One of the memorable horrible winter driving experiences I ever had was during a business trip to Belvidere, Illinois. I was touring a facility with a company executive, and each time I was able to see out a window I discovered, to my profound dismay, that snow wasn’t falling out of the sky, it was being dumped. Yes on and on we went.
When I finally left the building, I climbed into a rental Ford Fairmont, and tried to negotiate the snow covered roads in northern Illinois. It wasn’t pleasant because the Fairmont was like a corrugated cardboard box that was becoming less controllable with each new flake.
I would have been better off had I been driving an Omni or Horizon, being built at the Chrysler Belvidere Assembly Plant that I managed to pass a couple times on my way to getting lost.
I thought about that experience while driving the Jeep Patriot Latitude 4x4, and not only because it is being built at the Belvidere plant. (Although with the Compass, which makes sense as they share a platform, and with the Dodge Dart, which is a completely different thing, so I guess we might conclude that whenever the Patriot and Compass get replaced—perhaps in a year or two—they might have something more common with the Dart, possibly with an Italian heritage.)
No, I thought about it because I actually moved to that part of the country for a couple of years, and it would have been an ideal vehicle to have there, especially during the winter. (Chronologically this would have been an impossibility, as the Patriot became available in 2007, long after my time there.) Not only would this have been a good vehicle because this particular model, with the “Trail Rated” 4x4 capability (meaning the transmission has a low, off-road crawl ratio, the vehicle is elevated by about an inch compared to the smooth road versions, etc.), would have been able to handle the snow much more handily than that Chevette I had (yes, we’re in the way-back machine here), but all things considered, the Patriot Latitude is not all that pricey, as it has a base MSRP of $22,880, and the “Freedom II Off-Road Group,” which adds everything from skid plates on the bottom to tow hooks, from a brake lock differential to all-season floor mats, is just a $550 bump. I might have been able to afford it, just as it is undoubtedly an affordable vehicle for those who are looking for something that it more capable and more capacious than a compact car.
From the exterior, the Patriot is sufficiently boxy to be thought of as a Jeep. For all of those who are twisting and turning their bandannas with anguish over the headlamp design of the forthcoming Cherokee (which is to replace the Jeep Liberty), know that the Patriot has the classic round-lamp look. Its overall shape resembles that of the 2006 Jeep Commander, which didn’t command a whole lot of the market and marched off the field in 2010, just in a more condensed form.
Inside. . .well, this is a little disappointing, especially in light of the transformation that is occurring inside other Chrysler Group interiors. The whole thing—from the dashboard to the seat fabrics to the plastic trim—seems more than a little, um, thrifty. Not in a particularly good way, either. There is undoubtedly something of a dilemma related to executing interiors for vehicles that have a comparatively modest price point. No one wants to think they’re in a thrifty car, which leads the designers, generally, to create something that is meant to seem more upscale, yet which really comes off not particularly notable. One wonders—especially within the context of a Jeep product, that ought to be fundamentally rugged—whether it wouldn’t be advantageous to design in a manner where it is not faux upscale but bona-fide git-er-done.
Engine: 2.4-liter, DOHC I4 V6
Material: Aluminum block and head
Horsepower: 158 @ 6,400 rpm
Torque: 141 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm
Transmission: Continuously variable with lockup torque converter
Wheelbase: 103.7 in.
Length: 173.8 in.
Width: 69.2 in.
Height: 65.5 in.
Curb weight: 3,263 lb.
SAE interior volume: 104.4 cubic feet
Base MSRP : $22,880 (destination: $925)
EPA: 20/23/21 city/highway/combined mpg