First Look: 2011 Jeep Patriot

Jeep engineers haven't ignored the Patriot's underpinnings for the 2011 update. In Chrysler's "Design Dome" deep within the bowels of the company's tech center in Auburn Hills, Michigan, Jeep president and CEO Mike Manley told us that the new Patriot's on- and off-road dynamics have been "improved significantly." Revised steering and suspension systems -- namely higher spring and damper rates, additional rebound springs, and a bigger rear antiroll bar -- should improve on-road demeanor and reduce body roll. Also, ride height of the top-selling Patriot, the four-wheel-drive model without the Freedom Drive II low-range system, has been increased by one inch to match that of the Trail Rated Patriot, but Jeep still claims "unsurpassed 4x4 fuel economy in its segment." As before, no stick-shift Patriot earns the Trail Rated badge, which won't impress many hard-core off-road enthusiasts.

Otherwise, the Patriot largely carries over from previous years. The base engine (quietly introduced for 2008) is a 158-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder, while a 172-hp, 2.4-liter four is optional on two-wheel-drive vehicles and standard on 4x4s. A five-speed stick is standard with either engine, and two CVTs -- the off-road friendly flavor (Freedom Drive II) and the on-road-biased version (Freedom Drive I) -- are also available. Fuel economy ratings range from 20 to 23 mpg in the city and from 22 to 29 mpg on the highway, depending on transmission choice and the number of driven wheels.

Pricing hasn't yet been announced, nor is Chrysler saying much about its plans for the 2011 Compass, the Patriot's near twin under the skin. It, too, will receive significant updates for 2011, which Jeep will reveal early next year (most likely at the Detroit show).

The 2011 Patriot will commence production in a few weeks and reach dealerships anytime between next Friday and New Year's Eve ("in the fourth quarter," according to Chrysler's PR staff). Stay tuned to for more, including our impressions of how successful engineers were in improving the Patriot's driving characteristics.

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