By Barbara & Bill Schaffer
From the mid-1970s ?until the start of the new millennium, the Jeep? Cherokee was one of the most conspicuous SUVs on the road, or at least in the Northwest.? It became the iconic Jeep four-door, just like the Wrangler or CJ series? ?was the face of the traditional Jeep.
When Jeep started to expand the brand with new models a few years later, the Patriot took on many of the design elements of the original Cherokee and at a glance it looks like the Cherokee to us.? Even the size is similar with the Patriot measuring about eight inches longer with a couple of inches longer wheelbase.
Now representing the Jeep brand as the best-priced SUV in America, Patriot represents the off-road brand with an off-road package still very capable of climbing over some fallen trees and traversing some boulders.?? It?s a more urbanized Jeep in concept, but for those that want the off-road capabilities, there is a version that fits the bill.?
The 2012 Jeep Patriot lacks some of the luster and sophistication of some of the SUV/crossover competitors, but we thought it was a solid everyday driver with some extra abilities.? When the weather turns bad, or you actually wanted to trek to the ski area or fish at a remote mountain lake the Patriot works great.
It appears to be well put together and felt solid.? Patriot rides on a four-wheel independent suspension with MacPherson struts in the front and a multi-link in the rear.? It also electronic enhancements like stability control, electronic roll mitigation and Hill-start Assist to keep it out of trouble and make it more driver friendly.? Handling was good, but not quite as sharp as some of the others we?ve driven.
Three drivetrain configurations are available: front-wheel drive, Freedom Drive I and II.? Freedom Drive 1 is an active full-time four-wheel drive system with lockable center coupling for situations like deep snow, mud, sand and other low traction situations.? Freedom Drive II is for drivers who want to go off-road.? It includes a second-generation continuously variable transaxle with a low range crawl mode that is designed for crawling over rocks and logs with those occasional times when you see a wheel lifting.? The Drive II is Jeep Trail Rated?, which means the system has passed Jeep?s strenuous off-road driving criteria.? The Freedom Drive II group, is $550 extra and adds higher profile tires, brake lock differential, hill decent control, skid plates and other features useful of the more challenging driving conditions.
A 158-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine powers the Sport and Latitude versions of the Patriot, while all four-wheel drive trim levels and the Limited front wheel drive have a 172-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder.? The 2.4-liter is Chrysler?s World Engine and it has a sophisticated variable-valve timing system on both the intake and exhaust valves that produces better fuel economy, smoother operation and more power.? The standard transmission is a five-speed manual in the front-wheel drive, which earns and EPA rating of 23 mpg city and 29 mpg highway.?? We drove the Latitude 4×4 with the 2.4-liter engine, which had an EPA rating of 20/23, and we averaged 20.2 mpg.
Other FWD models have an available continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), while the 4WD models get the second generation CVT ? CVT2.? The CVT2 has better response with more precise control.? The Patriot has a towing capacity of 2,000 pounds, which makes it perfect for pulling adult toys like snow mobiles, quads and personal water craft.
The Patriot is a bit noisy, especially on the rough textured highways in our area and from the engine during hard acceleration where the CVT allows the engine to rev higher.
?????????? The 2012 Jeep Patriot is the best value SUV sold in the U.S., with pricing starting as low as $15,995 including the destination charge, for a FWD Sport with manual transmission.? AWD adds $1,750.? The Patriot also comes in a Latitude and Limited trim level, with the top-level 4×4 Limited priced at $25,330.? With all the available options the Patriot Limited 4×4 pricing tops out at $27,400 for a fully equipped with Jeep?s Uconnect system, leather seating and all the off-road equipment.
The 2012 Jeep Patriot certainly deserves a test drive for those shopping for a smaller SUV.