreme Court justice (Potter Stewart, ruling on a famous obscenity case), "I can't define pornography, but I know it when I see it." The same could be said for the new Jeep Patriot. We can't really define "Jeepness," but we know it when we see it.

Jeep has two new four-cylinder sport/utility vehicles in its showrooms: last year's Compass and the new 2007 Patriot. Earlier this year, the Compass ran in Motor Trend's Car of the Year competition (it's essentially an all-wheel-drive Dodge Caliber with a taller seating position).

What does that make the Patriot? Car, crossover, or SUV? Is it a real Jeep? The Patriot takes the same Mitsubishi Lancer-derived platform and gives it an extra inch of ground clearance with better approach and departure angles.

Visually, the Patriot distinguishes itself from the Compass with a boxier greenhouse, which creates more useable interior space. It has a blockier front fascia and four real door handles (instead of the Compass' rear handles, hidden in the back of the door frame). It's not quite a modern-day version of the 1984-2002 Cherokee.

Its equipment and personality will probably earn the Patriot a spot in the 2008 Motor Trend Sport/Utility of the Year competition, rather than Car of the Year. Like Potter Stewart, we'll know it when we see it.

Patriots will be available in front drive or Freedom Drive I or II all-wheel drive. Freedom Drive I (which is optional--all base Patriots will be front drivers), uses an electronically controlled coupling (ECC) to the rear differential, transmitting torque through a two-clutch system. The driver can lock the center diff with a T-handle to assure up to 60 percent of available torque goes to the rear wheels.

Freedom Drive II uses the same ECC, tuned for more serious off-roading, with a low-ratio CVT, called CVT2L. This package adds one inch of ground clearance, 17-inch all-terrain tires and aluminum wheels, a full-size spare, skidplates, two front tow hooks, fog-lamps, manual seat-height adjuster, and a lower ratio for the continuously variable transmission. Unfortunately, there's no manual gearbox available in the Trail Rated (Freedom Drive II) version. Engineers did work on one, but couldn't get the five-speed gearbox to handle the setup. With FDII, the low-gear "crawl" ratio is 19:1, versus a 14:1 standard low-gear ratio for the CVT.

Dropping the CVT from Drive into Low shuts off the electronic stability-control program and adds hill-descent control--a first for a Jeep and for a vehicle this inexpensive. You can manually shut off the hill descent control while in Low for faster off-roading if you so choose.

Faster off-roading is what Jeep offered with Freedom Drive II-equipped Patriots in our introductory drive. It wasn't the sort of trail that would make a Wrangler sweat, but it would've stranded key competitors like the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Tucson, and Ford Escape four-bangers. And even though you may never go off-roading, its nice to know that if you find yourself in a flash-flood situation, you've got something the others don't.

Patriots start at $14,985 with the 172-horsepower, 2.4-liter four, CVT, front drive, and manual window regulators. (A 2.0-liter four is available in the Patriot Sport, only with front drive and a manual transmission.) The cheapest 4x4 is $16,735 and with Freedom Drive II, Patriots start at $19,175. Likewise, Patriots are split into Sport and Limited trim levels, with $25,000 or so getting you a well-equipped model with heated leather seats and premium audio with fold-down rear speakers for tailgating. The Limited models have more chrome and polish than the Sport versions, but both suffer from the cheap interior plastics and cost-cutting look of the other Caliber-derived models.

Like its platform siblings, the Patriot is stuck with the global 2.4-liter VVT four. It's not a bad engine, but it's not stellar, and mated to the CVT, off-the-line punch feels lackluster to say the least, with an exhaust note that sounds like a blender under heavy load, especially when bouncing around an off-road course.

Whether you understand the "Jeep thing" aphorism, the Patriot is a much better Jeep than the Compass, but that's not saying much. The Patriot is more buttoned-down, more solid with more refined ride and handling, and has better body control. It's still well short of making it to the top of the class (we're not sure we'd want to take it to the top of a mountain), but props to Jeep for exploring the $15K valleys.

2007 Jeep Patriot
General
Location of final assembly Belvidere, Illinois
Body style 4-door, 5-pass
EPA size class Compact SUV
Drivetrain layout Front engine, FWD/AWD
Airbags Front, side curtain
Powertrain
Engine type I-4, alum block/head
Bore x stroke, in 3.46 x 3.82
Displacement, ci/L 144/2.4
Compression ratio 10.5:1
Valve gear DOHC, 4 valves/cyl
Fuel induction Sequential, electronic
SAE horsepower, hp @ rpm 172 @ 6000
SAE torque, lb-ft @ rpm 165 @ 4400
Base transmission Five-speed manual
1st 3.77:1
2nd 2.16:1
3rd 1.41:1
4th 1.03:1
5th 0.81:1
Reverse 3.42:1
Axle ratio 4.12:1
Final drive ratio 3.33:1
Opt transmission Continuously variable CVT2
Forward ratios 2.35:1 to 0.39:1
Reverse ratio 1.76:1
Final drive ratio 6.12:1
Overall top-gear ratio 2.41:1
Effective low-gear ratio 14.1:1
Opt transmission Continuously variable CVT2L
Forward ratios 2.35:1 to 0.39:1
Reverse ratio 1.76:1
Final drive ratio 8.14:1
Overall top-gear ratio 3.21:1
Effective low-gear ratio 19.1:1
Transfer-case model NA
Recommended fuel Regular unleaded
Dimensions/Capacities
Wheelbase, in 103.7
Length, in 173.4
Width, in 69.1
Height, in 64.4
Track, f/r, in 59.8/59.8
Headroom, f/r, in 41.0/39.3
Legroom, f/r, in 40.6/39.4
Shoulder room, f/r, in 54.6/54.0
Total interior volume, cu ft 101.7
Behind back row, cu ft 23.0
Back row folded, cu ft 54.2
Ground clearance, in 9.0
Approach/departure angle, deg 29.0/33.0
Load lift height, in 26.0
Base curb weight, lb 3108-3326
Payload capacity, lb 950
GVWR, lb 4200
GCWR, lb 6000
Towing capacity, lb 1800
Fuel capacity, gal 13.6
Chassis
Construction Unit-body
Suspension, f/r IFS, MacPherson strut, coilovers/IRS, coilovers
Steering type Rack and pinion
Ratio 16.4:1
Turns, lock to lock 3.0
Turning circle, ft 35.6
Brakes, f/r 11.3-in vented disc/10.5-in disc, 4WABS
Wheels 17 x 6.5-in aluminum
Tires 215/65R17 Goodyear Wrangler SR-A
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy 26/30 manual; 21/23 CVT2
Price
Base price $14,985 (FWD, 2.4L, manual)
Price as tested $24,412 (AWD, 2.4L, CVT2L)

  • «
  • |
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
  • |
  • View Full Article