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2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude 4x4 Review By Carey Russ

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2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude 4x4

Jeep has an enviably long history manufacturing off-road vehicles that are beyond merely capable, but the vast majority of today's SUV/crossover buyers want car-like comfort and all of the conveniences of home -- even if they don't have much money to spend. Jeep has two distinctly different choices for them, surprisingly based on the same platform.

The Compass is Jeep's foray into the street-oriented compact crossover field, with more carlike looks and no attempt at off-road ability. The Patriot, although a car-based crossover at heart, is a true Jeep, with, outfitted properly, plenty of reasonably sane off-road capability and all of the comfort, utility, and versatility expected from a small crossover.

The Jeep that the Compass most evokes, in size and styling, is the late Cherokee. The Cherokee was revolutionary for its day (starting in the mid-1980s), with a design that combined box-section frame members with a unibody for a structure that was lighter and stiffer than traditional body-on-frame construction. It was arguably the first modern SUV, but its solid axle suspension, while just the thing for serious off-road use, eventually led to its downfall as the SUV market morphed into crossovers. If the Patriot is no Cherokee, it is both more capable in the rough stuff than most other smallish crossovers, and more civilized than a Cherokee could ever be.

Three trim levels are offered, Sport, Latitude, and Limited. The Sport is "value-oriented", meaning a bit Spartan in standard trim, but with options available to fix that. The Latitude has more standard comfort and convenience features and a greater choice of option packages. The Limited adds upgrades like leather-trimmed seats and higher-grade sound systems, and mechanical enhancements as well. All are transverse engine, front-wheel designs in standard form, with two all/four-whee drive systems offered.

Freedom Drive I‚„Ę is a single-range active AWD system similar to those found in other small crossovers, and ideal for people who need traction in inclement weather but aren't planning for any off-road excursions beyond fire roads that could be navigated by any vehicle with reasonable clearance. Freedom Drive II‚„Ę is more serious, with a low-range mode that is lacking in most other crossovers, and allows the Patriot to climb steeper grades and handle looser surfaces. Both systems have center locking mode for optimum low-speed traction on loose, slippery surfaces.

Standard engine in the Sport and Latitude is the 2.0-liter, 158-horsepower four-cylinder "World Engine", matched to a five-speed manual transmission. Optional there, and standard in the Limited, is the 2.4-liter, 172-hp version, also with a five-speed stick. The automatic transmission is a continuously-variable unit (CVT), optional for both engines in front-drive form. Want four-wheel drive? That requires the 2.4 engine and CVT.

My test vehicle for the week was a well-equipped 4x4 Latitude with Freedom Drive II Off-Road Group of options, including engine oil cooler, strategically-paced skid plates, and a full-size spare tire as the most useful bits on or off pavement. FDII is probably overkill for most urban/suburban buyers in temperate parts of the country, but if there's a real winter in your neighborhood or you're an avid skier/snowboarder or outdoors person, it separates the Patriot from less-capable crossovers. With a comfortable ride, versatile interior, and decent power, the Jeep Patriot is an honest and very functional machine that in spirit is far closer to SUV than crossover.

APPEARANCE: It had to happen! At one point during my week with the Patriot, someone visiting my neighbors parked their old Cherokee in front of my house. Perfect opportunity for a styling comparison. The shape is familiar, and proportions similar. The Patriot is only slightly larger, and more rounded on the edges and corners, with a more curved and sloped windshield. The round headlights, seven-slot grille, and trapezoidal wheel arches proclaim its manufacturer, even without the Jeep badging.

COMFORT: Inside, the Patriot Latitude is mid-sized, mid-level, and pure Jeep. Fancy it's not; functional it is, with good interior space and features like a split-folding and reclining rear seat and fold-flat (forward) front passenger seat to maximize cargo versatility. Head and leg room won't be problems, although the rear seat is best for two because of a high central tunnel (as in many other vehicles, be they crossover or sedan). The (heated!) front seats are manually-adjustable, including cushion height for the driver. Comfort is better than expected for the modest price. Instruments are easily readable, and the climate and audio system controls simple to use. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is only tilt-adjustable but does have auxiliary audio controls. There are useful, if small, storage spaces around the cabin. Useful options on my test car included the Uconnect package, with Bluetooth¬ģ connectivity, a microphone-equipped auto-dimming rearview mirror, USB interface, and Sirius/XM radio with a one-year complimentary subscription, and the Security and Convenience Group, with front seat side airbags, alarm system, tire-pressure display, and a useful vehicle information display. Rear seat up, there's plenty of space for four. Put the rear seat down and there's more, with the option of long items with the front passenger seat folded.

SAFETY: Standard safety equipment on the Patriot includes advanced front and full-length side-curtain airbags, active front head restraints, electronic stability control, and antilock brakes (four-wheel disc with 4WD or any Limited).

RIDE AND HANDLING: As an SUV for the real world, the Patriot is more oriented to pavement than dirt, rocks, and tree stumps. Even with either of the 4x4 systems, a Patriot is more likely to spend more time on city streets and in parking lots than on the Rubicon Trail. That said, the nine inches of clearance (with Freedom Drive II and P215/65R17 tires) and skid plates under the engine, transmission, and fuel tank can prevent damage from poorly maintained roads and the holes and debris found on them. The fully-independent MacPherson strut/multilink suspension is tuned moderately for comfort, and it works. Sure, an old Wrangler or CJ with a lift kit will work better on the trail, but unless that trail starts in front of your house, driving there will be far more pleasant in a Patriot.

PERFORMANCE: With the 2.4-liter version of Chrysler's four-cylinder "World Engine", the Jeep Patriot has no problem keeping up with traffic. It's a contemporary aluminum alloy, dual overhead cam design with variable cam phasing on both camshafts for improved power and efficiency and reduced emissions. Maximum horsepower is 172 at 6000 rpm, with maximum torque 165 lb-ft at 4400 and plenty below that. Jeep advertises fuel economy of 23 mpg city, 29 highway, but that is in FWD trim with the five-speed manual. The CVT/4WD combination reduces that, to a stated 20/23. In a week of mixed driving, mostly city and backroads, I got 19. A CVT doesn't have discrete gear ratios, so there is no shifting, for smooth operation. With a dearth of 4x4 trails in my part of the world, I had no opportunity to try the "4-lo" feature, which is meant for low-speed, low traction conditions. In standard mode, the Freedom Drive II is a full-time automatic system. Towing capacity is 1000 lbs in standard form, or 2000 with Freedom Drive II.

CONCLUSIONS: A crossover can go far off pavement, if the crossover is a Jeep Patriot. And it's comfortable and capable back in civilization as well.

2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude 4x4

Base Price			$ 22,780
Price As Tested			$ 25,235
Engine Type			aluminum alloy DOHC 16-valve inline
				 4-cylinder with variable cam phasing
				 on both camshafts
Engine Size			2.4 liters / 144 cu. in.
Horsepower			172 @ 6000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			165 @ 4400 rpm
Transmission			CVT with low range
Wheelbase / Length		103 in. / 173.8 in.
Curb Weight			est 3500 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		20.3
Fuel Capacity			13.5 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires				P215/65R17 98S Goodyear Wrangler SR-A
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / disc, ABS, ESC standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut /
				  independent multilink
Ground clearance		9.1inches (P215/65R17 tire)
Drivetrain			transverse front engine,
				 automatic four-wheel drive
				 with low range

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		20 / 23 / 19
0 to 60 mph				10  sec
Towing capacity			2000 lbs with Freedom Drive II 4WD

Security and Convenience Group - includes:
  supplemental front seat-mounted side airbags, security
  alarm, tire pressure monitoring display, auto-dimming
  rearview mirror, electronic vehicle information center,
  universal garage door opener, adjustable roof rail
  crossbars, soft tonneau cover				$ 650
Freedom Drive II Offroad Group - includes:
  P215/65R17 all-terrain tires, brake lock differential,
  hill descent control, full-size spare, skid plates under
  engine, transmission, and fuel tank, tow hooks,
  engine oil cooler, "Trail Rated" badge, all-season
  front and rear floor mats, trailer tow wiring harness,
  CVT with off-road crawl ratio, tip start		$ 550
Uconnect Voice Command with Bluetooth - includes:
  auto-dimming rear-view mirror with microphone,
  USB port for mobile devices, Sirius/XM radio with
  1-year subscription					$ 475
Destination charge					$ 780