First introduced in 2007, the Jeep Patriot came on the scene as a sensible crossover for enthusiasts who loved driving a Jeep. With new refinements for 2009 we take a fresh look at the Patriot and see just what it’s made of. A true trail rated Jeep or another me too crossover?
Engine: 2.4L DOHC I4 – 172hp/165ft-lb
Transmission: CVT with Freedom Drive II 4×4
EPA fuel economy: 20-city, 21-combined, 22-highway
Observed fuel economy: 17.43 (mostly snow covered roads with 4×4 lock active)
Tested for: 7 days / 298 miles
Deep down a great vehicle but stuck ambiguously between crossover comfortable and off-road capable.
- Excellent balance in slick road conditions
- Unlike many crossovers, this one is actually built to go off-road
- Classic Jeep design inside and out
- Penny pinched interior
- CVT accentuates loud/thrashy engine
- Low fuel economy for the size
Driving Dynamics & Performance
Jeep’s Freedom Drive II 4×4 system gave our tester a distinct advantage when the weather or roads became challenging. Wearing the Trail Rated badge, we drove the Patriot through the worst road conditions we could find. Even uncleared roads with over 6-inches of snow were no problem. Essentially it’s a heavy duty all-wheel-drive system with center differential locking capacity. With the FDII locked, the Patriot is extremely stable, predictable, and balanced.
With an additional 1-inch of ground clearance over non trail rated models, 17-inch wheels/tires and a locking center differential, the Patriot has to be one of the most predicable and balanced vehicles we’ve driven in snow. If you live somewhere nicer than New England you can opt for 2-wheel drive or Freedom Drive I. You’ll give up some of the capability but will gain fuel economy in return.
The Patriot’s optional continuously variable transmission (CVT) provides for smooth acceleration but also brings out the worst in the 2.4L engine. Under hard acceleration the engine is loudly pegged near redline, a trait of CVT’s as a whole but badly managed in this application.
On the road we found the Patriot never liked to settle down. The suspension dampening, surely tuned for off-road performance, lacked the ability to provide a firmly planted feeling ride.
Design Execution, Appearance, Fit & Finish
You can’t mistake the Patriot for anything but a Jeep. Inside and out, little styling hints of the larger Wrangler catch your eye. We particularly liked the bold front grille and classic round headlamps but disliked the bloated appearance of the rear.
Coming back to bite Chrysler in the butt these days, sub-par interior finishing looks great but has no warmth. Plastic like this is great on a Wrangler because you don’t feel bad getting it dirty or scraping it up. A more refined vehicle such as the Patriot deserves better.
Interestingly, the interior is all new for 2009, but nearly every single interior surface feels penny-pinched one step too far. Every switch and control operates with some level of ambiguity and lacks precision.
Audio, Electronics, & Technology
Perhaps one of the Patriot’s saving graces is the technology it offers. Our test model came with a base audio system, however a more advanced UConnect tunes system is a must have option. The standard audio unit has the ability to play MP3 CDs and comes with an auxiliary input.
The advanced UConnect system offers a 30-gig hard drive, USB port, Bluetooth hands-free phone, and optionally a navigation system. We’ve tested the UConnect system in other Chrysler models and came away thoroughly impressed.
We also thought Jeep did an excellent job tuning the Patriot’s electronic stability program (ESP). In times when we pushed the 4×4 system to it’s limits, ESP kicked in and quickly brought us back in control.
Comfort & Ergonomics
Jeep offers a 115-volt standard outlet located under and forward of the center arm-rest. The ability to charge a laptop or cell phone without special adapters is a lifesaver. There’s also the handy LED flashlight in the rear tailgate.
The climate control dials are oddly ambiguous and do not offer a positive feel. A lack of a defined “click” meant we often turned the air off when we just wanted to turn it down. Having to look away from the road to adjust the fan was a small frustration.
Rear seat space is cozy but comfortable. Second row seat backs offer rear-passengers the option to recline. They also fold flat to offer a sizable amount of storage. Even with the second row folded up, the rear cargo area is larger than what you’d find in most crossovers of this size.
Are you a Jeep Patriot Fan?
Road test photo gallery
Take a look at the huge set of photos we shot during our time in the 2009 Jeep Patriot Sport 4×4.