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Jrations Article

General Articles - Product Reviews

First Look! 2007 Jeep Patriot

Article written by the editors of Jrations Magazine

Date Added: 03/04/2007

When we saw the early renditions of the new Jeep Patriot, our hearts skipped a few beats.

DaimlerChrysler, it seemed, had finally come to its senses and was bringing back a fresh version of the Cherokee.

Well, that notion quickly fell to pieces when we arrived in Scottsdale, Arizona, and got a first-hand look and test drive of the Patriot. While we appreciated the 50-foot view, closer inspection revealed this to be no Cherokee. In fact, the Patriot is several branches removed from the trunk. Oh, it has the general profile and many of the styling cues of its long-lived predecessor, but things have certainly changed since the Cherokee retired from the Jeep stable several years ago.

As you might expect, the Patriot is no body-on-ladder frame vehicle. It has, instead, a unit-body that shares architecture with the Jeep Compass and Dodge Caliber. As such, the possibilities for traditional off-road modifications are seriously limited. And this reveals one truth about the Patriot?it is designed for those looking to keep the Jeep nameplate in the driveway, but not necessarily those looking for a dedicated off-roader. To further underscore this ?road-first? mission, a lot of engineering went into the Patriot to make it extremely quiet and minimize noise, vibration and harshness. And it does. During our highway testing, we hit 100 mph on a straight stretch of Arizona highway and didn?t even know it. That also says something for the underpinnings.

Don?t look for large coil or leaf springs on the Patriot. It?s suspended up front by MacPherson struts, while the rear gets an independent multi-link. On the pavement or on the rough stuff, a smooth ride is guaranteed. Naturally, we took a hard look in this area, trying to envision the possibilities for aftermarket suspension lifts or, at the least, larger rolling stock. Sorry to say, it doesn?t look as if the Patriot is going to be a favorite of the aftermarket industry, but only time will tell.

At first glance the Patriot has all of the squarish hallmarks of the old Cherokee. In fact, it is one of the more boxy models around. But that?s not to say it has the aerodynamics of a cinder block, either. The DC design engineers did do a pretty good job of retaining the traditional rugged profile while incorporating aerodynamic assists throughout. The front grille, for example, exhibits curvature in both the vertical and horizontal planes, and although the corners and body lines are crisp, drag and funky turbulence is minimized. From the upright windshield to the lower air dam to the tire spoilers in the fascia and side sill molding, everything possible has been done to hold the Jeep styling DNA while updating the visuals and air flow management.

This is where things get particularly interesting. Two engines are offered, and while neither rate high on the accelerate-o-meter, their fuel economy is something to smile about. The base 2.0L World Engine (158 hp and 141 lb/ft torque) comes only with the 2WD model, and rates 26/30 city/highway. The top dog is the 2.4L I4 with variable valve timing (172 hp and 165 lb/ft torque). When mated to the Freedom Drive II Off-Road Package, it?s capable of 21/23 mpg. Again, this underscores Jeep?s intent to make the Patriot the suburban option for its dedicated customer base.

The Patriot is offered with a five-speed manual tranny or the interesting Continuously Variable Transaxle (CVT2). Yep, it?s a front-wheel drive. The neat thing about this tranny is that it doesn?t ?shift? like conventional slushboxes. Drop the accelerator and the rpm climbs in smooth and steady fashion. For off-roading, you?ll want the CVT2L option. It?s the same transmission, but with a low-ration (19:1) ?first gear.? We tested it on a few moderately steep downhill sections, and it does a fair job of compression braking, along with the electronic brake assist.

As for the 4WD component, the Patriot uses an electronically controlled coupling (EEC) that engages the rear driveshaft to split torque between the front and rear wheels. The Off-Road Package also comes with a 4WD Lock mode so that up to 60 percent of torque goes to the rear wheels. Additional features include an Electronic Stability Program (ESP), ABS, and Brake Traction Control. While running high-speed sand washes we did everything we could to lose control of the Patriot, but the ESP system worked flawlessly, making it perfect for maintaining control when encountering those sudden snow or ice patches.

Final Thoughts

The Patriot is by no means the ?go-to? Jeep if you?re looking for a serious trail runner. What it is good for are those with families who are looking for a low-priced entry vehicle that offers excellent front and rear passenger comfort, delicious on-road ride quality and, when equipped with the Freedom Drive II Off-Road Package, a Trail Rated Jeep that will see you through most family adventures.

For a more detailed look at this newest member of the Jeep family, check out J Rations Standard Issue 6 on newsstands in April.

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