Jeep Patriot Complements Jeep's Range
Small Trail-Rated SUV Joins Jeep Lineup in Fall
New York’s Jacob Javits convention center is the backdrop for Jeep’s introduction of a second all-new, additive vehicle for the 2007 model year, as the Patriot is unveiled at the 2006 New York auto show. Come fall 2006, Jeep showrooms will be home to six vehicles, two more than in 2005 and the most in the brand’s history. The Patriot and Compass are additive vehicles for this year and are the first Jeep products derived from a car platform. Compass, introduced at the 2006 North American International Auto Show in January, goes on sale this summer. Though the show is still a couple of days away, AutoPacific and VehicleVoice correspondents have been watching the development of the Patriot, and here are our first impressions.
As Jeep was developing its first car-based SUV, the company evaluated two proposals with different personalities and decided to go for both. The Patriot’s job is to meet the demands of entry-level Jeep enthusiasts and intenders and give them a less-expensive way to put the legendary brand in their driveway, while the Compass is supposed to bring in more conquest buyers at an early point in their purchasing lives. Pricing for Patriot will be lower than Wrangler and likely similar to Compass, we expect. The Compass launches with a price range from just under $16,000 to just under $22,000, including destination. The top Patriot adds more off-road ability than the Compass, so this model may top out at a higher price point than Compass. Patriot is going for owners from their early 20s to early 40s. Jeep sees Patriot buyers as “confident, independent, rugged individuals who like the outdoors.” Presumably, Compass buyers are just as confident and independent, though perhaps less rugged or interested in the outdoors.
In the expansion of the Jeep brand, one can see the atomization of the market itself; buyers can find just the right SUV to meet their needs. Need a rugged off-roader? Take Wrangler. Need more space than Patriot or Compass and nicer on-road manners than Wrangler? Take Liberty. Need a mid-size, premium SUV? Take Grand Cherokee. Need seats for three more? Take Commander. You can even get a performance-oriented SUV in the Grand Cherokee SRT-8. Now, if you want a cheap Jeep, you can choose between urban style with the ability to handle inclement weather with ease or a traditional package with off-road ability. We’ll find out later this year if the strategy works better at the lower end of the market than it is at the upper end, as Jeep seems to be currently building more Commanders than they can easily sell.
Two 4×4 Systems: Trail Rated or Not
Among the risks of adding two new car-based SUVs for 2007 model year is a perceived dilution of the famed Trail Rated brand’s Rubicon-tackling capability. The reality, though, is that the majority of drivers do not go further off road than the mall, excepting the occasional dirt country road or snow-packed trail to the ski lodge. But reality doesn’t do anything for advertising or maintaining an image and in part to avoid the criticism that they are going soft, Jeep has ensured the Patriot can meet the tougher demands of wannabe off-roaders and can be ordered with equipment worthy of the Trail Rated badge.
There are two available 4×4 systems for the Patriot, with the expressively named Freedom Drive I and Freedom Drive II. Freedom Drive I is a basic active AWD system with a lockable center coupling. The AWD system should make easy work of rain, snow, and dirt roads. Switching on the four-wheel-drive Lock mode gives added traction for deeper snow, sand, and other low-traction surfaces. Those looking to be able to tackle ravines and drive over rocks, there is the Freedom Drive II. Freedom Drive II gets the second-generation continuously variable transmission with a low-range (CVT2L) that engages when the off-road mode is activated. The low ratio is 19:1. The Freedom Drive II Off-Road package includes an off-road brake traction control to maintain forward motion on split-friction surfaces, hill-descent control, three-mode ESP, and off-road anti-lock brakes. With Freedom Drive II Off-Road package, Patriot sits up an inch higher and gets an official Trail Rated stamp from Jeep. By the numbers, the Trail Rated Patriot gets nine inches ground clearance, 29-degree approach angle, 33-degree departure angle, and 23-degree breakover angle. Additional body sealing and high-mounted drivetrain vents give the Trail Rated Patriot a 19-inch water fording capability.
All Patriots get standard three-mode ESP, brake assist, electronic roll mitigation, and a rough-road detection for the ABS system. Consistent with Jeep’s trim strategy, Patriot is being offered in two models, Patriot and Patriot Limited. Either can be ordered with Freedom Drive I or Freedom Drive II Off-Road Package. Without checking one of those boxes on the order form, the Patriot is a front-drive vehicle.
Patriot Brings a Classic Look and SUV Utility
Among the standard Jeep cues are a signature seven-slot grille, round headlamps, stiff windshield, and upright rear window. From the front, rear, or side, the Patriot looks like a Jeep. For Patriots with the off-road package, seventeen-inch aluminum wheels and all-terrain tires sit inside trapezoidal wheel arches below a typically Jeep high beltline. Street-oriented Patriots get sixteen-inch wheels. The Patriot wears a standard four-door bodystyle with rear liftgate. Compared with the Compass, the Patriot offers the same 103.7-inch wheelbase, but is almost two inches longer and about 1.5 inches taller.
Though most interior innovations are in the minivan segment with things like fold-in-floor third rows and Chrysler’s Stow N Go seating, the Patriot’s square shape ensures it gets maximum interior space. The second-row 60/40-fold seats fold flat, and the front passenger’s seat can be folded into a tablelike surface. Patriot also benefits from some clever features on the other vehicles from this platform, Dodge Caliber and aforementioned Compass. Shared among the three cars are the optional sliding center armrest that moves forward three inches for shorter drivers and includes a flip pocket ready for MP3 players, the self-recharging removable rear cargo lamp for instant flashlight, 115-volt center power outlet for small electronics, an optional Boston Acoustics nine-speaker system that includes speakers in the tailgate that can be folded out for tailgating and picnics, a washable and removable vinyl load floor, and the new Yes Essentials easy-care and soil-repellant fabrics.
Other convenience options are similar to Caliber and Compass; Patriot offers a navigation system, in-dash six-CD player, MP3 auxiliary jack, Sirius satellite radio, UConnect hands-free communications system, engine-block heater, power foldaway mirrors, automatic dimming rearview mirror, compass and temperature gauge, heated seats (cloth or leather), and a sunroof.
Standard safety features for Patriot include a front and side-curtain air bags, ESP, Brake Traction Control, electronic roll mitigation, and anti-lock four-wheel disc brakes. Seat-mounted side airbags are optional.
U.S. Gets One Engine, Three Transmission Choices
All Patriots use the 172HP 2.4L DOHC 16v I4 global engine, optional in Compass and Caliber, with dual variable valve timing. The standard transmission is a five-speed manual, with a second-generation continuously variable transmission optional. The CVT2 promises better fuel economy than a four-speed automatic unit, and is the base for the Off-Road Package’s CVT2L with a low range.
Patriot joins Jeep’s international lineup in spring 2007, where it be available with a 2.0L diesel mated to a six-speed manual transmission.