First Drive: 2007 Jeep Patriot
The 2007 Jeep Patriot, the latest vehicle derived from Chrysler's C-segment platform, distinguishes itself from its Compass sibling with more palatable Jeep styling, including a blockier front fascia, four real door handles instead of rear handles "hidden" in the door frame, and less tumblehome to the greenhouse for a more ruggedlook.
It's not quite a modern-day version of the 1984 to 2002 Cherokee, but it comes close, especially if this November the SEMA floor in Las Vegas finds itself littered with Patriots with whip antennas and on raised suspensions. What sets it apart from the Compass, though, is the optional Trail Rated Freedom Drive II all-wheel-drive system.
Like the Compass, the Patriot is front-drive standard, with optional Freedom Drive I andits electronically controlled coupling (ECC) to the rear differential, transmitting torquethrough a two-clutch system. The driver can lock the center diff with a T-handle to ensureup to 60-percent torque to the rear wheels.
The Patriot-only Freedom Drive II uses the same ECC, but adds one inch of ground clearance, 17-inch all-terrain tires and aluminum wheels, full-size spare, skidplates, tow hooks, foglamps, manual seat-height adjuster, and a lower ratio for the CVT. Unfortunately, that means there's no manual gearbox in the Trail Rated version. Engineers couldn't get the five-speed gearbox to match up with the ECC. A five-speed manual is available with the 2.4 and Freedom Drive I. 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 cheap. You can manually shut off the hill-descent control while in "low" for faster off-roading.
Fast off-roading is what Jeep offered in the Patriot first drive. It wasn't the sort of trail that would make a Wrangler sweat, but likely would've stranded competitors like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Tucson, and Ford Escape four-bangers. Getting FDII in the Patriot is a bit like having the folding picnic table in the previous generations of CR-V. You may never go off-roading or picnicking, but you've got something extra versus the competition for about the same amount of money.
Patriot starts at $14,985 with the 172-horsepower, 2.4-liter four (a 2.0-liter four is available with front-drive only), CVT, front-wheel drive and manual window regulators. The cheapest 4x4, which includes an upgrade to the 172-horsepower, 2.4-liter engine, is $16,735 and with Freedom Drive II, Patriotism LC startsat $19,175. The Patriot is split into Sport and Limited trim levels; $25,000 or so will get you a well-equipped model with heated leather seats and premium audio with fold-down rear speakers for tailgating.
The Patriot is perhaps unique in offering its level of offroadability in a cute 'ute package and is simply more likeable than the Compass and Dodge Caliber (its other C-segment sibling), with more refined ride and handling and better body control (Chrysler says it's added improvements to those first two C models).
But like its platform siblings, the Patriot is stuck with the DaimlerChrysler/Hyundai/Mitsubishi "global" 2.4-liter VVT four. It's not a bad engine, but not stellar, and in most versions it's mated to the CVT, which saps its off-the-line punch and sounds like a blender under heavy acceleration, especially when bouncing around an off-road course. Frozen daiquiri, anyone?
|2007 Jeep Patriot|
|Base Price||$14,985 - $21,785|
|Vehicle Layout||Front engine, FWD or 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|Engine||2.0L/158-hp/141-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4; 2.4/172-hp/165-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|Transmission||5-speed manual; continuously variable auto|
|Curb Weight||3100-3300 lb (mfr)|
|Length x Width x Height||173.6 x 69.1 x 64.4 - 65.6 in|
|0-60 MPH||9.3 sec (MT est)|
|EPA City/HWY Econ||12-16/23-30 mpg|
|On Sale In U.S.||Currently|