Patriot Engines

Standard Optional
Type 2.4-liter 4-cylinder 2.0-liter 4-cylinder Horsepower (@ rpm) 172 @ 6,000 158 @ 6,400 Torque (lbs.-ft. @ rpm) 165 @ 4,400 141 @ 5,000 Required gasoline regular (87 octane) regular (87 octane) Source: Manufacturer

Ah yes, the optional, less-powerful 2.0-liter four-cylinder. Its appeal is indeed narrow. Offered only on the Sport with front-wheel drive and a CVT, it gives you a $200 discount off the standard engine's price and automatic operation with the gas mileage of a 2.4-liter manual.

EPA-Estimated Gas Mileage (city/highway, mpg) 5-speed manual CVT automatic 2.4-liter FWD 26/30 24/27 2.0-liter FWD — 26/30
2.4-liter 4WD 25/29 23/26 2.4-liter 4WD
w/Off-road Package — 21/23

On the Pavement ... and Off

My first drive was in the manual 4WD, which I enjoyed. The shifter juts out from the center of the dashboard — a location that some people find objectionable, but the knob was exactly where I wanted it. Though it's not a rocket, the 2.4-liter Patriot is quick enough, and the handling proved exhilarating in the curvy mountain roads outside of Phoenix — both paved and compacted-dirt surfaces. As with any SUV, the Patriot must be driven more conservatively than a car, but it's still a far cry from the high center of gravity one finds in truck-based styles like the Wrangler and Liberty. I was most impressed by the at-the-limit balance and grip, with less understeer than expected from a model based on front-wheel drive. The specs confirm that the 4x4 version's weight distribution is 56/44 (front/rear). Front-drive cars are typically 60/40, with only a point or two's difference with AWD.

You definitely know when you're driving on bumpy surfaces, but after a period of taking it for granted, I realized the driving effort could have been much greater and the comfort lower. The four-wheel independent suspension paid off here, but it comes at a price on challenging offroad trails (more on that later). On-pavement performance is firm but comfortable, with moderate noise levels in the cabin at highway speeds — much of it wind noise from the boxy shape and upright windshield.

With this drivetrain configuration there was a bit more engine noise than I wanted to hear, but I really noticed it in the CVT-equipped Patriot. On some level, this noise seems intrusive because it comes at unexpected times as the CVT chooses the most powerful or efficient engine speed and gear ratio for a given condition. With the manual, it's at least tied to your actions. Maybe drivers need to adjust, but it would be wise for automakers to double-down on the noise treatment in CVT cars. The technology in the Patriot and its sister models is one of the best I've driven; it reacts quicker than most and uses a conventional torque converter so it has a natural feel when accelerating from, or coming to, a stop. The CVT technology is key to the relatively high mileage estimates.

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