2014 Jeep Patriot Limited 4x4 Carey Russ Review
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS
2014 Jeep Patriot Limited 4x4
Before there were SUVs, before there were crossovers, there were Jeeps. What was originally a World War II military utility vehicle was mustered into civilian service after the conflict. And while the core product, through multiple corporate owners, was and is very similar to that original (yes, that's the Wrangler now), there have been other, more civilized, Jeeps since the early 1960s. With few exceptions, all were and are eminently capable off-road, while offering much more comfort than the bare-bones original. The Wagoneer of the 1960s could been called the first luxury SUV, had the "sport-utility" moniker been around at that time. And the Cherokee, introduced in 1984, introduced car-like unibody construction to sturdy off-road vehicles. One could call it the first crossover, but I don't think an old Cherokee would accept that…
With its history and cachet, Jeep has a definite appeal, even to people who are unlikely to ever do any "off-road" driving more serious than winter snow, rain, and mud. The market for comfortable vehicles is somewhat larger than that for a bare-bones, doors-optional basic CJ or old Wrangler, and, especially in recent years, Jeep's product line has expanded to serve that need. While the current Wrangler is far more civilized than any previous, it isn't exactly a mainstream vehicle. At the compact end of the size spectrum, the Compass is offered for people who want a comfortable small Jeep, with the larger Patriot for those who want something a bit larger, but not too big, and a bit more off-road capable.
For 2014, the Jeep Patriot is offered in Sport, Latitude, and Limited trim levels. Yes, it's a unibody, but that doesn't necessarily make it a crossover. It's a Jeep first, so SUV works just fine. With the base MSRP of the Sport under $16,000, Jeep calls the Patriot the "best-priced SUV in America." Standard power in the Sport and Latitude is a 2.0-liter, 158-horsepower four-cylinder engine, coupled to a five-speed manual or new six-speed automatic transmission. Optional there, and standard in the Limited, is a 2.4-liter, 172-hp four, with the same transmission choices. 2WD means front-wheel drive; 4WD is the "FreedomDrive I" full-time single-range active automatic system, which, unusually for the small SUV/crossover class, has a lockable center differential for improved traction on slippery surfaces. Freedom Drive II, a CVT-based single-range system that simulates low range, is mentioned in press materials but not on the consumer website. Make of that what you will. I suspect the vast majority of Patriot buyers will do perfectly well with Freedom Drive I.
The Sport has all of the required and expected safety features, and even hill-start assist, foglamps, illuminated cupholders, and a rechargeable flashlight. Latitude adds air conditioning, power windows and door locks, alloy wheels, heated front seats, and other upscale features. Limited means the 2.4 engine, leather seating, power driver's seat, upgraded audio, and bright trim.
I was pleasantly impressed by the 4x4 Limited that is this week's test vehicle. "Refinement" has not always been a word associated with Chrysler's smaller offerings, especially in recent times of financial duress. Bad times are over, the partnership with Fiat is working far better than the Daimler-Chrysler disaster, and that shows in the materials and workmanship, especially inside. The 2.4-liter engine has plenty of power for everyday use, and on relatively little fuel, with 22 mpg overall and up to nearly 30 on the highway. If it isn't really meant for serious offroad use, the Patriot is a comfortable, conveniently-sized SUV for the real world.
APPEARANCE: Yep, it's a Jeep all right. Boxy by today's swoopy aero standards, with an upright windshield (again, by today's styling) and trademark seven-slot grille, round headlights, and trapezoidal wheel arches, it looks more like the old Cherokee than does the new Cherokee. Strong shoulder lines further accentuate the boxiness. The rear is nearly vertical in profile, if slightly curved. Vertical taillights further the old-school Jeep look. And yes, there's cladding around the lower perimeter. The plastic under the front is more aerodynamic management that skid plate, though.
COMFORT: Inside, the Patriot is cozy but comfortable. As outside, it's more traditionally-styled than most small crossovers. Leather is found on the seats and steering wheel rim. The seating position is comfortably upright, and headroom should never be a problem. The driver's seat is power-adjustable, the front passenger's manual. Both have two-level cushion heat. The steering wheel adjust for both tilt and reach, and has cruise an audio system controls on front of the spokes and tuning and volume on the rear of the spokes. Instrumentation is simple and easily read. Here, with the optional audio upgrade and navigation system, control of nav and audio is via the touchscreen in the center stack and hard buttons surrounding it. It's a simple, intuitive system with all current audio modalities. A jack and USB port for external music players are on the right, conveniently close to an open tray above the glove box. Looking for the CD slot? Try behind the screen. The rear seat is best for two, as it's on the narrow side and there's a high and wide tunnel. The seatback folds 60/40, and the front passenger seatback can be folded forward, flat, to accommodate long items inside. There is a space-saver spare tire under the rear load floor.
SAFETY: Standard safety equipment on the Patriot includes advanced front, front-seat side, and full-length side-curtain airbags, active front head restraints, electronic stability control with electronic roll mitigation, and antilock brakes.
RIDE AND HANDLING: Don't look for solid axles here. The Patriot's fully-independent MacPherson strut front, multilink rear suspension is tuned for everyday comfort, and delivers. It's soft, but well-controlled, and travel is more car than off-road. Eight inches of ground clearance means that common urban hazards including curbs, steep driveway angles, potholes, and poorly-maintained pavement are non-issues. Step-in is more car than SUV, no problem even for short people. The locking center differential can be useful in snow, mud, or wet and slippery low-speed conditions. Steering effort is normal, neither too light or heavy. Lower grades have rear drum brakes; all 4x4 and Limited models get four-wheel discs.
PERFORMANCE: Say good-bye to the CVT and hello to the six-speed automatic. That's a change for the better, especially with the 2.4 liter engine. With 172 horsepower (at 6000 rpm) and 165 lb-ft of torque (at 4400 rpm) and good low-speed torque as well, there are no difficulties keeping up with traffic or merging. Compared to the old CVT, the six-speed automatic produces better acceleration and fuel economy, shaving a second or more off the 0-60 time and increasing average mileage from the 19mpg I saw in a CVT-equipped example a couple of years ago to 22. Highway mileage was much better than that, in the upper twenties. Yes, the automatic shifts, unlike a CVT -- but it's smooth and unobtrusive.
CONCLUSIONS: The Patriot is a small crossover, 'er SUV, that is every bit a Jeep.
2014 Jeep Patriot Limited 4x4
Base Price $ 25,895 Price As Tested $ 28,630 Engine Type DOHC 16-valve inline 4-cylinder with variable cam phasing Engine Size 2.4 liters / 144 cu. in. Horsepower 172 @ 6000 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 165 @ 4400 rpm Transmission 6-speed automatic Wheelbase / Length 103.7 in. / 173.8 in. Curb Weight 3600 lbs. (est) Pounds Per Horsepower 20.9 Fuel Capacity 13.5 gal. Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline Tires P215/60R17 95T Firestone Affinity m+s Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / independent multilink Ground Clearance 8.1 inches Drivetrain transverse front engine, full-time all-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 21 / 27 / 22 0 to 60 mph est 9.0 sec OPTIONS AND CHARGES Customer Preferred Package 2GF -- includes: Security and Cargo Convenience Group - includes: security alarm, tire pressure monitoring display, remote start system, Uconnect® voice command with Bluetooth®, auto-dimming rearview mirror with microphone, universal garage door opener, daytime running light system, adjustable roof rail crossbars, soft tonneau cover, remote USB port 6-speed automatic transmission -- includes: tip start, AutoStick® manual shift $ 995 Uconnect® 430N -- includes: CD/DVD/MP3/HDD/NAV, 40GB hard drive with 28GB available, SiriusXM Travel Link with 1-year subscription $ 745 Destination Charge $ 995