The Jeep Patriot is unmistakably from the Jeep garage, with its squared-off lines, seven-slot grille, and round headlights. The Patriot and its sibling, the Jeep Compass, are based on a car platform, but still deliver moderate off-road ability.
For 2011, Jeep Patriot has been significantly updated. The 2011 Patriot features fresh styling, upgraded suspension and steering, new interior materials, and a revised model lineup. The updates make the 2011 Jeep Patriot a noteworthy improvement over the 2010 model.
The four-door Patriot has plenty of room inside. There's adult-size headroom and legroom for rear-seat passengers. The 60/40-split rear seat folds flat, and a flat-folding front passenger seat is optional; with all the seats flat, you can slide an eight-foot kayak inside, for example.
Two four-cylinder engines are offered The larger of the two, a 2.4-liter four-cylinder, makes 172 horsepower and 165 pound-feet of torque, is EPA-rated at 23 mpg City, 28 mpg Highway with the manual transmission, and is standard equipment. It delivers good power; put the pedal down while cruising uphill at 75 miles per hour and it will accelerate. The smaller engine is 2.0 liters, makes 158 horsepower and 141 pound-feet of torque and is EPA-rated at 23/29 mpg with the manual transmission. The optional Continuously Variable Transaxle works well and we found the Auto Stick manual-shift feature useful.
We found the Patriot light and nimble on twisty roads and when maneuvering around town. Turn-in is sharp. The body is well isolated from the wheels: You can hear the tires hitting the expansion strips on the freeway, but you can't feel it. The independent suspension works well. During a long day of driving on patchy two-lanes, hard-packed dirt roads, sandy off-road trails, shallow rivers and deep gullies, it delivered steadiness and comfort in every abusive situation.
The Patriot is available with front-wheel drive or a choice of two all-wheel-drive systems, one that Jeep qualifies as Trail Rated. Those who like to go off the pavement (or tow more than 1000 pounds) should choose the Trail-Rated Freedom II AWD system. This uses gearing about 20-percent lower than the other models for steeper climbs and descents, but if you mistake it for a 4WD with a low-range transfer case like a Wrangler or Grand Cherokee you'll soon find yourself well and truly stuck.
The 2011 Jeep Patriot comes with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive and a choice of engines with manual and automatic transmissions.
Patriot Sport ($15,595) comes with cloth upholstery, carpeting, fog lamps, tinted glass, reclining front seats, 60/40-split folding rear seat, cruise control, smart-key engine immobilizer, and an AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA four-speaker stereo. All-wheel drive versions also have the 2.4-liter engine and rear disc brakes. Options include front side airbags ($250), 17-inch aluminum wheels ($640), air conditioning ($895), media center radio ($350), and the Power Value package ($1,405) with remote keyless entry, power windows/door locks/heated mirrors. An all-weather group ($795) adds tow hooks, block heater, floor mats, daytime running lights, aluminum wheels and P215/65R17 tires.
Patriot Latitude X ($22,195) gets the big engine and rear disc brakes, chrome trim, climate control, leather upholstery, power driver's seat, Sirius radio and a 6CD/DVD audio system. Options include upgrades to radio ($290) with Garmin navigation ($695), Boston-Acoustics speakers ($650), plus the Sun & Sound, Security & Convenience, and tow packages.
Optional on any Patriot are UConnect Phone with Bluetooth and/or Web service and a smoker's package. The Freedom II Off-Road group ($550) upgrades 4WD models with a bigger alternator, skid plates, electronic traction assists, tow hooks, floor mats, P215/65R17 tires and full-size spare; it requires the CVT2L automatic transmission ($1050). (All New Car Test Drive prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices, which do not include destination charge and may change at any time without notice.)
Safety features on all Patriot models include dual front airbags, head-protecting curtain side airbags, ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution, traction control, electronic stability control with rollover mitigation, and active front head restraints. Torso-protecting front side impact airbags are an option we recommend.