Jeep Patriot 2.4 Limited CVT – 2011

I spent two weeks with ‘a’ Dodge Caliber in the US. It was, and still is, my worst car of all time. During the period, I had 3 of them from Hertz as one after the other had to go in due to some form of problem. The CVT gearbox, underpowered engine, vague steering and terrible interior was the summation of the parts. You might be thinking I’ve made a huge mistake on this review as it’s of the Jeep Patriot, but these two vehicles share a common family DNA…They were built on a shared GS platform engineered by the then, Daimler/Chrysler & Mitsubishi. Goes to show that too many cooks do spoil the broth. We’re off to a bad start.

 

Typical Jeep Grille.

I’ve always been very confused by the proliferation of models from Jeep. Lately they have started consolidating this offering, but the shared Dodge / Jeep platforms of previous years made no sense. Way too many offerings, with too many of them that don’t stand out in any one way, nor make a groundbreaking niche of their own.

 

The Patriot has recently been “updated”, giving it a refreshed exterior look (new bumper and integrated foglamps) new 17inch mags and a much improved interior. The interior update brings it in line with the rest of the fleet and you can feel the upgrade in quality materials. The interior is much the same as the Wrangler, mostly plastic, with SOME very plasticky bits, but overall, the interior is of a much higher quality than before. The gearshift sits rather awkwardly (A-la Calibre) on the dash, but is easily within reach. (even though you don’t need it much as the model on test was a … vomit … CVT)

The interior sees reasonable spec, with heated seats, on-board computer (a fairly confusing arrangement in the instrument binnacle), Automatic climate control that blows so cold it could no doubt solve global warming if the doors are left open, and a Radio/CD/Aux sound system (the option of a Uprated Navigation system is there). Sadly the sound is not as epic as the system in the Wrangler, which made me sad.

Interior - Improved

Get into the Patriot and you literally sit IN, and not ON the vehicle, which you can clearly see when getting into the vehicle. Passengers sit rather low with the small windscreen and extremely limited exterior and B pillar rear views giving limited visibility out of the car. Front seats are fairly comfortable (With six-way adjustment), but space in the rear and boot leaves much to be desired.  As said before, the interior is quite a step up from previous model, with loads of space to store bits away from prying eyes.

 

Taking a view from the outside, and it looks typically old-school Jeep. Squared look with a prominent Jeep grille, the updated Patriot does with some plastic bits on the doors and moves the fog-lamps in a bit on the nose of the vehicle. I actually like the original classic Jeep looks, but as always, exterior is a very personal opinion.

 

What I can give some opinion on is the engine and drivetrain. The Patriot is the moffie in the Jeep off-roader family, even though it employs the “Freedom Drive I” (Not making that up) which is an active AWD system. Jeep does state it’s a light-off roader, so they’re not making any claims that this is a direct descendant of the Wrangler family, and I respect that. The system really is more for the northern hemisphere, with Freedom Drive giving confidence in the snow and occasional mud / forest road it might encounter. The system proportions torque to the axle that needs it most through an Electromagnetic Controlled Coupling (ECC). I didn’t get to test the system out, but I’m guessing around 95% of buyers won’t neither.

Boxy

On tar the vehicle handles well, the fairly stiff suspension set up allowing limited lean into corners, however that could also be attributed to the low centre of gravity and ride height. The steering is typical Jeep, with a little bit of play in the centre, but overall it feels detached from the front wheels. The retuned suspension (Four-wheel independent MacPherson strut front and multilink independent rear) does show notable improvements, but that’s much like saying your grandmother looks a little better in her purple knit than the blue one.

 

Speaking of grandmothers, the 2.4litre dinosaur being used in the Patriot is a Jeep favourite. I’ve got to be honest and say that this engine needs a serious refresh, or just throw it out and start again. Hell, throw them all into a volcano and melt them down. With 125kW and 220Nm of torque, the Patriot was never going to haul ass down the blacktop, but this engine just doesn’t cut it. On its own it’s underpowered for litre capacity, but it was then cursed by being mated to a CVT gearbox.

CVT gearboxes are to cars, like being neutered is to a dog. I genuinely want to meet the man that engineered the CVT gearbox. It makes no sense in any car other than a Hybrid, so I hope he’s perished in a CVT related incident. In layman’s terms, the CVT gearbox runs a chain on a cone, instead of a chain on individual gears. This means when you mesh your foot against the floor the revs climb up to 6000RPM (or as I found, far past the redline into the black) as the chain runs up the cone, and stays there as the ear piercing whine from the 2.4litre engine increases the speed. There are no ‘thunky’ gear changes, which is also something any driver would have to become accustomed to. I will come and hold a gun against every Patriot buyer’s head, to make sure he/she buys the manual version. I’ll be saving them a lifetime of pain, and will no doubt be added to their Christmas card list.

 

Surprisingly Jeep is quite a bit smaller than Freelander

Sadly, the Patriot just doesn’t make much sense. It doesn’t do any one particular thing very well, and the competition has it trumped.

For R309 990 for the 2.4 Limited CVT, the Kia Sportage, Hyundai ix35, Subaru Forester or even Nissan Xtrail shows more value and better on road dynamics, which is no doubt where this vehicle will spend most of its time. Yes the Jeep is the only car in this price (bar the Subaru) that features full time 4wheel drive, which may count for something if you can justify it, but considering the low ride height I doubt you can.

 

My advice – if you’re hellbent on a Jeep at this price, go for the brand-new Compass. If you’re not loyal to any Patriotism, or Americanism, then have a good long look at the competition above.

 

For more information visit www.jeep.co.za

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Jeep Wrangler Sahara 70yr Edition

I must admit, every time I’ve seen one of these on the road I’ve been slightly envious wondering what it must be like to drive. It’s one of those iconic cars that everyone seems to love. I become slightly more enamored to it at the coast, when you see the group of teens sailing past with the roof off and the music blaring, there’s something very “cool” about that.

Wheels. Bling.

Jeep celebrates 70years of existence this year so the near brand new unit I received had little over 800km on the clock and was one of their 70year special editions. It still has iconic Wrangler looks, the boxy silhouette and 2 short doors, however there is a new model on the cards next year, so should be interesting to see what they do to update this iconic shape.

The model on test was the 3.8l V6 developing 146kW and 315Nm of torque, with massive chromed 18inch rims, brushed aluminum sill plates, and special interior treatment, which I’ll get to later. Oh yes, the website also lists that it has, wait for it, a 70year anniversary badge! Raise the roof!

The Jeep, unlike the Land Rover defender, is loved by both men and women. I found it strange at how many girls swooned over the car, something they definitely don’t do over the Defender…unless they have crew-cut and a toolbox. It’s unfortunately a little out of its environment on the road, being such an incredible off-roader, it’s a little like bringing high heels to do the Otter Trail.

I say this because of a couple of factors:

Yes they made the 70year edition a little…nay…a lot more special. It’s a LOT more civilized than I thought it was going to be, with the rapper rims, and the very well specced interior, but it’s the drive that’s not exactly something every city girl would enjoy. The V6 produces enough grunt to get you around, but due to the massive circumference of the tyres and heavy drive mechanics there’s no urgency in its movements, you kind of just urge it along. The model I drove was an automatic, and the claimed 0-100km/h time of 10.4seconds is ambitious to say the least. The initial pull off grunt is good enough, but once it’s on the move, overtaking and speeding up needs to be carefully negotiated or you could land yourself in trouble. (Thankfully it achieved a 5-star safety rating and boasts dual airbags, ABS, RMC & ESC.

Ruts. Bring. It

It’s probably a good idea there’s not enough speed because the handling is something like trying to steer a waterbed across a sea of jello. Swerving for a pedestrian crossing the road, as I found, can get the car rocking and rolling until the ERM (Electronic Roll Mitigation) kicks in to keep it from landing on its roof. It’s by no means dangerous, but you really have to keep this in mind and rather just take a relaxed nature to driving the car, which I’m sure most people do. I’m no retard, I’m well aware that the combination of the car’s high centre of gravity and tyre size does not make it a Nurburgring time setter, it’s just a little disconcerting at first.

Not kak at all

Talk about a huge surprise, I thought the interior was going to be awash with shitty plastic and have the ability to hose the whole thing down. Much to my surprise it featured more creature comforts than many of the R400K+ sedans I’ve driven, and near everything was of a fairly high quality touch and feel. The 70year edition does add a few novel little chrome and leather bits here and there and let me tell you it makes the difference. Electric one touch windows, heated seats, voice control, steering wheel mounted controls, cruise control and a insanely powerful sound system was all standard. Seating is high up and access to the back is helped by the fact that the whole seat lifts and tilts to help ease access.

Downhill. Easy

I was very excited to find that the Sahara is equipped with the, and I quote, “Heavenly Hardtop” which allows the hardtop to removed in 3 easily manageable sections. Without the two front panels that cover the driver and passenger, the back of the hardtop can be “fairly” easily removed by 2 adults. Soft top is then also available to bolt on after the hard top is off. Insanely cool when you’re at the beach, as I found even the windscreen can be flapped down to really give it that open air feel. Great, if say, you’re cruising around in Mozambique.

That said, the real character and ability of the car comes out when you take advantage of the CommandTrac full time 4wheel drive system. This system allows for full time 4wheel drive with both diff-locks automatically engaged (however switched out the traction control, which is odd)

Nose first.

We took the vehicle to an off-road course and were genuinely surprised at every obstacle that the vehicle easily mounted. Due to the SWB (Short wheel base) nature of the car, departure and approach angles are astounding. It’ll crawl some of the steepest inclines with no drama (as you face the blue sky) and then crawl down the other side using the HDC (Hill Decent Control). The car is in fact so good off road, as commented by another car enthusiast that went with, that his Prado would definitely not have done half of what the Jeep did. A recipe for success off road with high ground clearance, skid plates and low anti roll bars giving loads of wheel articulation and lots of low down grunt from the V6. It’s definitely more than most people would ever need off road, and in that way it’s slightly too capable to the point of being compromising on-road.

I’m sure 90% of buyers will never use that full potential. That said, if you’re an off road enthusiast, it does give better everyday driving ability than the Defender or Toyota LC series. That said, both of those vehicles see parts readily available anywhere in Africa, something of which I’m not that confident with this Jeep. Jeep allows one to spec up or select models that are even more capable off road, including a 5door variant.

I can see this car make sense for 2 types of people

A)   Those that live in Cape Town / at the coast, and can enjoy the roof off fun nature of the vehicle, as well as the ability to tear up a dirt road here and there, or even as a 2nd car at the coast.

B)   The dedicated off-road enthusiast would be able to spec this vehicle out in full Rubicon spec with serious rubber and see it tackle the toughest of what mother nature can throw at it

Now that I’ve driven it, I don’t want to drive one every day, it’s too hard to park, too squishy to drive and thirsty as poor white car-guard. If I did fall into one of the two categories above – you bet this would be my first choice!

Pricing a very reasonable – R364 990 – more detail available here – www.jeep.co.za