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2007 Jeep Patriot Limited, Trail Rated Edition

Lightweight Solution to Overland Travel:

There are multiple approaches to the same goal; the desire to explore remote and rugged terrain, looking for a little adventure, a stunning photograph or a historic site. From a 14,000 LB EarthRoamer to a 250cc Motocycle, the expedition traveler has many choices. One of the concepts I have been researching recently is the use of an ultra-light and efficient cross-over vehicle for moderate exploration and trail use. There are many times when a heavy and expensive global expedition platform is not required, which allows for the lowest cost of use. With today's fuel costs and the sticker price of new vehicles, a well-built cross-over is something to consider.

The challenge however, has been the lack of suitable options. The Freelander was the first lightweight SUV option in the US with sufficient trail capability, but the model was plagued with reliability issues and high cost. That, combined with poor fuel economy eliminated it as a viable solution. Other options soon arrived, including the Honda Element, Subaru Forester and Toyota Highlander. These all had great build quality and good economy and value, but featured limited trail performance and protection.

Enter the Trail Rated Patriot:

I had the opportunity to work with the Trail Rated Patriot for over a month, doing off-highway testing and was able to perform a detailed analysis of its road and trail capabilities. Within its design limits (and even a bit beyond), the Patriot is a real Jeep and tackles terrain that would send all of the other compact, car-based SUV's to the nearest bypass.

Why it works:

Engineering Purpose- The Patriot was designed from the start to support the Trail Rated requirements, which were established by Jeep Engineering and the Nevada Automotive Testing Center (NATC) to objectively (with repeatability) predict trail capability. This means that even though the Patriot is sold in the cross-over vehicle segment it must meet minimum trail attributes. Even one of the head engineers from the Power Wagon project was on the team to ensure the Patriot's trail performance.

Ground Clearance
Water Fording

With the Trail Rated Package and Freedom Drive II, the Patriot includes these key features:

1. Hill Descent Control- Uses the vehicle brakes to maintain descent speeds of 4-6 MPH in low gear and 3 mph in reverse.
2. Off-Road Brake Traction Control- When required, the traction control system will use the brakes to slow or stop a spinning wheel and send power to the axle with greater traction.
3. 19:1 Crawl Ratio- Being a Continuously Variable Transmission, the ratio is as low as 2.3:1 with a 8.1:1 final drive ratio
4. Off-Road mode engine and transmission calibration- In low, with the 4wd Lock mode engaged, the system raises the CVT rpm to maximize compression braking and provide maximum spark advance to the motor (monitored by the active spark knock sensor).
5. 4WD Lock Mode- Commands maximum torque to the rear axle (electromagnetically controlled coupling)
6. Additional ground clearance- 1" Taller springs and improved dampening
7. P215/65 R17 All-Terrain Tires (28x8.5")
8. Front and Rear tow hooks
9. Engine and transmission skid plates
10. Fuel tank skid plates
11. Cabin air filtration
12. Fog Lamps
13. Seat height adjust
14. Three Mode Electronic Stability Program (ESP)
15. Heavy-duty Cooling (CVT cooler, Engine cooler and high-cap cooling fans)
16. HD Alternator
17. Improved body sealing and relocated driveline vents
18. Reinforced Rear Lateral Links (control arms).

Approach Angle: 29.6
Break-over Angle: 23.3
Departure Angle: 34.2
Running Ground Clearance: 9"
Turning Circle: 35.6'
Water Fording: 19" @ 5 mph

On the Trail:  

Photo by DaimlerChrysler, Driver: Scott Brady, Expeditions West

FR11- Four Peaks Media Route MAP , Trail Rating (1-5 Scale): 2.5, Rugged Track (Expeditions West Rating Scale)

Technical Section:

FR11 gets interesting immediately after leaving the Four Peaks road, with a formed berm and crossed-axle holes within yards of the start. We engaged 4wd Lock by lifting the t-handle below the parking brake and then selected low gear, which enables hill descent control and maximum CVT compression braking. The trail is filled with embedded rocks and heavy erosion. The hill descent does work at keeping the vehicle speed below 6 mph, but is not a system I would use. The Patriot brakes are strong and allow good modulation (4-wheel discs), so I preferred to do the braking myself. The hill descent control can be disengaged by holding down the "ESP Off" button for 5-6 seconds, and the HDC light will turn off.

The trail continued to degrade as we descended further, with 2' deep washouts and deep holes caused by other vehicles attempting the climb. This gave me the chance to test the platforms articulation and stability in cambered and cross-axle terrain. While the articulation is somewhat limited to provide great road and high-speed handling (more on this in a bit), the vehicle is extremely stable, even at well over 30 degree camber or with several feet under a rear tire. The center of gravity is low and it inspires confidence. The dampening of the suspension is also very good, as the suspension dynamics engineers included compression and extension jounce control, which eliminates clunking or pogoing on hard extension (e.g.-dropping in a hole and lifting the rear tire).

The last obstacle of the descent had a rock fin traveling down the left side and a three-foot deep hole in the center. Here we staged a series of photographs (including the one above), driving down and up the obstacle. From there, the trail runs along Mesquite Wash towards Rock Creek. Filled with whoops, the wash challenged the suspension and clearances of the Patriot as we increased the pace. The final technical obstacle is a 5' tall v-notch ledge that was near the limits of the vehicles approach and break-over angles. Again, the strong brakes and good damping saved any damage.

Rally Section:

The last half of the trail is in Rock Creek, with is the typical dry wash found in Central Arizona. It started with a drive under Hwy 87 and into a tight forest of Cottonwood trees, which showcased the great turning radius and visibility of the Patriot. It also included an 8" log crossing and moderate crossed-axle obstacle. This made me a believer in the Brake Traction Control, which responded quickly and allowed the Patriot to climb out of the gully, even with two tires in the air.

From the gully, we picked up the pace and ran the wash at moderate to high speeds, which was an excellent test of the Patriots rally capabilities. Keeping the CVT in low, the engine responds well and allowed me to correct for minor slides and exit the corners hard by pulling the front end around. The ESP goes into a secondary mode while in 4wd lock, low and with ESP off. It comes back on at 35 mph and only uses brake force correction to mitigate a skid. It works great and does not cut the throttle in that mode like nearly all competitors do. This, combined with the low COG, responsive motor and great dampening makes the Patriot a blast to drive in the fast stuff.

Photo by DaimlerChrysler, Driver: Scott Brady, Expeditions West
Table Mesa, Expeditions West test loop Trail Rating (1-5 Scale): 2.5, Rugged Track

I spent the day with two Patriots, testing them on a loop I have driven dozens of vehicles on for comparison. It includes steep climbs, rocky ledges, fast roads and deep sand. Here are the highlights:

Deep Sand: Get the RPM's up to 2,000 and the Patriot plays in the sand like an ATV. I tried the hills with 4wd lock on and off and it works well in both modes. I preferred 4wd lock off and in low gear with ESP off, which allowed more wheel spin. And this was all with street pressures in the tires.

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Hill Climb: We made a dozen climbs of a 200 yard long hill, with variable surface conditions and several deep holes. Keep the RPM's near the torque converter lock-up and the CVT in low, with 4WD locked. The traction control worked great and we tried every line up the hill, including stopping in the deepest hole and completing the climb. Again, all at street pressure.

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Rock Ledge: This was a 1.5' tall rock ledge with a loose surface for traction. Even with two tires in the air, the Patriot crawled right over it. This obstacle has stopped several bigger SUV's, including a GMC Yukon during prior tests.
Stair Step Climb: There is a 1.5 mile section of the trail with several stair steps and ledges. These are steep and are a test for most vehicles. Fortunately, the Patriots undercairage is smooth and well protected. We skid on the belly pan a bit and with the right line, the Patriot was up and over. These tests were pushing the limits of the vehicles gearing and torque, but we never got stuck.

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Extreme Climb and Descent: This is a solid 2.5+ hill climb and we were not sure if the Patriot had the gearing, traction or power to make it. This was the obstacle that made me a believer (before the Crown King run). It did take a bit of momentum, but the Patriot clawed for traction, lifting tires and engaging the traction control as it pulled up the first ledge (with a DEEP hole in it). Staying on the throttle, both Patriots made the climb and turned around to come down for the second time.

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This was a perfect trail area for the Patriot and certainly beyond the capabilities of light-duty cross-over vehicles.


Crown King Back Road Trail Rating (1-5 Scale): 3, Rugged Track with 12" deep snow at the top and mud at the bottom
I want to start this trail report with a disclaimer. First, the Crown King trail is a difficult trail, at near the limits of the Patriots capabilities, and second, we completed the trail with highly experienced drivers. This being said, the Patriot made it all the way to Crown King, driving through slick mud at the bottom and finally 12" deep snow at 7,000 feet. We had no drivetrain damage. We did winch the Patriot once because of the snow (it would have made the obstacle had it been dry). Then we drove it back to Phoenix under its own power, at 75 mph on the highway. Consider this to be more for entertainment then something you would take your brand new Patriot over, but it does serve as a testament to just what the Patriot is capable of.
The Patriot and a Rubicon and Power Wagon started out on a very muddy and wet trail, climbing up to the Bradshaws Slick, embedded rocks provided a challenge, but the Patriot cleared every obstacle without damage or a strap. One long climb at the start was severely crossed axled and slick. Even at the limits of traction the little Patriot clawed its way to the top. The mighty Rubicon Wrangler even needed a rear locker for the climb.
The snow started at 4,200 feet and never let up. The Patriot makes a climb over a rock ledge with 12" + boulders. With the right line, it walked over the challenge More snow and we were in a race against the worsening conditions.

More rock shelves to clear (the Rubicon just ahead of us). The tight turning radius, good running ground clearance and compact dimensions of the Patriot allowed for the best line selection, weaving its way between the boulders, or even taking an extremely cambered line to get through. Unrelenting, the snow continues to fall and obscure the rocks and challenge available traction. We began to select a line for where we would slide to, as opposed to where we were pointing. The Patriot continued to soldier on without assistance.
The most difficult challenge is at the Oro Bell Mine, which required a challenging new route after the flood of 2004. The pictures make it difficult to see, but this ledge is steep and cambered to the drivers side, sliding you into a large rock. Traction was impossible and the Patriot traversed the entire ledge before coming to a stop just shy of the rock. We pulled cable and winched the Patriot over the ledge with the Rubicon's M8000 Warn.
No question we could have made the climb under dry conditions.
The snow continued to accumulate and the different challenges showed how each vehicle performs. This cambered turn put both the Rubicon and the Power Wagon in a rocky ditch, but the Patriot was light enough to stay on the ledge and make the turn. This is the most difficult challenge of the Crown King run and requires finesse to limit damage. Large embedded boulders lift tires and a rocky wall threatens to rip out sheet metal. The Patriot made it though the obstacle without damage, but did require a pull over the last rock.
We finally made the saddle and nearly 7,000 feet, where the snow was over 12" deep in places. The smooth undercairage and a little momentum allowed the Patriot to continue to plow through. A big hamburger and basket of onion rings awaited our arrival in Crown King. The Patriot had made it and won my respect in the process. After lunch we drove off the mountain without issue, having fun with the great handling on the twisty road after Bumble Bee.


The Patriot is without question the best OHV performer in it's class and also has great highway performance and 30mpg economy. I am not suggesting that the Patriot is a replacement for a Rubicon Unlimited or Toyota Tacoma on the trail, or a Toyota Land Cruiser for a Round The World Expedition, but it will provide a great ride, value, economy and rugged track performance for the buyer. I would not hesitate to take the Patriot on the White Rim Road, or El Camino Del Diablo, loaded full of gear. This segment is about providing value, and for the first time, there is an option that also provides performance on the trail.

Wheelbase 103.7
Track Width 59.8
Height 64.4
Overall Width 69.1
Payload 925
Towing 2000
Curb Weight 3516
GVWR 4435