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2011 Jeep Patriot First Drive: The Patriot Act

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author photo by Autotrader February 2011

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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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2011 Jeep Patriot First Drive: The Patriot Act - Autotrader