- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 19, 2007

The all-new 2007 Jeep Patriot shares its platform with the Jeep Compass and Dodge Caliber. Whereas Compass and Caliber are better classified as hatchback crossover vehicles appealing to fashion-conscious consumers, the Patriot embraces modern-classic Jeep SUV styling — and practicality — once expressed by the Jeep Cherokee, a model replaced by the Jeep Liberty in 2002.

Offered in both front-wheel drive and four-wheel drive, the Patriot and sibling Compass fully flush out Jeep’s entry-level lineup of off-road-oriented crossover utility vehicles.

Jeep projects the compact SUV segment is growing, believing that the approximately 300,000 units sold in 2004 will double by 2010 and nearly triple by 2016. Thus, Jeep’s strategy of marketing two vehicles — the Compass and Patriot — at comparable price points. As offered in FWD format to start, both are likely to attract buyers who may not have considered the Jeep brand before. And with a base MSRP under $15,000, the Jeep Patriot should prove attractive to budget shoppers seeking Jeep’s brand strength, heritage and recognition.

Jeep offers the Patriot at two trim levels — Sport and Limited — with three drive configurations: front-wheel drive, Freedom Drive I four-wheel drive and Freedom Drive II Off-Road Package 4WD. One engine, a 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder, powers all Patriots and is shifted via either a five-speed manual or continuously variable transmission. Patriots equipped with Freedom Drive II achieve Jeep’s Trail Rated distinction, meaning that the model has been designed for better ground clearance, maneuverability, water fording, traction and articulation.

Freedom Drive I functions as full-time, active 4WD with a locking center coupling useful in improving low traction situations such as deep snow and sand. Jeep says this particular 4WD solutions offers “year-round assurance” in rain, snow or other low-traction situations, but is also recommended for daily use.

The Freedom Drive II Off-Road Package uses a continuously variable transmission with low-range gearing, which engages when off-road mode is selected. As a result, a 19:1 low ratio is achieved, touted by Jeep as “best-in-class.” Brake traction control keeps the Patriot moving forward on tough surfaces requiring articulation, when grip is compromised.

Hill descent control applies the brakes selectively to allow safe and steady downhill driving without driver action. Three-mode ESP contributes further to vehicle stability. Other off-road goodies include 17-inch all-terrain 215/65-series tires, skid plates, tow hooks, fog lights, seat height adjustment and an air filtration system. As equipped, Freedom Drive II models sit one inch higher than non-off-road versions.

Jeep’s decision to outfit all Patriots with a standard 2.4-liter inline-four cylinder engine shows the desire to achieve both performance and efficiency. This advanced “World Engine” includes variable valve timing on both the intake and exhaust camshafts, yielding 172 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 165 foot-pounds of torque at 4,400 rpm. Fuel economy in FWD/five-speed manual trim rates up to 30 miles per gallon on the highway and approximately 26 mpg around town, while 4x4 five-speed Patriots achieve just 1 mpg less in both city and highway settings.

The available continuously variable transmission is a second-generation unit that Chrysler Group engineers have tuned for maximum response and precise control. Compared with a four-speed automatic, fuel economy will improve by 6 percent to 8 percent, according to Jeep. The Compass shares this powertrain.

Starting at $14,985, Jeep Patriot Sport 4x2 models come with four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, stability and traction control systems, electronic roll mitigation, standard side curtain air bags, a 60/40-split flat folding rear seat, vinyl load floor, vinyl seats, single CD audio system with an auxiliary input, ambient temperature display, tilt steering wheel, adjustable sliding center armrest with dedicated cell phone and MP3 player storage and 16-inch steel wheels wrapped in all-season tires.

Stepping up to $19,985 Limited trim adds air conditioning, cruise control, remote keyless entry, power windows/door locks/mirrors, tinted glass, a reclining rear seat that folds flat, driver’s seat height adjustment, flat-folding front passenger seat, a removable and rechargeable cargo lamp, cloth seats, fog lights, tire pressure monitoring, 17-inch aluminum wheels with 215/60-series all-season tires, rearview automatic dimming mirrors, garage door opener and chrome exterior accents.

Limited options include all-terrain tires, a power sunroof, heated cloth seats and a comprehensive Leather Interior Group adding leather seat upholstery, manual lumbar seat adjustment, carpeted floor mats, multifunctional leather-trimmed steering wheel and front-seat heaters.

Front side-impact air bags mounted in the seats are optional across the Patriot lineup, as are Sirius satellite radio, a six-CD audio system, engine-block heater, hands-free communication, a Security Group (soft tonneau cover, alarm and daytime running lights), Boston Acoustics Premium Sound (including two articulating speakers in the lift gate that swing down when the hatch is open) and the aforementioned Off-Road Package.

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