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2009 Jeep Patriot: Versatility and Value, in Classic Jeep Form

Topics:  Jeep Patriot

2009 Jeep Patriot: Versatility and Value, in Classic Jeep Form

James Flammang
August 18, 2009

James Flammang

The Jeep Patriot might disappoint ardent off-roaders, though it's more rugged than the company's Compass and appears tightly made. Its capabilities on tamer surfaces are more appealing for the average driver while it is Jeep "Trail Rated."

External dimensions are similar to those of the Jeep Cherokee, which was supplanted by the Liberty for 2002, except that the Patriot is longer, and its windshield is more upright. Even the back window is almost vertical.

Trapezoidal wheel flares help give Patriots some contemporary "attitude," according to marketers. So does the "signature" seven-slot Jeep grille. When the Patriot debuted, Jeep executives noted its "simple, rugged, but timeless design."

The 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine develops 172 horsepower, driving either a five-speed manual gearbox or a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Front-drive Patriots may instead have a milder, 158-hp 2.0-liter engine, offered only with the CVT. That version gets a fuel-economy estimate of 23/27 mpg in city/highway driving, versus 21 mpg city/25 mpg highway for a 2.4-liter Patriot with the CVT. With manual shift and either front- or all-wheel drive, the 2.4-liter Patriot gets a 23/28 mpg estimate.

Because the Patriot is intended for at least moderate off-road chores, two full-time four-wheel-drive systems are available with the 2.4-liter engine: Freedom Drive I, or Freedom Drive II. The second version uses a different gearset, to provide a lower simulated "first-gear" ratio in the CVT.

Jeep has claimed that the Patriot's approach, departure and breakover angles are "best in class." Tow hooks and Hill Descent Control, for assistance in rougher terrain, are available in the Freedom Drive II Off-Road option package. Sport models ride on 16-inch steel wheels, while the Limited gets 17-inch aluminum wheels.

Five passengers fit inside the Patriot. Curtain-type airbags with electronic roll mitigation are standard, along with antilock braking, and an Electronic Stability Program. Simple to drive, the Patriot maneuvers well enough. Though quick-reacting, with a rather tight turning circle, the appropriately-assisted steering gets a bit vague at times, Still, little correction is needed on the highway.

Although the CVT-equipped Patriot performs acceptably, it emits quite a lot of engine noise, making it less refined than some rivals. Acceleration is adequate from a standstill, but rather feeble when you need to pass or merge, despite the engine's immediate revving to high rpm. Move the CVT's shift lever to the left and you're in Sport mode, selecting "gears" like a manual transmission. Ratio changes occur instantly. Even if the "gears" aren't real, they make a big difference in performance.

Sometimes, at low speed, the CVT actually tries to slow you down, as if it's clawing at the pavement. Now and then, when slowing, then trying to start picking up speed again, the CVT may react with a nasty jerk. Push the gas pedal at 40-45 mph, and you can anticipate a second's "dead spot" before much happens. Mounted on the forward console, the manual-shift lever for non-CVT Patriots is somewhat vague, but that gearbox yields more spirited responses.

Overall, the Patriot behaves and handles more like a car, but it does have a bit of truck-like sound. Telltale noises, slight but reminiscent of older Chrysler products, signal that insulation could be better. There's definite stiffness to the suspension, which helps a Patriot react immediately (if curtly) to bumps, while maintaining control. Trouble spots pass before you know it, even if some jolting results. Hill Descent Control works effectively off-road, though it can become annoyingly overactive.

Entry/exit is easy, front and rear; though the doorsill is rather tall. Reasonably long front seat bottoms and soft seatbacks provide comfortable accommodations. The far-off windshield appears to make the interior seem more spacious. Headroom is quite ample with plenty of elbow space for the driver. The backseat is comfortable for two and passable for a third, except for the need to straddle the cupholder console. Hollowed-out front seatbacks help rear leg space, and toe room is huge. Wide B- and C-pillars don't impair over-shoulder views, and the relatively tall hood is welcome as a guide to the road ahead.

Patriot prices start at $18,170 (destination charge included) for a front-drive Sport model. The Limited stickers for $22,860. All-wheel drive adds $1,750, and the CVT costs as much as $1,100 extra. A Rocky Mountain Edition option package for 2009 includes a sunroof and monochrome paint.

autoMedia.com, together with their expert automotive journalists, has been providing automotive advice you can trust for over 10 years. They research and write original auto reviews and road tests to provide accurate and entertaining information to car shoppers, enthusiasts and do-it-yourselfers. View more of their popular reviews and obtain additional information on the 2009 Jeep Patriot, as well pricing, interior and exterior photo's, rebates and incentives on all Jeep Models. Go to -> http://www.automedia.com

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