2011 Jeep Patriot

On its 2006 debut, the Jeep Patriot seemed almost unpatriotic. Using the basic architecture from Dodge’s Caliber, this crossover – and its sibling, the Compass – were the first Jeeps to incorporate a front-wheel-drive platform, making it closer in concept to Ford’s Escape than the iconic Wrangler. Traditionalists went bonkers; those wanting the rugged Jeep appeal – without the perceived negatives of actually roughing it – were delighted.

Revisions to the Patriot for 2011 should go a long way in making (and/or keeping) both camps happy. A new grille, front and rear fascias, and body cladding play their part in toughening up the exterior. Inside, softer interior touch points and a new steering wheel provide a more upscale look and feel to the sub-$20,000 price.

Most appropriate to its Jeep ‘credibility,’ however, are the changes in off-road capability. It starts with a one-inch increase in ride height for all-wheel-drive versions and is made even more able with two distinct drive trains: Freedom Drive I and Freedom Drive II.

Freedom Drive I is a full-time, active all-wheel drive system, perfect for a wide range of seasonal changes on urban or suburban asphalt. Freedom Drive II escalates the Patriot’s off-road talents with a 19:1 crawl ratio in combination with Hill Descent Control.

Improvements to the levels of noise, vibration and harshness – along with suspension and steering enhancements – make for an almost sublime on-road experience. Over surfaces of average condition, the Patriot displays a compliant ride and composed handling, supplying a competent feel at any and all legal speeds.

Away from the pavement, the vehicle can show off its improved ground clearance and approach/departure angles to maximum advantage. It just keeps clawing. While most owners would never subject their own Patriot – and checkbook – to such abuse, it’s good to know the vehicle can handle the occasional weather-related emergency with competence.

With a well-equipped two-wheel-drive model for just under $16,000 and its all-wheel-driven variant represented as the least expensive new all-wheel-drive SUV in the United States, the 2011 Patriot continues to provide economical transportation. Along with an extra dose of traditional Jeep attitude.

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David Boldt Began his automotive career in BMW and Saab showrooms in the 1980s, and he moved to automotive journalism in 1993. David has written for a variety of regional and national publications, and prior to joining AutoTrader, he managed media relations for a Japanese OEM.

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