Reviews

2015 Jeep Patriot Driving Impressions


With its uncomplicated controls, the Jeep Patriot drives and feels like a car from 20 years ago, but in a good way. That means modern ride comfort, capable handling, useful performance, and a satisfying overall driving experience. When appropriately equipped, the Patriot can also handle an impressive number of off-road duties, despite lack of a two-speed transfer case.

We think the larger 2.4-liter engine works best. It has good power, with 172 horsepower and 165 pound-feet of torque, and is responsive where it needs to be. Our only criticism is that it sounds gruff under heavy throttle. Fuel economy for the 2.4-liter engine is an EPA-estimated 23/29 mpg City/Highway with the manual transmission and front-wheel drive.

The 2.0-liter engine offers a bit less power and slightly better fuel economy. The 2.0-liter engine makes 158 horsepower and 141 pound-feet of torque and is EPA-rated at 23/30 mpg with the manual transmission and two-wheel drive. The smaller engine needs to be revved quite a bit to make power, however.

The 6-speed automatic transmission is well-behaved and delivers no unpleasant surprises. Equipped with a shift gate, it permits gear changes by feel, unlike some that require you to look down or ahead at the instrument panel to see which gear you’ve selected.

The 5-speed manual gearbox is a joy to use, despite long throws. The lever comes out of the center stack above the driver’s right knee, which is an improvement over being on the floor near the right thigh. The 5-speed makes the Patriot feel truly like a Jeep. Properly used, it brings out the potential of the engine.

On paved country roads, the Patriot feels light and nimble. The ride is steady over rough asphalt patches. The body feels well isolated, and you can hit a bump with one wheel without your head being tossed.

The suspension works well in all conditions. We drove it over a 20-mile stretch of dirt road: hard-packed, potholed, a layer of loose dust, with lots of uphill and downhill curves. The Patriot was stable and confident.

We aimed for some of the potholes, including a 50-foot-long row of little ones. The independent suspension eagerly ate them up. Along came a washboard surface, and the Patriot stayed true. We hit an elevated cattle crossing at 30 miles per hour and tensed for an impact that never came. The Patriot did a great job in these conditions.

We used the brakes hard on this dirt road; the ABS frequently activated on the slippery dust with the all-season tires.

We also drove a Patriot with the Trail-Rated Freedom Drive II off-road package. It adds one inch to the ground clearance for a total of 9.1 inches, allowing a 29-degree approach angle, a nearly 34-degree departure angle, a 23.7-degree breakover angle, and enabling the Patriot to ford 19 inches of water. Unfortunately, Freedom Drive II is not offered with the manual transmission.

Both all-wheel-drive systems have a locking center differential that sends half the power to the rear wheels. They also have a brake lock differential that can shift the power from side to side on each axle, which is important in slippery terrain. The Freedom II package also gives the CVT a low range with a ratio of 19:1, good for crawling over obstacles.

We tested a Freedom Drive II combination on an off-road trail in the Arizona desert, crossing some ridges and ditches that raised one wheel two feet in the air. It felt effortless, as the Patriot slowly and securely picked its way over. A sharp U-turn showed off the tight turning radius. In a sand pit, the off-road brake traction control dabbed the brakes of the slipping wheel or wheels for us, and pulled the Jeep through.

The Freedom Drive II package includes Hill Descent Control that automatically engages when in Low range on steep downhill grades. It keeps the Jeep under 5 mph and under control when going down steep hills, even icy ones. You can take both feet off the pedals and let it do its thing.

We hit a sandy gulley and floored it, racing up to 45 mph, engine screaming, and the CVT stayed in low range. Driving flat-out in a straight line over the washboard surface, with the wheels bouncing every which direction, the Patriot remained controllable, responsive and tracked true. We hit a couple of washboard curves, trusting in the stability control to keep the Jeep from bashing into the rocks, and it did. Below 35 mph, the electronic stability control only uses the brakes to keep the Jeep on the line; above 35 it also cuts the throttle, if necessary.

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