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2007 Jeep Patriot: An Off-Road Prince

Jeep’s Second Crossover SUV Really Takes Compact Crossovers Off-Road
Jeep followed up the Compass, which went on sale in November 2006 (click here for our first Compass drive), with a tougher, more off-road-capable, and more traditional Jeep crossover SUV in the Patriot. Though we brought you news of the Patriot following its introduction in New York last year (click here), AutoPacific staffers were invited to be among those taking the first drives. Compass and Patriot share quite a bit, both under the skin and in the interior, as they use the same platform. Compass follows the “modern” side of Jeep, which includes the Grand Cherokee. Jeep considers the Patriot a traditional Jeep, like the old Cherokee, the Liberty and new Commander.


To successfully fill the traditional Jeep role, Patriot needs to support its Cherokee-inspired design with legitimate performance, if not Wrangler ability. So Jeep offers Patriot in three driveline flavors, standard front-drive, Freedom Drive I all-wheel-drive, and Freedom Drive II Trail Rated all-wheel-drive. Freedom Drive II gives Patriot best-in-class (Crossover SUV class) off-road ability. But Patriot competes in a class better known for inclement-weather driving than off-roading; they aren’t targeting off-road performance. If the Wrangler is Jeep’s off-road King, the Trail-Rated version of Patriot is its Prince. This prince better be more capable off-road than the Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Honda CR-V, Jeep Compass, and Subaru Forester.

Patriot Succeeds on Moderately Challenging Trails
Patriot easily tackled the desert trail Jeep picked out, albeit with a lot of dust and a scratch here and there from vegetation along the side of the trail. The trail, also used by four-wheelers and dirt bikes, was not designed by Jeep. Not as demanding as the Rubicon Trail (which Jeep does not say Patriot can handle), the trail presented a reasonable challenge. A washout section with loose gravel and dirt for faster, rally-style driving was even more fun than the rock-crawling section.



The Patriot can make a novice off-roader (particularly with a good trail guide) feel like a bit of a hero. With traversing the trails as or more difficult than Rubicon as a frame of reference, the Patriot did not impress seasoned off-roaders with hardcore ability. But that takes Patriot out of context. Patriot isn’t meant for the heavy-duty off-roader, and it does have good capability for novice or occasional off-roaders. Freedom Drive II is mated to a standard CVT2L transmission with a low ratio. As a continuously variable transmission, this isn’t a true two-speed transfer case setup like the Wrangler. Freedom Drive II uses a series of electronic aids to control braking and wheelspin, beginning with the standard electronic stability control and ABS (with on- and off-road calibrations) and adding brake traction control and hill descent control. Getting up and over rocks and logs required more use of throttle and brake than Wrangler did over the Rubicon last August (click here). This multi-purpose trail included a narrow, twisty stretch that showed off Patriot’s maneuverability and short turning circle. The Patriot was nimble and easy to work down the path.


On Road Presence Average

While Patriot easily beats its segment off-road, on-road it isn’t a star. Interior noise was reasonably low, allowing for conversation amongst four of us with relative ease. We also took a Honda CR-V, available as a competitive comparison, out for a quick spin; the CR-V’s engine and transmission were notably louder and rougher. Patriot’s 172HP is competitive by the numbers, but merely adequate. The engine provides plenty of power for off-road driving, where slow speeds and patience prevail. But the available power on-road and through some elevations is not impressive. On-road, we had a five-speed manual transmission, which allows for more involvement and rewards you with satisfying shift feel.

The interior looks strong and capable, with a sensible use of chrome/satin finish accents balancing its utilitarian personality, though not all materials feel as solid or smooth as one might hope. The two-tone color scheme, whether leather or cloth, dresses up the environment nicely. Features like the ChillZone cooled glovebox, ABS, ESP, an MP3 jack and the armrest with the flip out storage pocket are standard, though the Sport gets roll-up windows and manual locks and mirrors unless various packages are ordered. Options include the drop-down tailgate speakers, Sirius satellite radio, the removable/rechargeable cargo-area dome light, and power windows, locks, and mirrors. Limited models can be ordered with UConnect (though the button is there on all models, forever reminding you what you didn’t buy), a navigation system, and a sunroof.

Cheap Off-Roader
Though it seems that the Compass would be the more logical entry vehicle because it cannot be optioned up to the Jeep’s Trail Rated capability, the Patriot is the entry product. It is in some ways academic, as the base price difference between Compass and Patriot is $1000 and the Patriot can be optioned to the $27,000 range (a Limited Freedom Drive II starts at $25,530). Compass cannot be ordered with the Freedom Drive II. Jeep makes both Freedom Drive I and II available with the Sport model. This means a base Trail-Rated Patriot with manual locks, windows, and mirrors and a handful of options starts at only $19,175. The Sport in front-drive starts at less than $15,000 (all prices include destination). A Patriot Limited can be had in front-drive, Freedom Drive I and II versions. Initially expected for the fourth quarter of 2006, the Patriot didn’t arrive in dealers until the first quarter of 2007.

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