Tuesday, July 7, 2015

2015 Jeep Patriot - Road trip review

So fraz left So Cal for a reunion and touring of the Ozarks and Southern IL wine country (they have one...who knew). As luck would have it Enterprise Rent a Car didn't have the Chrysler 200 in stock that I had reserved months prior and had really wanted to have.  They offered up this as an alternative which I took as it was still better than the massive SUV's they had left.

During the course of my week with the car I put on 1000 miles and was pleasantly surprised by the little beast as well as disappointed.  After having spent a lot of time in Honda CRV and the Ford Escape cute utes this car had a lot to live up to as the class leaders have raised the bar so high.

Powertrain, thankfully this car was equipped with the 2.4L 4 cylinder and 6 SPEED AUTOMATIC.  (My daughter has the Compass equipped with the CVT and I hate that combo).  The combination always found the right gear to keep you moving, though to down shift you did need to goose it good.  It rewarded you with taking off and accelerating quickly to the speed you need to climb a hill or pass a slow moving truck.  For the latter, plan accordingly as this naturally aspirated motor takes a bit to build a head of steam and passing without a long straight stretch is a challenge.  Passing, hill climbing and getting onto a freeway is an exercise in cacophony and aural displeasure.  The engine is coarse sounding and doesn't like to be pushed.

However, settle into a highway cruise where you can just set the cruise control and fly this car rewards you with a class competitive silence in the cabin.  Only when pressed does its bargain basement powertrain show.

Mileage was the big surprise with the Patriot.  Tanks were 22.7 mpg, 27.9 mpg, 28.9 mpg and 22.8 mpg.  The highest numbers came with flat land cruising and freeway cruise control in use.   The lower numbers were urban freeway and hill country driving with lots of hills and twisty bits.  Not bad and it compares favorably with its EPA numbers of 21 City, 23 Combined and 28 Highway.  (Note the CVT is rated 20/21/23 so why exactly would anyone get that tranny?)

This model was equipped with 4 wheel drive.  A waste in summer you say?  Hardly.  The area of the country was in flood mode after the wettest June on record.  It rained daily when I was there.  The 4WD was a simple flick of a switch to activate and you were ready to cross washed out roads, debris filled roads, ford creeks what have you.  My first flash food ravaged roadway I was glad I had the Patriot instead of the 200.  Trust me.

Engaging 4WD is easy peasy.  Flip a switch and its all silently activated.  The only way you know its on is by the "4WD" lit up in the instrument cluster.  Which leads to me a niggle...the switches for 4WD are right where you'd slide a cell phone while driving, far to easy to put it into 4WD mode by accident for my tastes.

The interior was comfortable.  A lot of hard plastics and cheap switchery.   Not at all what the leaders in the class give you.  But I suppose since its a Jeep you cut it some slack for not being upscale as this cute ute is meant for people who will actually do some occasional light off-roading and durable, read not easily soiled, materials is an asset not a liability.

One of the more interesting things with this car that caught me off guard was wind noise.  The mirrors were placed in such a way that at freeway speeds they generated a lot of noise on their own.  Not a whistle, but  rumble as the air tumbled over them.  In the rain you could see the fouled up air flow in that water collected on the window and swirled about blocking your view of the mirrors when travelling on the highway.

What absolutely dumbfounds me is the lack of technology in the car.  The closest thing to being in this decade was the auxiliary jack on the radio.  Bluetooth isn't even available as an option on the basic model such as this rental.  Really?   Yes, Really, something the class leaders offer up as standard in base models isn't even a pipe dream here.

Price, to build out this basic Patriot as equipped you start with the stripped down at 17.8K model, add 4WD, add A/C (not standard...sheesh), power window/locks and cruise control with the AM/FM/CD player with Auxiliary and you've now pushed the sticker up to 23.9K.  I had to choke on that as the class leaders add so many more features standard for the same money that I have a hard time backing down from them to consider the Patriot as a real option.  Maybe its trading on the legendary trail abilities that sell the model.  For my money I want more creature comforts and upscale feel than it had to offer.  IF creature comfort and upscale feel aren't important and off-road capability is then the Jeep may be your ticket.