Jeep Patriot Review

William C Montgomery
by William C Montgomery
jeep patriot review

High gasoline prices, foreign wars in oil producing nations and fears of global warming have made fuel efficiency the new patriotism. Yet many Americans reject clown-sized economy cars and suppository shaped CUV’s and minivans. They cling to the outdoorsy lifestyle and the go-anywhere freedom embodied by rough-and-tumble SUV’s. In a second attempt to address these shifting values, Jeep has unveiled the Patriot. It's an SUV for gas conscious Americans! Actually, never mind all that. Please, oh please, just let it be better than the Compass.

Visually, the $15k (FWD) Patriot succeeds where its mechanical doppelganger, the Compass, fails. The Patriot actually looks like a Jeep. Its grille is more upright and the hood smartly folds over the seven slots and round headlights. Beneath the bumpers, the Patriot’s body work tapers back, facilitating off road-friendly approach and departure angles.

Muscular fenders frame the trademark Jeep trapezoidal wheel wells in the Grand Cherokee fashion– as opposed to the Compass’ fat Elvis fender work. The Patriot’s upright greenhouse follows the same rectangular proportions as the Commander, which itself is an homage to the Cherokee. Wrangleresque it ain’t, but the Patriot’s Mom was clearly playing in the Jeep gene pool.

Serious Jeepers aren’t picky about interior aesthetics. Dirt lovin’ Wrangler and Liberty owners have been known to strip their rigs’ interior carpeting and spray pickup truck bed liner over the bare metal. These fearless depreciators will appreciate the Patriot's interior’s Rubbermaid chic.

Sure it has carpeting, available leather seats, a leather wrapped steering wheel and splashes of trendy faux aluminum, but every other surface and compartment is constructed from textured molded plastic. No matter how dusty and foul the Patriot’s cabin gets plugging mud, crawling over rocks and slithering through sand, cleanliness is only a damp rag away; it’s like wiping down a baby’s high chair.

Of course, the pairing of this highly washable interior with a vehicle designed to appeal to off-road-crazed Jeep owners is strictly coincidental. Chrysler uses this same nasty cheap plastic in nearly every car they make, including the identically appointed Jeep Compass. Furthermore, the most dedicated (and filthiest) off-road enthusiasts will stick with Wranglers. The Patriot will be competing for acceptance in urban and suburban environs, where drivers expect more refinement.

On the positive side, the seating position is excellent, especially for taller drivers. Drivers trading in their gas sucking Jeep Liberty will appreciate the Patriot’s generous leg room and reclining rear seats.

When it comes to driving, the Patriot takes a back seat to its fraternal twin, the Compass, whose ride and handling are already on the wrong side of unacceptable. Although only 1.5" taller and 33lbs heavier, the Patriot is much more sensitive to all non-linear motions, thanks to its four-wheel independent suspension. The dynamics are strictly Olde Worlde; the Patriot leans and flops its way down a winding road like a wounded Hessian.

The Compass’ excellent brakes are… AWOL. The Patriot’s stop pedal engages its four-wheel disks very slowly indeed, and resents driver input. Nonetheless, the long legged suspension eagerly dispatches bumps and gobbles up highway carbuncles, hinting at the Patriot's off-road potential.

Unfortunately, these sisters-under-the-skin share their most vital greasy bits: their drivetrains. Both vehicles come incomplete with an atonal 2.4-liter 16-valve four-cylinder Dual Variable Valve Timing World Engine, attached to a buzz-inducing (and not in the caffeinated sense of the word) Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT).

The 172hp mill motivates the Patriot to 60mph in… yawn… stretch… ah, who cares? You’ll get up to freeway speeds, you know, eventually. And yet this engine is Patriot’s raison d'être. In 4×2 trim, the EPA prognosticators promise 24/27mpg. It’s a [theoretically] stratospheric achievement. You know, for a Jeep.

Early four-pot 4Runners, Monteros, Pathfinders and Cherokees conquered hill and dale with aplomb. Though capable in the bush, these lightweight vehicles were gutless tin cans compared to their robust descendants. Their modern incarnations now tilt the scales well in excess of two tons. By contrast, the Patriot is an SUV lightweight: 3,326lbs. in full regalia. And it’s still a pig.

For off-roader drivers, Jeep reinforced the Patriot’s underlying Mitsubishi GA platform with an ultra-high-strength steel cross-car beam above the rear axle. Optional Trail Rated models ($25k and up) get the Freedom-Drive II drive train system (utilizing the CVT at a 19:1 ratio for steep ascents and descents), downhill braking control mode, an engine oil cooler, extra ground clearance and skid plates. Packaged with the Patriot’s Jeepish looks, these features give the ute the cred that the Compass lacks.

Not that Jeep cares. On the official website, under “Capabilities,” the copy talks about the Patriot’s “smooth, agile and responsive handling… on mountain switchbacks and [during] evasive maneuvers” and, I swear, “parallel parking… made easy.” If Jeep is aiming the Patriot at the CR-V, RAV4 and Escape, they’re in big trouble. With its Playmobil interior, gutless engine and questionable handling, the Patriot is far better off road than on.

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  • HooverBucs HooverBucs on Jun 15, 2009

    I dont know if im the only one here that actually OWNS a Jeep Patriot, but i can tell you that it is a great jeep. i average about 26mpg and it handles great, and if you are talking ground clearance, buy the FD-II package and a Rocky Road Lift kit. i dont know if any of you have ever heard the saying that"An artist must evolve to survive" well this is the same concept. Jeep knows that fuel efficiency will become more and more popular, and since the Wranglers and Grand Cherokees arent any Prius, they might as well make an affordable alternative that atleast embodies a jeep. even if it cant rock crawl or other such extreme off roading, i dont think that is what youll be looking to do with a patriot, if you did want extreme off road ability, then you would buy a wrangler. Besides, who can beat only having to fill up every 2-3 weeks? or having as much cargo space as the patriot does with out compromising leg room? The Pat is a great car, i recommend it 100%

  • Teknobeam Teknobeam on Mar 03, 2010

    I recently purchased a barnd new 2009 Patriot with the sun and sound package which includes the sunroof and the touch screen sound system. I also own a 1999 Cherokee Sport and have owned a Grand Cherokee in the past. I was dubious about getting the patriot at first, but the gas mileage factor was a huge plus for me. The sound system in the vehicle is the best i have heard in any off the line vehicle. After a week of driving it I never looked back. It took a while to get a handle on the CV transmission but now i know how to make it fly. This vehicle is a winner. I love the thing.

  • Analoggrotto Only allow Tesla drivers to race, we are the epitome of class and brilliance.
  • Wjtinfwb When my kids turned 16 and got their Operators, we spent $400 to send both (twins) to 2 driving schools. One held by the local Sherriff was pretty basic but a good starter on car control and dealing with police officers as they ran the school. Then they went to a full day class in N Atlanta on a racetrack, with the cars supplied by BMW. They learned evasive maneuvers, high speed braking, skid control on a wet skid pad and generally built a lot of confidence behind the wheel. Feeling better about their skills, we looked for cars. My son was adamant he wanted a manual, Halleluiah! Looking at used Civics and Golf's and concerned about reliability and safety, I got discouraged. Then noticed an AutoTrader adv. for a new leftover '16 Ford Focus ST six-speed. 25k MSRP advertised for $17,500. $2500 above my self-imposed limit. I went to look, a brand new car, 16 miles on it, black with just the sunroof. 3 year warranty and ABS, Airbags. One drive and the torquey turbo 2.0 convinced me and I bought it on the spot. 7 years and 66k miles later it still serves my son well with zero issues. My daughter was set on a Subaru, I easily found a year old Crosstrek with all the safety gear and only 3k miles. 21k but gave my wife and I lots of peace of mind. She still wheels the Subaru, loves it and it too has provided 7 years and 58k miles of low cost motoring. Buy what fits your budget but keep in mind total cost over the long haul and the peace of mind a reliable and safe car provides. Your kids are worth it.
  • Irvingklaws Here's something cheaper, non-german, and more intriguing...
  • Wjtinfwb Happy you're loving your Z4. Variety is the spice of life and an off-beat car like the Z4 intrigues me as well. More than anything, your article and pictures have me lusting for the dashboards of a decade ago. Big, round analog gauges. Knobs and buttons to dial up the A/C, Heat or Volume. Not a television screen in sight. Need to back up? Use the mirrors or look over your shoulder. If your Z4 had the six-speed manual, it would be about perfect. Today's electronified BMW's leave me ice cold, as do the new Mercedes and Audi's with their video game interiors. Even a lowly GTI cannot escape the glowing LED dashboard. I'm not a total luddite, Bluetooth streaming for the radio would be nice and I'd agree the cooled seats would be a bonus on a warm day with the top down. But the Atari dashboard is just a bridge too far for me.
  • Craiger Honestly I was incredibly disappointed by the lack of steering feel. I dropped off my 530 at the dealer in New Jersey and picked up the Z. Driving all of my familiar roads I was just shocked at how much info wasn't coming through the wheel. Because of that I was never able to push the Z like I did the 530.