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Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara Road Test:

There aren’t many obstacles that slow down a Jeep Wrangler. It can climb impossibly steep slick rock at Moab, bash its way up the Rubicon Trail, plow through mud or make its own trail across the desert.

But then there are those pesky paved roads. Those it doesn’t cotton to.

Enter the 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara. Like all Wranglers for 2012, it has an all-new engine and an interior that was completely redesigned just last year. It also offers a new five-speed automatic transmission if you don’t want the standard six-speed manual. Rest assured it can still do all those great things off road, but this time it promises good things on the road, too.

Pentastar to the Rescue
Even traditional Jeepers will admit the previous pushrod 3.8-liter iron-block V6 was a slug. It made adequate torque, critical when trying to climb up the face of a cliff in 4WD Low, but on city streets the Wrangler could barely get out of its own way.

For 2012, the Wrangler has been upgraded with Chrysler’s newest V6. Dubbed the Pentastar, the new 3.6-liter DOHC engine pumps out 285 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 260 pound-feet of torque at 4,800 rpm. Those are typical numbers for a modern V6 these days, but compared to the old 3.8 they represent an improvement of 83 hp and 23 lb-ft of added torque.

The all-aluminum Pentastar is also some 90 pounds lighter and 3.7 inches shorter than the outgoing 3.8-liter six. And as if that wasn’t enough, it’s more efficient, too, as the Wrangler gets an EPA rating of 16 city/20 highway mpg, a 1-mpg improvement over the previous numbers.

We averaged a less-than-stellar though not completely globally irresponsible 16.7 mpg during our two weeks with the Wrangler. Not terrible for a 4,493-pound vehicle with virtually no aerodynamic efficiency whatsoever.

Five Is Better Than Four
Jeep also replaced the long-outdated four-speed automatic transmission with the A580 five-speed ($1,125) found in the Grand Cherokee. A six-speed manual remains the standard transmission on the Wrangler, as does a low-range transfer case. Off-roaders fear not, as the new five-speed has a lower 1st-gear ratio than the outgoing tranny.

At the test track this combo of more power and an extra gear ratio netted a not-quite-as-underwhelming 0-60-mph time of 8.8 seconds (8.5 seconds with a 1-foot rollout like at a drag strip), a full 1.8 seconds quicker than the last four-speed automatic-equipped Wrangler Unlimited we tested. The quarter-mile came and went in 16.4 seconds at 85.1 mph.

Clearly, the Wrangler still won’t set your hair on fire with its breathtaking acceleration. It’s still slower to 60 than a Toyota FJ Cruiser (8.3 seconds) and the Nissan Xterra (7.6 seconds). One new SUV it can leave behind is the 2012 Ford Explorer with the EcoBoost turbo four-cylinder (9.1 seconds). Not exactly much of an off-roader, but still a vehicle that buyers of the four-door Wrangler might consider.

Out on the road, the new engine and tranny offer big improvements in terms of refinement. The engine is smooth, reasonably quiet and has a nice surge of power from 3,700 rpm to 6,400. The automatic offers supple shifts, but it’s not exactly eager to offer them up. We found ourselves dipping into the throttle deeper than we expected to get it to kick down. We’re guessing that Jeep’s goal of improving the Wrangler’s fuel economy no doubt contributed to that.

Handling? Don’t Talk About Handling
Despite its newfound refinement, this is still a Jeep Wrangler. Therefore, on-road handling is not its forte, even with its newly retuned suspension. Between the live axles at both ends and the recirculating-ball type steering system, the Jeep feels far more detached than most modern SUVs. The long-travel suspension allows lots of roll and the nonlinear, slightly overboosted steering provides little in the way of feedback. Fast corners require an extra correction or two because there’s a delay with each steering input.

Any hopes of legitimate numbers were quashed with the first run through our slalom course. The Wrangler’s insanely aggressive electronic stability control system can’t be fully defeated (except in 4WD at less than 35 mph), and it stabs the brakes at the slightest bit of roll angle or tire slide. Hence the pathetic 51.4-mph slalom speed and 0.63g of lateral grip. We didn’t sweat it much, though; it’s a Jeep after all.

With 11.9-inch rotors up front and 12.4s at the rear, not to mention its substantial weight, the Wrangler’s 138-foot stop from 60 mph isn’t half bad. We were less impressed with the Wrangler’s mushy pedal, considerable nose dive and noticeable side-to-side squirm that will grab your attention when you’re hard on the binders.

In Its Natural Habitat
You can’t do the Wrangler justice without taking it off-road. So we headed to the desert where we bashed around on rough fire roads, climbed rock-filled ascents and put the Wrangler’s hill descent control to use on a couple of steep downhills. Everything worked as advertised. In fact, it felt almost too easy sometimes.

Through it all its suspension easily soaked up everything we threw at it while the 10.2 inches of ground clearance kept us from touching down on any rocks. The Command-Trac four-wheel-drive system is a snap to use and the addition of the optional Trak-lok limited slip makes it that much more capable, even with the Sahara’s meager on-/off-road tires.

If there’s one downside to the 2012 Jeep Wrangler’s off-road prowess, it’s the difficulty in finding its limits. With most SUVs, it’s easy to predict what they’ll tackle with ease and what’s better left untouched. In the Jeep, you’re tempted to take on just about anything. And with the right driver and a good spotter, you’ll probably make it, too.

The Price of Progress
Although a base two-door Wrangler starts at just $22,845, pricing on our four-door 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara begins at $31,545 (including $800 destination). Yeah, four-door Wranglers with a healthy set of standard features aren’t cheap. With options such as the automatic transmission, navigation system and three-piece body-color hardtop, our Wrangler shot up to a whopping $37,200.

To anyone who hasn’t been in a Wrangler for awhile, that kind of money looks downright ridiculous for a Jeep. But get inside the latest version and it’s not so hard to believe. After a heavy interior redesign last year, the Wrangler now looks like a modern SUV inside. The materials quality has drastically improved, there are modern electronics and the cabin is relatively quiet with the hardtop in place.

It’s nowhere near the refinement you get in something like a Ford Explorer or Dodge Durango, but that’s fine with Jeep. The Wrangler will never be a crossover or even a truly mainstream choice. Even though the level of refinement has been raised yet again, the Wrangler is still authentic. In other words, the Wrangler is right where it was before: perfect for nontraditional SUV buyers and a stretch for typical SUV buyers.

The new engine is a huge improvement, but the 2012 Jeep Wrangler still isn’t the fastest or the most efficient vehicle in its class. It doesn’t have the most features either, or the most comfortable cabin.

What it does have is a combination of modern conveniences and legendary off-road abilities wrapped up in one of the most distinctive shapes on the road today. 

2012 Jeep Wrangler Review

2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon SUV

Though more civilized than ever, the 2012 Jeep Wrangler remains a no-nonsense American icon. Its quirky character and unique off-road abilities continue to hold appeal.

Superior off-road capability; strong engine; surprisingly fun to drive around town; two- and four-door variations; rough-and-tumble image; it’s a convertible.

Sport

  • 3.6L V6 engine
  • Manual transmission
  • Up to 17 cty/21 hwy mpg
  • 4-wheel drive
  • MP3 Player
  • Stability Control
  • Traction Control
  • Bluetooth (Optional)
  • Side/Curtain Airbags (Optional)

Unlimited Sport

  • 3.6L V6 engine
  • Manual transmission
  • Up to 16 cty/21 hwy mpg
  • 4-wheel drive
  • MP3 Player
  • Stability Control
  • Traction Control
  • Bluetooth (Optional)
  • Side/Curtain Airbags (Optional)

Sahara

  • 3.6L V6 engine
  • Manual transmission
  • Up to 17 cty/21 hwy mpg
  • 4-wheel drive
  • MP3 Player
  • Satellite radio
  • Stability Control
  • Traction Control
  • Navigation System (Optional)
  • Bluetooth (Optional)
  • Side/Curtain Airbags (Optional)
  • DVD player (Optional)

 

Rubicon
  • 3.6L V6 engine
  • Manual transmission
  • Up to 17 cty/21 hwy mpg
  • 4-wheel drive
  • MP3 Player
  • Satellite radio
  • Stability Control
  • Traction Control
  • Navigation System (Optional)
  • Bluetooth (Optional)
  • Side/Curtain Airbags (Optional)
  • DVD player (Optional)

Unlimited Sport RHD

  • 3.6L V6 engine
  • Automatic transmission
  • Up to 16 cty/20 hwy mpg
  • 4-wheel drive
  • MP3 Player
  • Stability Control
  • Traction Control

 

Unlimited Sahara

  • 3.6L V6 engine
  • Manual transmission
  • Up to 16 cty/21 hwy mpg
  • 4-wheel drive
  • MP3 Player
  • Satellite radio
  • Stability Control
  • Traction Control
  • Navigation System (Optional)
  • Bluetooth (Optional)
  • Side/Curtain Airbags (Optional)
  • DVD player (Optional)

Unlimited Rubicon

  • 3.6L V6 engine
  • Manual transmission
  • Up to 16 cty/21 hwy mpg
  • 4-wheel drive
  • MP3 Player
  • Satellite radio
  • Stability Control
  • Traction Control
  • Navigation System (Optional)
  • Bluetooth (Optional)
  • Side/Curtain Airbags (Optional)
  • DVD player (Optional)

 

Rarely does a car reviewed have as many pros and cons as the 2012 Jeep Wrangler. Most vehicles have a lot of one and not much of the other. The Wrangler, on the other hand, has a wealth of extremes. It has old-school solid axles at both ends and standard crank windows. It’s incredibly noisy and rough-riding. The soft top is a puzzle to operate and is basically a big “break in!” sign to potential thieves. Indeed, measured against virtually any other new SUV, the Wrangler is in many ways, well, terrible.

And yet the Jeep Wrangler not only remains appealing but remains one of the best-selling SUVs in the country as well. Part of the reason why is because some of those foibles are actually indicative of an incredibly honest, back-to-basics off-roader. Of course, the Wrangler also looks pretty cool and can dive headlong into places where few other vehicles would dare dip their toes. Plus, what other new car allows you to remove not only the roof, but the doors and windshield as well? The answer is none.

Of course, some of the Wrangler’s issues can’t be brushed off as simply “quaint.” The soft top’s issues are real, as are long braking distances and limited secured storage. But there is finally good news for what lies under the hood. Gone is the agricultural and gutless old V6, and in its place Chrysler’s new “Pentastar” 285-hp V6. Smooth, robust and reasonably efficient, this engine radically transforms the Wrangler. Boasting a whopping 83 more horses than the outgoing engine, the new V6 is more than a second quicker from zero to 60 mph. A newly available five-speed automatic improves power delivery and efficiency as well.

Whether you get a basic two-door Wrangler with crank windows and a soft top or a high-dollar four-door Wrangler Unlimited Sahara with heated leather seats and a hardtop, this iconic Jeep is without question a unique vehicle. However, we highly recommend taking it on a lengthy test-drive and paying attention to the above issues to see if you could really deal with them on a day-to-day basis. It’s not uncommon for folks to be taken in by the Wrangler’s cool factor only to quickly realize after purchase that a compact crossover or a more livable off-roader like the Nissan Xterra or Toyota FJ Cruiserwould’ve been a wiser choice.

If you know what you’re getting into, however, the 2012 Jeep Wrangler is a wonderful way to not only get back to basics, but nature as well.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

The 2012 Jeep Wrangler is a convertible SUV available in two-door Wrangler and four-door Wrangler Unlimited versions. Each comes in Sport, Sahara and Rubicon trims.

The Sport comes sparsely equipped with 16-inch steel wheels, front and rear tow hooks, foglamps, a removable soft top, crank windows, manual locks and mirrors, cruise control, a tilt-only steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver seat, and a six-speaker sound system with an auxiliary audio jack, CD player and steering wheel controls. The Unlimited gets a bigger gas tank, four doors, more backseat and trunk space, air-conditioning and a 60/40 split-folding rear seat. The Power Convenience Group adds heated power mirrors, power locks and windows, and keyless entry. Air-conditioning (two-door), satellite radio, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and 17-inch alloy wheels are also optional.

The Sahara adds the above optional items plus 18-inch alloy wheels, an upgraded suspension, under-hood insulation, side steps, automatic headlamps, body-colored fender flares and a six-speaker Infinity sound system.

The Rubicon is not the most abundantly equipped trim level, per se, but rather the trim that boasts the most robust off-road credentials. It adds on top of the base Sport equipment special 17-inch wheels, 32-inch tires, heavy-duty axles and transfer case, electronic front and rear locking differentials, a disconnecting front sway bar, rock rails, air-conditioning, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and satellite radio. The Power Convenience Group is optional on the two-door, but standard on the Unlimited.

The following packages are available on all trims. The Connectivity Group adds Bluetooth, an iPod/USB audio interface, an upgraded trip computer and a leather-wrapped wheel on the Sport. A multi-piece removable hardtop with a rear defroster and wiper is optional with or without the standard soft top remaining. It comes standard in textured black, but can be had in body color on the Sahara and Rubicon.

Optional on the Sport and two-door Rubicon are a limited-slip differential and half doors that include plastic side windows. The Sahara and Rubicon can be equipped with leather upholstery and heated front seats, automatic climate control and a navigation system that includes a touchscreen interface, digital music storage and real-time traffic.

Powertrains and Performance

The 2012 Jeep Wrangler comes standard with a 3.6-liter V6 that produces 285 hp and 260 pound-feet of torque. Four-wheel drive is also standard and includes high- and low-range transfer case gears, though the Rubicon features an upgraded transfer case with extra-low gearing. A six-speed manual transmission with hill-start assist is standard, while a five-speed automatic is optional.

In Edmunds performance testing, a manual-equipped, two-door Wrangler went from zero to 60 mph in a surprisingly quick 7.1 seconds. A much heavier automatic-equipped Wrangler Unlimited did it in 8.8 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy for the two-door is 17 mpg city/21 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined regardless of transmission. The Unlimited is 16/20/18 with the automatic and 16/21 with the manual.

Safety

The 2012 Jeep Wrangler comes standard with antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, and hill start assist. Front side airbags are optional. In Edmunds brake testing, both two- and four-door Wranglers came to a stop from 60 mph in about 140 feet.

It should be noted that the Wrangler’s doors do not provide the same level of protection as regular doors do in a side crash. As such, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it didn’t fare well in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s side crash test. Without side airbags, the two-door Wrangler earned the worst rating of “Poor,” while the Unlimited got the second-worst “Marginal.” However, the Wrangler did get the best possible rating of “Good” in the frontal-offset test.

Interior Design and Special Features

Despite the increase in available niceties over the years, the Jeep Wrangler is still a vehicle meant to drive through dust, dirt and muck and then be easily cleaned afterward. Interior materials and switchgear were dramatically improved last year, and the design now has a rounder, more organic look.

The two-door’s backseat can host only two passengers and suffers from limited leg- and foot room. If that isn’t sufficient, the Unlimited has room for three and its extra set of doors makes for easier access. The four-door also offers 86 cubic feet of cargo space when the second-row seats are folded, which is quite substantial.

With any Wrangler’s soft top, however, storing cargo inside can be a risky situation since only the meager glovebox and center console can be locked. The soft top is also complicated to raise and lower, and requires you to store its bulky plastic windows somewhere inside the cabin (which is tough in the two-door). The optional hardtop, which features removable T-top-style panels over the front seats, is a smart solution for those who don’t intend to routinely go completely al fresco.

Driving Impressions

The 2012 Jeep Wrangler is pretty much unstoppable in off-road situations, especially in Rubicon guise, thanks to its specialized hardware. The Wrangler Unlimited four-door isn’t as maneuverable on tight trails as the much shorter two-door model, but its roomier interior means you can carry more gear. It also feels more stable around corners and on the highway. Nonetheless, all Wranglers suffer from tippy handling, a rough ride and steering that is kindly described as nebulous. Road and wind noise are also excessive.

The Wrangler also used to be described as slow, but no longer. It won’t be winning any drag races, but the new V6 is a thoroughly modern engine that can actually get the heavy Wrangler moving briskly. The standard six-speed manual features precise but long throws and an easily modulated clutch. The automatic is now a much more modern five-speed unit that further aids power delivery and fuel economy.

Review by Edmunds:

2013 Jeep Patriot Review

2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude SUV

  •  Pricing
  •  Photos
  •  Inventory
  •  Dealers
  •  MPG
  •  Specs
  •  Incentives
  •  Compare

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It may be billed as the cheapest SUV on the market, but the 2013 Jeep Patriot can’t match the space, refinement, quality and driving dynamics of its competitors.

  • Read Full Review of 2013 Jeep Patriot
  • Safety
  • Reliability

PROS

Above-average off-road capability; a few clever features.

CONS

Sluggish acceleration; disappointing fuel economy; poor braking distances; limited cargo space; substandard interior materials.

Sport

  • 2.0L 4-cyl. engine
  • Manual transmission
  • Up to 23 cty/30 hwy mpg
  • 4-wheel drive
  • MP3 Player
  • Stability Control
  • Traction Control
  • Bluetooth (Optional)
  • Side/Curtain Airbags (Optional)

 

Latitude

  • 2.0L 4-cyl. engine
  • Manual transmission
  • Up to 23 cty/30 hwy mpg
  • 4-wheel drive
  • MP3 Player
  • Stability Control
  • Traction Control
  • Bluetooth (Optional)
  • Side/Curtain Airbags (Optional)
  • DVD player (Optional)

View All Features & Specs

Limited

  • 2.4L 4-cyl. engine
  • Continuously variable transmission
  • Up to 21 cty/27 hwy mpg
  • 4-wheel drive
  • MP3 Player
  • Satellite radio
  • Stability Control
  • Traction Control
  • Navigation System (Optional)
  • Bluetooth (Optional)
  • Side/Curtain Airbags (Optional)
  • DVD player (Optional)

2013 Jeep Patriot

  • Full Review
  • Pricing & Specs
  • Road Tests
  • Comparison
  • Long-Term

What’s New for 2013

The Jeep Patriot is essentially unchanged for 2013.

Introduction

The Jeep Patriot checks in with a substantially lower price than any other SUV. However, take a look at its standard features list and you’ll understand why. The base Sport model, for instance, lacks air-conditioning, power locks or even power windows. Once you add those items plus some other common features, the Patriot ends up being more expensive than the 2013 Kia Sportage, the second least expensive compact crossover and a vastly superior vehicle. A similar point can be made about the Hyundai Tucson and 2013 Nissan Juke.

The Patriot does have something those other models do not — off-road capability. To achieve it, you must opt for the Freedom-Drive II Off-Road Group that includes an upgraded four-wheel-drive system with a low range. It’d still be cheaper than a Jeep Wrangler, Nissan Xterra or FJ Cruiser, too. But it should be noted that those models are vastly more capable than the Patriot when the pavement ends.

If all you want is a new crossover SUV that can realistically do some light off-roading, the 2013 Jeep Patriot could make sense. But frankly, this seems like a very small potential buyer pool. In other words, look somewhere else.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

The 2013 Jeep Patriot is a compact crossover SUV that seats five people. It is available in Sport, Latitude and Limited trim levels.

The base Sport is very sparsely equipped with standard 16-inch steel wheels, roof rails, foglights, cruise control, cloth upholstery, a tilt-only steering wheel, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack. The Power Value Group adds full power accessories, heated mirrors, keyless entry and additional body-color exterior pieces. Air-conditioning, 17-inch alloy wheels and a six-CD/DVD changer are also available.

The Latitude gets all of the Sport’s options minus the CD changer, plus a height-adjustable driver seat, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a reclining rear seat and steering wheel audio controls. Satellite radio is optional.

The Limited adds all the above optional items, plus automatic climate control, rear disc brakes (versus drums), upgraded exterior trim, leather upholstery, a six-way power driver seat (plus manual lumbar adjustment) and a trip computer.

The Latitude and Limited are eligible for several option packages. The Sun/Sound Group adds a sunroof and a nine-speaker Boston Acoustics sound system (available separately) with two drop-down liftgate speakers and satellite radio. The Security and Cargo Convenience Group adds adjustable roof rail crossbars, remote ignition, front side airbags, a tire pressure monitoring display, a cargo cover, Bluetooth phone connectivity (optional separately on all trims), a USB audio jack and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. A touchscreen audio interface that includes digital music storage is also available and can be enhanced with a navigation system on the Limited.

All-wheel-drive models, regardless of trim, can be equipped with the Freedom-Drive II Off-Road Group. This includes an enhanced four-wheel-drive system, special 17-inch alloy wheels, all-terrain tires, a full-size spare tire, hill descent control, tow hooks, skid plates and a height-adjustable driver seat on the Sport.

Powertrains and Performance

When equipped with standard front-wheel drive, the 2013 Jeep Patriot Sport and Latitude are powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 158 horsepower and 141 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard and a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is optional. Hill-start assist is also standard. EPA-estimated fuel economy with front-wheel drive and the CVT is 22 mpg city/28 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined, which is disappointing given its lack of power. It’s marginally better at 23/30/26 with the manual.

The Patriot Limited and “Freedom-Drive I” all-wheel-drive models only come with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that produces 172 hp and 165 lb-ft of torque. It gets the same transmission choices as the 2.0-liter. The optional Freedom-Drive II four-wheel-drive system includes a low range.

In Edmunds performance testing, a Patriot Limited with Freedom-Drive II needed a very lengthy 10.3 seconds to go from zero to 60 mph — that’s one of the slowest times of any small crossover SUV. EPA-estimated fuel economy stands at 21/26/23 with Freedom-Drive I and the CVT. It goes up to 22/28/24 with the manual, but down to a poor 20/23/21 with Freedom-Drive II.

Safety

The 2013 Jeep Patriot comes standard with antilock brakes (front disc, rear drum), traction and stability control, and full-length side curtain airbags. The Limited gets rear disc brakes. Front side airbags are optional on all trims either in the Security and Cargo Convenience Group or as stand-alone items.

In Edmunds brake testing, a Patriot Limited came to a stop from 60 mph in a poor 143 feet — about 20 feet longer than average.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Patriot the highest-possible rating of “Good” in the frontal-offset and roof strength tests. Patriots with the optional side airbags also get a “Good,” but it drops to a second-worst “Marginal” without the side airbags.

Interior Design and Special Features

At first glance the Patriot’s interior looks nice enough, if a little utilitarian. On closer examination, however, the quality is disappointing due to extensive use of cheap, hard plastics. The base Sport’s lack of standard power accessories and air-conditioning will make it feel especially cheap. The front seats are comfortable enough, but rear seat legroom is tight in the outboard seats and virtually nonexistent in the center position.

Large, easy-to-read gauges and user-friendly controls are at least in keeping with Jeep’s off-road heritage, though the available touchscreen electronics interface is rather antiquated. There are a couple clever features such as the cargo area lamp that pops out to become a rechargeable LED flashlight and the optional Boston Acoustics speakers that flip down from the raised liftgate to provide tunes for your next tailgate party.

You’d better not plan to bring a lot to that party, though. With just 23 cubic feet of space behind the 60/40-split rear seats and 53.5 cubic feet with both sections folded down, the cargo area is significantly smaller than almost all crossover competitors. The Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester in particular are about 20 cubes bigger.

Driving Impressions

Of the 2013 Jeep Patriot’s two available engines, even the larger 2.4-liter is underwhelming when it comes to highway power. The CVT does them no favors and their loud droning noises will have you reaching for the radio volume. At least the availability of a five-speed manual transmission makes this vehicle somewhat capable for off-road adventures.

Since the available Freedom Drive I all-wheel-drive system is really only meant to provide added peace of mind when roads turn slippery, it’s the Freedom Drive II system you’ll want if you expect to be spending much time in the dirt. At the same time, this dimension of off-road capability takes a significant toll on fuel economy and ride comfort. The handling and general driving experience of any Patriot also greatly trails its competitors.

The 2013 Jeep Patriot comes with a four-cylinder engine and a five-speed manual transmission. Some test drivers say that the Patriot offers adequate power, though the bulk of reviewers agree that the Patriot is sluggish from a stop and underpowered on the highway. A more powerful engine and a continuously variable transmission (CVT) are available, but test drivers say that even with the added horsepower, the Patriot doesn’t accelerate as well as they would like. The Patriot gets up to 23/30 mpg city/highway, which is fairly good for the class. However, models equipped with all- and four-wheel drive see lower EPA estimates. Most critics say that while the Patriot handles adequately, many rivals in the class offer better handling and a more refined ride. That’s not an uncommon trait among off-road SUVs, however the Patriot also doesn’t perform as well as rivals like the Jeep Wrangler and Nissan Xterra when the pavement ends.

While a low base price may seem appealing to SUV shoppers, but the base Patriot is sparsely equipped. Features like air conditioning, keyless entry and power windows don’t come standard, and reviewers say that hard plastic surfaces dominate the Patriot’s cabin. While test drivers find the front seats comfortable, they also say that the back seat doesn’t offer enough legroom. The Patriot also offers less cargo space than many SUVs in the class. The 2013 Patriot comes standard with a four-speaker stereo with an auxiliary input jack, while available features include an upgraded Boston Acoustics stereo, heated front seats, navigation and Bluetooth.

  • “You can’t deny your roots, and neither can the Jeep Patriot. The Dodge Caliber econocar platform probably made sense for a low-priced, light-duty Jeep in 2007, but this class is too competitive for that formula to still work.” – Kelley Blue Book
  • “Most shoppers will be better served by more street-oriented trucks such as the Honda CR-V or Suzuki Grand Vitara, the latter of which rivals Patriot’s off-road prowess.” – Consumer Guide (2012)
  • “The Patriot’s real challenge, however, lies in the quality of its competition, because this segment of compact crossovers is one of the most competitive in the market. Buyers simply looking for some added peace of mind when road conditions turn ugly will find all-wheel-drive versions of small crossovers like the Chevrolet Equinox, Honda CR-V and Kia Sportage to be more refined alternatives.” – Edmunds (2012)
  • “For those who want a compact crossover that will spend most of its time on-road, but still like the idea of mild off-roading, the Patriot is a decent compromise. The real question is whether it’s a compromise crossover buyers are looking for.” – Motor Trend (2011)

OTHER SUVS TO CONSIDER

The Mazda CX-5 can’t match the Patriot’s off-road abilities, but it offers excellent fuel economy, and reviewers say that the CX-5 is one of the best-performing SUVs in the class. The CX-5 also offers more standard features than the Patriot, and test drivers note that the CX-5 stands out from the pack with a high-quality interior and great cargo space.

If you’re looking for a small SUV with good off-road performance, consider the Suzuki Grand Vitara. Like the Patriot, reviewers say that the Grand Vitara isn’t the most athletic SUV in the class, but the Vitara outdoes the Patriot with a longer powertrain warranty and standard features that include a navigation system and Bluetooth connectivity.

Compare the Patriot, CX-5 and Grand Vitara »

DETAILS: 2013 JEEP PATRIOT

The 2013 Jeep Patriot seats five and comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, five-speed manual transmission and front-wheel drive. A more powerful 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and a CVT are optional. All- and four-wheel drive systems, known as Freedom Drive I and Freedom Drive II, are also available. The Patriot is available in Sport (base), Latitude and Limited trims. Latitude and Limited models add interior features and offer some upgraded interior materials. This year, the Patriot earns slightly better fuel economy than the outgoing 2012 model, but sees few other changes. As a result, this overview uses applicable research and reviews from 2011 and 2012, as well as the current model year.

  • 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee

    2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Jeep Grand Cherokee Review

Scorecard

Overall: 8.1
Critics’ Rating: 8.3
Performance: 8.2
Interior: 8.1
Safety: 9.2
Reliability:

Pros & Cons

  • High-quality interior materials
  • Excellent off-road performance
  • Comfortable, roomy back seat
  • Powerful engine options
  • Below-average cargo space for the class
  • Sparse standard features for the price

Research Other Years

  • 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee
  • 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee
  • 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee
  • 2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee
  • 2009 Jeep Grand Cherokee
  • 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee
  • 2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee

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The 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee ranks 4 out of 21 Affordable Midsize SUVs. This ranking is based on our analysis of 30 published reviews and test drives of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, and our analysis of reliability and safety data.

The 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee is ranked:

  • #4in Affordable Midsize SUVs
  • #1in Off-Road SUVs
  • #4in Affordable SUVs with 2 Rows

Thanks to its excellent on- and off-road performance, good safety scores and well-designed interior, the 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee is one of the top midsize SUVs in the class.

The base Grand Cherokee comes with a V6 engine, which test drivers say supplies good power. A more powerful 5.7-liter V8 engine is optional. There is also an SRT8 performance model, which gets applause from the automotive press for its outstanding 470-horsepower V8 engine and sporty handling. All engines are paired to an automatic transmission. Test drivers think the Grand Cherokee has excellent off-road performance and they like its comfortable on-road ride. Critics say the steering feels well-connected to the road as well. Fuel economy is rated up to 17/23 mpg city/highway according to the EPA, which is about average for the class.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee is the 2013 Best 2-Row Midsize SUV for Familiesbecause it has the best combination of quality, size and family-friendly features in its class.

Reviewers agree that the Grand Cherokee’s interior is one of the best in the class. The auto press says the cabin has comfortable seats in both rows, good fit and finish and intuitive controls and gauges. Where many midsize SUVs seat at least seven or eight, the Grand Cherokee only has seating for five. Fewer seats do not mean increased cargo space, though, as the Grand Cherokee’s cargo capacity is below the class average. Still, test drivers note that the Grand Cherokee should accommodate most owners’ things and has ample cabin storage. The base trim is fairly sparsely-equipped. You’ll have to check off option boxes or opt for an upper trim level to get features like a backup camera, satellite radio and a voice-activated navigation system.

  • “A stunning interior bolstered by cutting-edge infotainment and electronics systems awaits the lucky occupants while, underneath, Jeep’s legendary 4-wheel-drive (4WD) systems prove the Grand Cherokee hasn’t gone weak when it comes to its off-road capabilities.” – Kelley Blue Book
  • “On-road refinement, a well-trimmed cabin and traditional off-road ability make the 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee fully competitive with other midsize SUVs and crossovers.” – Edmunds
  • “The Jeep Grand Cherokee balances pleasant and confident on-road handling with capable off-road tenacity. Good looking, comfortable interiors, a relatively modest exterior size, and a plethora of available options further increase its appeal.” – Consumer Guide
  • “For families surrounded by concrete jungles rather than natural terrain, the … Jeep Grand Cherokee can be a lot more SUV than is needed on a day-to-day basis, but its stylish looks and powerful engine will win more than a few families over.” – Cars.com (2012)

 DETAILS: 2013 JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE

The 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee comes in five trims: Laredo, Laredo X, Limited, Overland and Overland Summit. For 2013, an all-new off-road-tuned Trailhawk model is available, and the performance-oriented SRT8 carries over. The base Grand Cherokee comes with a 3.6-liter V6 engine paired to a five-speed automatic transmission. Standard features include a six-speaker stereo system and steering wheel-mounted audio controls. Higher trims come with features like a backup camera, a voice-activated navigation system and heated front and back seats. The Grand Cherokee was last redesigned in 2011, so this overview uses applicable research and reviews from the 2011 to 2013 model years.

 

2013 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 10th Anniversary Edition: Ready When You Are

You’d have to be a little crazy or maybe just an automotive journalist to take a brand-spanking new 4×4 over the Rubicon Trail. That’s because you can walk the boulder-strewn path near Lake Tahoe faster than you can drive it, and few vehicles have traversed the 22-mile trail without gathering an ensemble of sheetmetal scrapes and gouges—Rubicon badges of courage as it were. But still, off-roaders come from far and wide to test their boulder-creeping mettle against the unforgiving Rube, usually with rigs modified to handle its punishment.

A decade ago, Jeep introduced the first Rubicon version of its iconic Wrangler. The idea then, as now, was to offer a Jeep that came from the factory with upgraded gear to help even the odds against challenging trails like the Rubicon. With the 2013 Wrangler Rubicon 10th Anniversary Edition, Jeep continues that tradition. There have been a plethora of Wrangler special editions over the years, but this one is fitted with heavy-duty gear hardcore trailhounds would otherwise have to add as aftermarket equipment. Pull up to the yoga session in one of these babies and no one will be thinking “soccer mom.”

Okay, so maybe a minivan engine—in this case, Chrysler’s new 285-hp Pentastar 3.6-liter V-6—lives under that standard Power Dome hood. But what it’s hooked to nets you serious rock-crawling cred: 4.10:1 Dana 44 axles working through a Rock-Track part-time transfer case with a 4:1 low-range ratio and Tru-Lok locking differentials that net a first-gear ratio reduction of 73:1. The thing might be geared slower than the Canaveral’s space-shuttle trolley.

An added half-inch of ride height helps the Rubicon 10th Anniversary Edition clear obstacles it might otherwise roll over on its BF Goodrich KM2 265/70-17 on/off-road tires and satin-black painted and polished aluminum wheels. The winch-ready steel bumpers have end caps that can be removed to lessen the chance of snagging obstacles in the wild. Mopar rock rails guard the Jeep’s flanks, while meshing stands vigil over the fuel filler door and taillamps.

The Rubicon 10th Anniversary Edition is available in both two- and extended-wheelbase four-door configurations, with your choice of a standard Sunrider softtop or optional hardtop. And, yes, you can still take the doors off.

Of course, you don’t have to do that to notice the touches inside the new Jeep. Red leather seats with “Rubicon 10th Anniversary” embroidered accents beckon, as do a similarly decorated gauge cluster and door grab handles. There is even a plaque in the dash tray detailing the Jeep’s technical details.

Jeep has not yet disclosed the MSRP for this beefed-up Wrangler, which will arrive in showrooms this spring. Whatever the cost, at least it will be Rubicon ready.

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee

 

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee V-6 / V-8

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee V-6 / V-8

A fresh face, eight speeds, and more for Jeep’s flagship.

It has been three years since Jeep dramatically updated its Grand Cherokee, delivering a refined flagship with style and substance constructed on a chassis shared in large part with the Benz M-class. Jeep would be the first to admit that, in the past, it would slide out a new model and then ignore it for five years. No longer. The iconic brand has reloaded the Grand Cherokee for 2014 with a new engine, transmission, and other features.

One sect of Jeepers naturally will focus on the new 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 engine, which we have reviewed in a separate story. Those less interested in the brand’s core values and more into automotive oddballs will gravitate toward the 470-hp SRT model. But those are far from volume plays—the dual beating hearts of the lineup are the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 and 5.7-liter V-8 Hemi models covered here.

All Eight Up with Gears

The most significant drivetrain news is the adoption of a ZF-engineered eight-speed automatic for all Grand Cherokees; last year’s V-6 played with five forward ratios, the Hemi with six. Paddle shifters have sprouted behind every steering wheel. Also new is an Eco button that alters the gearbox shift schedule and throttle sensitivity for optimal fuel economy. On V-8 models, Eco also effects cylinder deactivation. Finally, if you have the optional air suspension, it will automatically lower the vehicle to “Aero” ride height when traveling at higher speeds. Four trim levels are available—Laredo, Limited, Overland, and the rechristened Summit—with all-wheel drive a $2000 option on Laredo and Limited models and a $3000 option on the Overland and Summit.

The base 290-hp V-6 and optional 360-hp Hemi are essentially unchanged. (We recently completed a long-term evaluation of a 2011 V-6 model.) The Hemi can tow the same maximums as before—7200 pounds with four-wheel drive and 7400 with rear-drive—but the V-6’s tugging ability ratchets up from 5000 pounds to 6200. Thanks in large part to the new gearbox, fuel economy improves slightly for both powerplants. For rear-wheel-drive V-6s, highway mileage is up by 2 mpg to 25; city efficiency is unchanged at 17 mpg. All-wheel-drive V-6 economy is up 1 mpg in the city and on the highway (to 17 and 24). The Hemi moves up 2 mpg on the highway (to 22) with rear drive and 1 mpg in the city (to 14) with all-wheel drive.

On the Move

The V-6 does an admirable job of hauling two-and-a-half tons of Jeep around, but the Hemi remains a solid step up. We have an appreciation for the EPA-rated mpg you lose in opting for the eight, but given how deep you have to go into the throttle to move the V-6 with any urgency, the real-world mileage won’t be great either way. Further, we imagine—lacking side-by-side comparative data—the gap narrows some on undulating roads, and the V-8 has its cylinder-deactivation program when the pavement levels out. So there’s that.

Being a Jeep, the Grand Cherokee has a spec sheet that offers a mind-numbing array of chassis and suspension possibilities, including a five-mode air suspension, a multisurface chassis-control system called Selec-Terrain, rear-wheel drive, and three all-wheel-drive options. As a treat for boulder bashers, the GC now offers a slick feature on the Limited and Overland called Selec-Speed Control. Typical hill-descent-control systems automatically work the throttle and brakes to allow you to creep downhill, but this system also lets you do the same uphill. Push the button, point the nose uphill, and you can control your rate of ascent in increments of less than 1 mph via the shift paddles. We climbed impressive rocks with the 2014 Grand Cherokee, and it was as easy as slipping into a parking spot at Nordstrom’s.

On-road, piloting the 2014 Grand Cherokee is similar to last year’s experience. The steering is accurate and nicely weighted, and the suspension takes a predictable set when you enter a curve, yet the ride won’t splash your latte. It’s not our money, of course, but it would be difficult not to check off the boxes for the harder-core Quadra-Drive II all-wheel-drive option—it’s available on Limited and Overland models and standard on the Summit—and Selec-Terrain. The latter becomes standard on the Limited and up and offers all-weather options for sand, rock, snow, and mud, as well as an Automatic mode. And there’s still a Sport mode, but it’s now actuated with the shift lever.

Refresh—Getcher Refresh Right Here

All Grand Cherokees receive exterior changes for 2014. The average driver might have trouble telling the 2013 from the 2014 in profile, but the front end is markedly different. The headlamps are now shallow and squinty, as if the car had just driven out of a dark tunnel on a bright sunny day. Cool details include the tiny profile of a World War II–era Jeep depicted in the passenger-side headlamp and the words “Since 1941″ in the driver’s-side unit. Rimming the headlights are LED running lamps, naturally. The grille is slightly shallower, the lower fascia commensurately taller. As for the rear, each trim gets its own styling down low, and the liftgate has been resculpted and is topped by a larger spoiler.

Jeep redid the center stack, not changing its essential contours but reworking the acreage to fit the corporate 5.0- or 8.4-inch touch screens and an HVAC control area with large knobs—bucking the capacitive-touch trend—that work quickly and simply with minimal eye time from the road. Also new is the three-spoke steering wheel, which looks significantly better and increases the button count. Behind that lives a revised instrument cluster, with round gauges flanking a driver-configurable display that can tell you everything you want to know about your Grand Cherokee. Open-pore wood trim is available, and the cabin retains the upscale ambience that has characterized the 2011 and newer GCs.

Given its plethora of available models and options, the current-generation Grand Cherokee may very well be the most versatile vehicle extant, being equally suited for towing, off-roading, comfortable commuting, and outings to the ballet. (If it’s not the most versatile, it’s certainly a better value than others that might lay claim to the crown.) The GC is the automotive equivalent of a Leatherman multitool, and although Leatherman and Jeep might create new, better, and more-useful versions, they maintain their quintessential goodness. We’re looking forward to seeing what Jeep does next with the Grand Cherokee. We’re positive it won’t take five years to find out.

 

 

 

 Jeep Wrangler Sport
2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport

We’ve been tracing trail 16 through the ridges and hollows outside of Oliver Springs, Tennessee for the past five hours, inching along through rocker-deep mud, crawling over differential-busting rocks and clamoring up and down slopes made slick with two days’ worth of torrential rain. Our wanderings have led us here – facing down one of the steepest climbs of the day. Through the mud-speckled windshield, I can see the path make a quick right turn before bolting up the side of the ridge. Walls of red clay littered with jagged roots and jutting rocks tower to either side of the deeply-rutted path, waiting to open our sheetmetal like maniacal can openers. You’d be hard-pressed to walk the route we’re about to take, let alone drive it.

The two-way radio in the center console crackles to life.

“Trail’s clear up top. You’ve got it.”

I drop the five-speed automatic into Drive, kick the transfer case into Four High and turn the traction control off before taking a deep breath. Fortune may favor the brave, but so do body shops. My spotter in the passenger seat repeats the word of the day, “momentum,” and takes hold of the grab bar on the dash as I plant my foot on the accelerator.

We’re boldly going where no bone-stock 2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport has gone before.

2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport
2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport side view2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport front view2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport rear view

The Jeep marketing machine seldom misses as opportunity to remind us of the brand’s rugged roots. From the torrent of advertising gushing from Chrysler HQ, you’d be forgiven for thinking that every Jeep owner spends his days forging trails and fording streams, but the fair majority of Jeep products and their owners are happier commuting than communing with nature. Even the Wrangler, stalwart flag bearer for the Jeep brand, has grown in every direction over the decades. With a new engine, a more refined interior and an optional well-sorted hard top, has the Wrangler strayed too far from its billy goat roots?

The Wrangler remains one of the most capable off-road machines money can buy straight from the factory.

The answer, of course, is no. The Wrangler remains one of the most capable off-road machines money can buy straight from the factory, and years of abuse, research and development from Jeep loyalists and engineers have turned it into a turn-key trail boss.

When I say “Wrangler,” odds are you’re thinking of the meatyWrangler Rubicon we tested back in August or the infinitely coolWrangler Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 edition, both with their aggressive tires, taller stances and serious off road hardware. The bottom-rung Wrangler Sport is a somewhat more conservative machine. With its more street-oriented 255/75/R17 mall-terrain Goodyear Wrangler SR-A tires, goofy-looking plastic fenders and bloated plastic bumpers, the SUV strikes us as the Team Edward Edition of the proud off-road lineage. But Jeep doesn’t want the Cosmos Blue paint on our tester to fool you. According to the company, this machine is more capable than ever.

2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport grille2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport wheel2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport side mirror2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport rear fender

Fortunately for us, Coal Creek Off-Highway Vehicle Park in Oliver Springs, Tennessee is but a short jaunt from Autoblog South HQ. With 72,000 acres just aching to be explored and a labyrinth of well-maintained, well-marked trails, the park is perfect for putting a vehicle like the Wrangler Sport through its paces. The meandering paths range in difficulty from broken pavement to vertical rock ledges, which meant we could comfortably step up the difficulty without too much drama. At least, that was the plan. Coal Creek is the largest privately owned OHV park in the States, and it draws visitors from all over the country. We picked up weekend land-use passes for everyone onboard, met up with a few well-equipped friends, and pointed the nose of the Wrangler Sport toward the wilderness.

We were pleasantly surprised by the vehicle’s on-road manners.

As you may recall, the Wrangler line received a much-needed interior update in 2011, and rolling up I-75 toward the back entrance to the park, we were pleasantly surprised by the vehicle’s on-road manners. Our tester came with the optional three-piece hardtop, which helped quiet things down inside by leaps and bounds, as did the civilian tires.

With an excellent leather-wrapped, multi-function steering wheel; satellite radio with a factory sound bar that works in conjunction with stand-alone tweeters; a handsome dash and comfortable cloth bucket seats, the Wrangler is surprisingly nice inside without losing its rugged charm. Details like Jeep-labeled air vent bezels and grab handles do a smart job of enforcing the brand, and tricks like the seven-slat profile and mini Wrangler silhouette painted onto the windshield border are tricks sure to garner a grin from even the most hardcore off-road guys.

2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport interior2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport windshield banner2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport grab handle2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport shifter

Coal Creek has any number of paths and sites worth exploring over its nearly 300 miles of trail, but we cut through the low-lying clouds and mist as we headed toward Cross Mountain one early Saturday morning with a single purpose. Back in the late ’40s, the U.S. Government realized the need for an early-warning radar station in this area to protect Oak Ridge from the threat of aerial attack. In 1942, the Feds bought out the locals and established the so-called Secret City. In war time, the population swelled to an astonishing 70,000 workers, all sworn to secrecy. Home of some of the key research of the famous Manhattan Project, scientists like Albert Einstein worked to put nuclear weapons in the hands of the U.S. during World War II, and research continued even after conflict ended. Officially, Oak Ridge didn’t return to civilian control until two years after the war ended.

Before that could happen, the U.S. Air Force constructed a barracks at the bottom of Cross Mountain, built a radar station at the top and strung a massive tramway between the two. The route was impassible by vehicle during much of the year, and a cable car was the only way to safely get to and from the summit. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for someone to realize the array was actually constructed too high. Enemy aircraft could simply hug the valley below and the Air Force would be none the wiser until Oak Ridge went off like a roman candle. As a result, the station was quickly abandoned.

2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport front view2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport graphics2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport badge

With the allure of derelict government structures wafting through our frontal lobes, I arrived at the base of Trail 56 where it edged its way into the clouds. The ascent was steep, slick with rain and made even more cumbersome by peaked earthen barriers designed to keep erosion in check. We nervously eyed theGoodyear rubber on the Wrangler Sport, got in and prepared to follow the brave souls of Knox Off Road into the abyss. With a small running start, the Sport scrambled up the ascent with just enough wheel spin to make things interesting. The specter of optimism began floating through the cabin.

Jeep blessed the 2012 Wrangler with 40 percent more horsepower than the old 3.8-liter V6 engine. The newPentastar 3.6-liter V6 is good for 285 horsepower while returning better fuel economy, though peak performance hits at a lofty 6,400 rpm. The full 260 pound-feet of torque kicks in at a somewhat lower 4,800 rpm, but even so, it’s clear this engine is made to turn. Fortunately, the V6 remains smooth even in the deep end of the rev band without any of the thrashing found in the old 3.8. I found myself grateful for the extra grunt on more than one occasion as the tires fought for grip over clay and wet rock. Get frisky with the throttle and the tires spin until they bite, pulling the Wrangler Sport over impressive obstacles.

2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport engine

Technically, the Wrangler Sport has just over 10 inches of ground clearance at the lowest point on the chassis. That’s certainly not huge by off road standards, but with a wheelbase of just 95.4 inches, the vehicle boasts an impressive break-over angle of 24.9 degrees with the 255/75/R17 rubber on our tester. With approach and departure angles of 43.8 and 40.3 degrees, respectively, the Wrangler has a knack for being able to work its way over inhospitable terrain without so much as a whisper from the skid plates below.

I introduced my right foot to the floor with extreme prejudice. That’s approximately when all the power vanished from the engine.

We rode along the ridge side in dense fog, crawling down through bare rock and a few flooded spots in the trail before climbing to the top of Cross Mountain and finding the abandoned radar tower. With its toppled steam stack, gutted cinderblock structure and impressive tram car platform all in slow decay, the site looks like a set from the world’s creepiest horror movie. While the concrete structures are still whole enough, there’s little on hand to suggest this was once a fully operational radar station. We piled back into our respective rigs and headed out to play around on a few more light trails.

After a remarkably drama-free day, we met our first real bog. The guys from Knox Off Road inched forward into the pool of calm water only to see their TJ become instantly mired. With no hope of being able to pull the rig free, I maneuvered the Wrangler Sport to the side, where a separate route wormed its way through the standing water. My spotter hopped out, tested the bottom with his galoshes and gave the go-ahead. Once again, I dropped the transfer case into Four High and began working my way through the obstacle. Water immediately splashed up onto the windshield and I felt the Wrangler sliding into the clammy claws of unforgiving mud. Knowing that if I stopped now, I’d be making one very embarrassing call to Chrysler, I introduced my right foot to the floor with extreme prejudice. That’s approximately when all the power vanished from the engine.

2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport off-road2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport off-road

I shot an eye to the tach in time to see the needle go flat line. Quick flashes of confusion splayed through my mind. The waterline was nowhere near the vehicle’s intake, so the chances of having drowned the Pentastar were very slim. Another glance at the dash revealed the traction control light flashing in full disco freak-out mode. The ECU was desperately trying to figure out what in the hell was going on and traction control was yanking power in an attempt to provide more grip. I mashed the TCS OFF button conveniently located on the center stack, and the Wrangler Sport clawed its way out of the mire. Unfortunately, this situation would repeat itself at least two more times during the weekend. As it turns out, the traction control defaults back to on every time the ignition is turned off, even if the vehicle is in Four High. Drop the machine into Four Low, however, and traction control goes to sleep.

We headed straight for Trail 16. Rating? Difficult.

While Day One saw the Wrangler meet only one hill it couldn’t overcome without the help of a Rubicon and its winch, Day Two would see the vehicle endure a serious test. We bid farewell to our friends from Knox Off Road and paired up with a few members of the Toyota Territory Off Roaders Association’s Southeast chapter. The guys were running an impressive pair of well-modified bruisers, and they were eager to see the Wrangler stretch its legs. After a brief introduction, we headed straight for Trail 16. Rating? Difficult.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that no stock vehicle has any business playing around on a difficult trail. It’s akin to picking a kid out of JV high school football and dropping him in the NFL. There will be blood. With painfully steep ascents and descents made tractionless with rain, a few rock scrambles thrown in for good measure and incredibly tight trails, we were bound to find the limits of the Trail Rated badge on the side of the Wrangler Sport.

I found myself genuinely lusting for better tires for the first time as we began to work our way down the side of a ridge toward a low stream crossing. I let the two Tacoma bruisers get some space ahead of us in the event I had to go all runaway Wrangler on them, opted for Four Low and began to let the vehicle creep its way down the path. The old timers from these parts have a phrase for trails like this, and as the front wheels rolled past the point of no return, I was reminded of the colorful descriptor “slicker than frog snot.”

The Jeep began to kick sideways in painful slow motion as gravity twirled its mustache and adjusted its monocle in our general direction.

It wasn’t long before the Wrangler began doing its best impression of a stubborn mule as it slid down the ridge side. With its forelegs spread out in front pushing up mounds of soupy mud, it took every fiber of my being not to grace the brake pedal with the business end of both boots. Instead, I began focusing on trying to keep the Wrangler as straight as possible. The effort was wasted.

The Jeep began to kick sideways in painful slow motion as gravity twirled its mustache and adjusted its monocle in our general direction. We were about to be completely broad side on a trail barely wide enough for our chariot of choice with nothing but sweet oblivion and a few trees between us and the creek bed below. I cranked the steering wheel hard into the slide and romped on the throttle in a desperate attempt to regain traction. For two very long seconds, the Jeep held its sideways trajectory as the V6 built revs. Just as I was beginning to formulate my apology to my fleet manager, the rear bumper caught the bank and kicked the Wrangler back in line. I giggled like a school girl. This was edge-of-your-seat action at three miles per hour.

2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport off-road2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport off-road2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport off-road2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport off-road

The rest of the day was filled with triumphs both large and small for the Wrangler Sport as the vehicle continued to astound everyone in attendance. Here was a bone-stock vehicle fresh from the showroom floor kicking and gouging with the best of them on an unforgiving trail tangled through the East Tennessee mountains. We needed rescuing just three times during the day. Once when we slid into a bog and twice when we couldn’t get enough grip to work our way up a steep, muddy climb. With the right tires, there wouldn’t have been an issue.

At last, we found ourselves squaring off against the climb that opens this tale. My spotter had wasted no time in telling me this incline had stopped plenty of capable rigs dead in their tracks in the past as we squared up and prepared for our first run. I had no intention of sliding backwards down this ridge, so I attacked the base with gusto. The bottom of the trail featured another dreaded berm designed to quell runoff, and we hit with enough force to meet the vehicle’s bump stops for the first time. I had no intention of letting off, and the Wrangler Sport fought mercilessly for traction as we began to lose speed near the top. With the tires clawing in desperation at the slate and mud, the vehicle dragged itself to the top inch by inch.

Trail Rated indeed. Watch the hill climb for yourself in the Short Cut video below.

Make no mistake, this is quite possibly the best vehicle produced by an American manufacturer today. It excels at its given purpose in a way that’s simply unparalleled by other products, and it does so while returning 10 percent better fuel economy than before – up to 21 mpg highway. We routinely saw 20 mpg during combined driving, though our thrashing through the woods meant that number dropped to just north of 8 mpg over eight hours.

This is the 911 of the off-road world, and its showroom capability is a testament to what Chrysler has accomplished.

In a way, Chrysler has managed to execute a very Porsche-likedevelopment philosophy with the Wrangler. The iteration we see today is the culmination of decades of evolution instead of pathetic niche filling. This is the 911 of the off-road world, and its showroom capability is a testament to what Chrysler has accomplished.

Our tester was as loaded as a base Wrangler Sport can come, which meant that it carried a price tag of $28,215. That’s certainly not cheap, but we would be just as happy with the $22,045 base version and a more capable set of mud terrain tires. Even with 3.21 gears and open differentials on both ends, the Wrangler Sport is an unstoppable force of nature and a suitable heir to the throne.


2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport

Chrysler’s non-Viper SRT cars are all variations on a simple formula: add big power, big brakes and firm suspension to mainstream vehicles to create factory hot-rod sleepers. And the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 is the biggest sleeper of them all.

The Jeep is unique among SRTs in that it offers standard all-wheel-drive. Drop a 470-hp Hemi into a Dodge Charger or Challenger and you get a vehicle that wants to do a burnout for three blocks every time you stomp the gas. In the Jeep, though, that 6.4-liter V-8 deploys its power with ruthless efficiency. When I climb into the SRT, the onboard performance computer shows that someone cracked off a 0-60 run in 4.2 seconds. And this is a 2013 model—next year brings the eight-speed ZF transmission, which will make the big Jeep even quicker. Might we see a Jeep running sub-four-second 0-60 runs? That seems entirely possible.

While the SRT version of the Grand Cherokee does without the height-adjustable suspension and Kevlar-reinforced sidewalls of the more off-road-oriented versions, it can still navigate a rough dirt road in a way that honors its SUV roots. Which got me thinking, naturally, about moonshine and the Jeep’s suitability as a bootlegger car.

Back in the days when Junior Johnson was serving time for bootlegging, liquor runners wanted a vehicle that combined power, a healthy cargo capacity and low-key styling. And, oh yeah, a bit of ground clearance would be nice, too, for accessing backwoods stills and overland shortcuts.

The Grand Cherokee SRT8 would appear to succeed on all counts, making it an awesome weapon for illicit cross-country whiskey transportation. But I figured that I’d better find out by sending my moonshine-running cousins, Lance and Randy, out for a track test — a dirt-track test. Then they headed into the woods to assess the Jeep’s shortcut-taking ability. As for that 0-60 timer, they claim they managed a run in 5.7 seconds. Which doesn’t sound that quick until you consider that there was no pavement anywhere in sight. For all-weather, all-terrain American speed, the Grand Cherokee SRT8 is as good as its gets.

Sorry, General Lee, but if I need to straighten the curves and flatten the hills in a modern Mopar, I’m not choosing a Dodge. I’m climbing in the window of a Jeep.

Jeep Patriot Review

2013 Jeep Patriot

Scorecard

Overall: 6.5
Critics’ Rating: 5.8
Performance: 6.2
Exterior: 7.1
Interior: 7.2
Safety: N/A
Reliability:
How we calculate scores
Research analyzed for this review

Notable for 2013

  • Improved fuel economy

Pros & Cons

  • Low base price
  • Capable 4WD option
  • Underpowered engines
  • Unrefined cabin
  • Small back seat
  • Few standard features

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The 2013 Jeep Patriot ranks 19 out of 19 Affordable Compact SUVs. This ranking is based on our analysis of 59 published reviews and test drives of the Jeep Patriot, and our analysis of reliability and safety data.

The 2013 Jeep Patriot is ranked:

  • #19in Affordable Compact SUVs
  • #16in Off-Road SUVs

Although it offers four-wheel drive capability, reviewers say that the 2013 Jeep Patriot can’t compete with compact SUVs that offer higher-quality interiors and better on-road performance.

The 2013 Jeep Patriot comes with a four-cylinder engine and a five-speed manual transmission. Some reviewers say that the Patriot offers adequate power, though the bulk of auto writers agree that the Patriot is sluggish from a stop and underpowered on the highway. A more powerful engine and a continuously variable transmission (CVT) are available, but test drivers say that even with the added horsepower, the Patriot doesn’t accelerate as well as they would like. The Patriot gets up to 23/30 mpg city/highway, which is fairly good for the class. However, models equipped with all- and four-wheel drive see lower EPA estimates. Most reviewers say that while the Patriot handles adequately, many rivals in the class offer better handling and a more refined ride. That’s not an uncommon trait among off-road SUVs, however the Patriot also doesn’t perform as well as rivals like the Jeep Wrangler and Nissan Xterra when the pavement ends.

While a low base price may seem appealing to SUV shoppers, the base Patriot is sparsely equipped. Features like air conditioning, keyless entry and power windows don’t come standard, and reviewers say that hard plastic surfaces dominate the Patriot’s cabin. While test drivers find the front seats comfortable, they also say that the back seat doesn’t offer enough legroom. The Patriot also offers less cargo space than many SUVs in the class. The 2013 Patriot comes standard with a four-speaker stereo with an auxiliary input jack, while available features include an upgraded Boston Acoustics stereo, heated front seats, navigation and Bluetooth.

  • “You can’t deny your roots, and neither can the Jeep Patriot. The Dodge Caliber econocar platform probably made sense for a low-priced, light-duty Jeep in 2007, but this class is too competitive for that formula to still work.” – Kelley Blue Book
  • “Most shoppers will be better served by more street-oriented trucks such as the Honda CR-V or Suzuki Grand Vitara, the latter of which rivals Patriot’s off-road prowess.” – Consumer Guide (2012)
  • “The Patriot’s real challenge, however, lies in the quality of its competition, because this segment of compact crossovers is one of the most competitive in the market. Buyers simply looking for some added peace of mind when road conditions turn ugly will find all-wheel-drive versions of small crossovers like the Chevrolet Equinox, Honda CR-V and Kia Sportage to be more refined alternatives.” – Edmunds (2012)
  • “For those who want a compact crossover that will spend most of its time on-road, but still like the idea of mild off-roading, the Patriot is a decent compromise. The real question is whether it’s a compromise crossover buyers are looking for.” – Motor Trend (2011)

Details: 2013 Jeep Patriot

The 2013 Jeep Patriot seats five and comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, five-speed manual transmission and front-wheel drive. A more powerful 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and a CVT are optional. All- and four-wheel drive systems, known as Freedom Drive I and Freedom Drive II, are also available. The Patriot is available in Sport (base), Latitude and Limited trims. Latitude and Limited models add interior features and offer some upgraded interior materials. This year, the Patriot earns slightly better fuel economy than the outgoing 2012 model, but sees few other changes. As a result, this overview uses applicable research and reviews from 2011 and 2012, as well as the current model year.

With features like its round headlights and seven-slot grille, the 2013 Jeep Patriot maintains styling cues that are unique to the Jeep brand.

The Wrangler is one of the most fun-to-drive, off-road-capable Jeeps ever made. For open-air driving at the beach, on the trail or even the just on the street, the standard soft top can be folded down or the available hard top can be taken off, the doors can be removed and the windshield can be folded down.

The two-door Wrangler is configurable in either Sport, Sahara and Rubicon trim with standard four-wheel drive. A 285-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 engine and six-speed manual transmission are standard, and a five-speed automatic is available. Electronic stability control with roll control, traction control, brake assist and hill hold control are standard on all Wranglers. The Sahara offers body color flares, Infinity speakers, remote keyless entry, power window, security alarm and 18-inch wheels. The Rubicon features equipment that off-road enthusiasts usually add anyway, including heavy duty axles, front and rear electronic locking differentials, 32-inch BF Goodrich mud tires, sway bar disconnect system, rock rails and a heavy-duty transfer case with 4:1 low-gear ratio. The available Freedom Top three-piece modular hardtop allows panels to be removed above the driver or passenger. Other options include Dual Top Group, half doors, remote start system, front seat-mounted side air bags, and a multimedia infotainment system with 28-gigabyte hard drive and navigation system.

For 2013, trailer sway damping becomes standard equipment on all trims, and Sahara and Rubicon trims receive new wheels and an auto-dimming rear view mirror.

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