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2012 Jeep Patriot. Click image to enlarge

Test Drive: 2012 Jeep Compass North 4×4

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Jeep Canada

Review and photos by Michael Schlee

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2012 Jeep Patriot

Ann Arbor, MI – Several months ago I spent a week in the Jeep Compass and came away less than impressed. Many people told me I had to test out its platform twin, the Jeep Patriot as it was the superior vehicle. Although skeptical, I thought I would give it a try sooner, but the timing never worked out. Fast forward to June and I find myself at the Chrysler Chelsea Proving Grounds in Ann Arbor, Michigan for a ride-and-drive event. Not only would I have the opportunity to drive the 2012 Jeep Patriot on Chrysler’s test track that simulates highways, byways, and city streets, but I would also be taking a Patriot on a real, no-holds-barred off-road course.

An unfortunate aspect to this event is that since it took place in the United States I was driving US-Spec Jeep Patriots. For the off-road course I was in the Patriot Latitude, which is basically the American equivalent of Patriot North sold here in Canada. For the on-road sections I would be driving the Patriot Altitude, which is available in Canada as a low volume special edition that emphasizes on-road handling and style.

Quick Spin: 2012 Jeep Patriot reviews jeep car test drives
2012 Jeep Patriot. Click image to enlarge

First up was the Patriot Latitude wearing a set of 215/65R17 off-road tires attached to Jeep’s Freedom Drive II 4×4 system—the most advanced system available in the Patriot. Since the Patriot’s roots are embedded in a front-wheel-drive compact car, there is no option for a true two-speed transfer case or mechanically locking differentials. Instead, this little Jeep uses brake and throttle applications to simulate locking differentials fore and aft. Although I was skeptical, as are most people, this system really works. Heading into some of the deep ruts, steep arching hill climbs, and gravel descents, I could think of nothing other than “Well, I’m about to get stuck.” But the Patriot’s Freedom Drive II system is surprisingly capable off-road. As I plowed through the course, I could hear the electronic diff working away loudly. It would kick in especially hard when going up and down the loose surface hills; the power transition was immediate front to back and side to side. It would brake automatically when going downhill thanks to the descent control and would ‘lock’ the differential once wheel spin begins just like a mechanical differential would.

I did hit the skid plates a few times while off-roading, but never scraped the front or rear bumper. Yes, this wasn’t the most hardcore off-road course, but it was more than anyone other than those dedicated to winch-grapple good times would attempt in their daily driver. Sure, if this trail was hours long, the brakes would be pretty beat up, but for the odd off-road excursion, the Patriot never got stuck in the mud holes, hill climbs, or offset sink holes.

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