Hitting the Trail
Leaving the dam, we crossed the bridge and took Rt. 188, passing colorfully-named places like Mad As Hell Road and the town of Punkin Center. Further on up the road a ways, we traded in our 5-speed Limited for a Trail Rated model with the CVT2L, which we would take the four-wheeling area.
Driving off-road without a transfer case is - well - weird. But it's not an altogether bad weird. It's just different. Engaging 4WD is done the same as on the Freedom I models - simply pull up the chrome T-lever in the center console area. To enter Low range, you then shift down to L, which changes the transmission ratio to 19:1.
I soon discovered an interesting thing about this CVT2L setup. You can stay in 4WD but you can shift in and out of Low on the fly, so on longer, higher-speed sandy areas, for example, you can switch out. When you come to a sudden bump and want to slow down, boom, into Low and the Patriot just slows down to a crawl. No head tossing. No drama. Just slow. Very neat and useful.
We spent a good bit of time playing off-road, mostly going downhill over very uneven surfaces, including a few good shear drop-offs. Hill-descent works well, keeping the Jeep to 4-5 mph. You must disengage the ESP or else the brake system goes berserk the whole time. This is done by holding the ESP button for 5 seconds or so. While this is a nice feature, it can still be too fast for many more serious ventures, in which case you'll still find yourself with your foot on the brake. In these cases, the four-wheel disks to a wonderful job of controlling the Jeep's descent.
Driveline technology has come so far in the last few years. While we still love selectable locking differentials for the serious off-road tasks, it's absolutely amazing what can be done with just disk brakes.
The Patriot is completely open all around, so no lockers, no limited slip. All traction control is handled through changes in torque direction and brake actuation.
For example, there were several spots on the trail where one, sometimes two, wheels left the ground. While we prefer them to stay in contact, even well-designed independent suspensions
do limit wheel travel. The Patriot did a stellar job of keeping itself moving forward by sending power to the wheels on the ground, not the ones up in the air. In other words, as long as the Jeep has some traction and physical clearance, it should be pretty hard to get stuck.
Another plus to not having locked axles was proven in a wooded section of the trail, where we were able to make very tight, technical turns between trees without the differentials fighting us.
Hero Test - Passed
The Rest of the Story - PAGE 4 --->>>
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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.