Shut Up and Drive!
Our morning was spent in a 5-speed Limited 4x4 (Freedom Drive I). The Limited features standard leather seats, some extra brightwork bits, power fold-away mirrors, bright roof rails, electric door locks and windows, aux. 115-volt power outlet, driver height seat adjuster, fold-flat front passenger seat, reclining 60/40 fold-flat rear seats, cruise control, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, 17" x 6.5" aluminum wheels, remote keyless entry, alarm, air conditioning, tinted windows, passenger assist handles, and more. Most of these can be added to Sport models, either ala-carte or in packages, such as the Package E. Our Patriot had a sticker price of $22,120 including destination.
Getting in the Patriot, I immediately noticed how easy it was to get acquainted and get on my way. The seats in the Patriot sit higher than the Caliber for better viewing and Jeep's use of a crank-operated height adjuster is wonderful. Coupling this with a tilting and telescoping steering wheel, finding a starting position was a cinch. I got in, cranked myself up, adjusted my mirrors and off I went. The seats would remain comfortable throughout our long day of driving.
Clutch operation was easy. By no means was it like driving a Shelby Mustang. You don't need to be able to leg press 400 pounds to disengage the clutch. While not mushy or vague, the clutch was soft and had a long area of take-up. Driving around town with a passenger was very nice and smooth. The shifter sticks out of the console kind of awkwardly, since it goes forward, but in practical use, I found it to be very comfortable and easy to use. Shift positions made sense and took very little practice to learn.
We spent a fair amount of time driving on flat surface roads leaving Scottsdale. There were many opportunities to test out the ratios of the transmission. What I found was that the engine/tranny combination allowed for a lot of leeway
in gear selection. For example, you could stay in 2nd or 3rd gear even when the rpm's dropped into the low 1000's range. You could get back on the gas and the engine would not lug. It would accelerate without a fuss back up into its main operational range. You could also easily start out in 2nd gear or do rolling stops without going all the way down to 1st in many situations. I prefer a manual like this because it means that I can stay in gears longer around town and not constantly fuss with the shifter if I don't want to.
As we headed out of town into the desert, we were able
to really open up and enjoy the Patriot. The manual with the 2.4L really impressed us. It was honestly hard to believe that it was a four-cylinder engine propelling our 3300 pound Jeep up into the hills. Passing was done easily and without hesitation - even in fifth gear at speeds over 80mph.
The Patriot has a nice on-center steering feel. The wheel is somewhat heavy, which I prefer, and has good road isolation, while still keeping you connected to the road. The suspension was very comfortable and very compliant when taking long high-speed sweepers or tight twisty turns. Jeep has done a wonderful job of balancing the vehicle and keeping it from leaning. It had very little lean, in fact.
As we headed into the canyons, the pavement disappeared, the roads got rough and the drop-offs got closer and scarier. But hey, we were in a Jeep, right? Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead! We made our charge around the twisty, turny "roads" and they got worse and worse as the miles went on. Mile after mile, though, the Patriot sucked it up. Amazed, I was, at how well it handled the worst washboard and potholed roads I had ever traveled. The shocks staved off fade, the steering stayed true and the wheels never fell off! To top it off, we held a conversation the whole way without wavering voices, without yelling, and without losing our teeth.
Traction control remained unobtrusive, sensing the rough roads and altered its response appropriately.
We made it to the Roosevelt Dam in one piece, without squeaks or rattles. The Patriot rocked the high-speed off-road
driving portion of our drive.
Hero Test - Passed
Hitting the Trail - PAGE 3 --->>>
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Michael Cohn is the founder and Editor of ROCKCRAWLER.com. Michael has owned six Jeeps but especially enjoys driving someone else's. If you'd like your 4x4 flogged, contact
Michael at email@example.com.