Car Shopping – Jeep Patriot Sport 4×4

After looking at the Jeep Liberty and taking it out for a brief test drive, we did the same with the Jeep Patriot.  Much like the Liberty, the Patriot shows its cost-conscious nature, but not to an excessive degree.  In terms of usable space the Patriot, while smaller, actually seemed roomier – both for passengers and cargo – than the Liberty.  One unusual aspect of the interior is the depth of the dashboard.  Whether it really is that unusually deep from front to back or not, it seemed odd.

The Patriot’s continuously variable transmission (CVT) takes some getting used to, as it doesn’t have gears the way a conventional automatic transmission does.  At anything but light throttle the combination of more engine noise from the 2.4-liter inline four cylinder and high revs while the CVT catches up gets a bit alarming.  It makes you wonder if maybe you were trying to pull away from a stoplight in neutral.  A conventional automatic (not offered) or the available five speed manual would be preferable.  Mileage estimates are better with the manual than the CVT, but still decent with the flexible-flyer drive.

Better space than the Liberty, better mileage than the Liberty, too.  While we still many more contestants to hear from, it looks as though the Patriot has the early lead.

Next up, the Ford Escape.

Car Shopping – Jeep Liberty Sport 4WD

We’ll take our contestants in the order we encounter them.  On our first round of visits and test drives, we are looking for any obvious reasons to eliminate a particular candidate from the list.  A more in-depth evaluation will follow for any that make the cut.  At this early stage we are also not really concerned about the particular dealership, nor are interested in making any particular deal or talking about trades (we take the Suburban instead of the wagon for exactly this reason).

The 2008 Jeep Liberty Sport 4WD uses Jeep’s “Selec-Trac II” full-time on-demand 4WD system.  In 4WD Auto mode it detects loss of traction at any wheel and sends torque to the other wheels without any intervention by the driver.  Since the primary reason for wanting four-wheel or all-wheel drive is for better traction on snowy roads, not having to think about what mode your drive system is while you’re drifting towartd the ditch is a good thing.

Driving a short mixed loop of city streets and a brief highway-like section, the Liberty is quiet.  You hear the 3.7 liter V-6 growling along, though if you had the radio on you probably wouldn’t notice it.  The Liberty has no trouble pulling away from stop lights or getting up to highway speeds.  Steering seems a little vague, as do the brakes.  The Liberty feels a little tippy on turn-in, which is not that unusual for a narrower vehicle with a high center of gravity.  Outward visibility is good to all corners, no obvious obstructions, and the shallow dash gives a good view over the hood.

Head room is very good, but leg room in the driver’s seat is compromised by the dash design.  For a tall person like me with long legs, the lower portion of the dash extends into where my left shin would be, and the footwell is small.  Likewise, rear seat leg room is snug, especially in the seat behind me.  This is not a huge issue, as rear seat leg room behind me is going to limited in anything short of a limo.  The rear passenger cup holders would also get in the way of a passenger in the middle.  Rear passenger entry/exit is a bit more of a concern, however, as the rear door opening is small at the bottom of the door, and the doors don’t open as wide as you think they should.

Exterior fit and finish seemed good, as did the interior.  Relatively spare and utilitarian, at least compared to a lot of vehicles these days, but pleasant enough.  Cargo room is slightly less than our wagon, but only slightly, and is easily accessible, though the opening rear window (or was that the Patriot?) doesn’t really add any utility.

Overall, the Liberty didn’t fare as well as I expected (particularly back-to-back with the Patriot).  No doubt it has more off-road capability than we need, and passenger space and fuel economy pay a bit of a price as a result.  Consequently, the Liberty may not make the final round.

Next up, the Jeep Patriot.

Car Shopping – The Rules

In our last episode of Car Shopping we introduced our contestants:

So how did we come up with this cast of characters.  Also from last time, here are our basic criteria:

  • all-wheel or four-wheel drive,
  • as close to 20mpg city and 30mpg highway as possible,
  • real passenger space for five (not just two up front and three bags of groceries in the rear seat),
  • cargo/trunk space for backpacks, sports gear bags, and the occasional saxophone, and all for
  • less than $30,000.

Let’s look a little closer at each of these requirements.

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Car Shopping – This Time, It’s for Real

[cue ominous movie trailer music and Don LaFontaine]

In a world where filling your gas tank means taking out a second mortgage and hoping for a Congressional bailout…

Yes, we’ve finally decided to make a change.  But it’s not the Suburban that’s going – not this time, anyway (evil laugh).  It may be a gas hog, but it’s paid for, I don’t drive it very far, and it’s still running well.  Our 2001 Mercedes E320 4Matic wagon, on the other hand, is just too demanding a car for us.  Great ride, solid as a… well, I was going to say “solid as a bank vault” but that wouldn’t be saying much, I suppose.  Room for seven, and decent gas mileage (29 mpg highway, 23-24 in mixed driving) to boot.  And it’s been reliable, but when it needs repairs – heck, even when it needs routine maintenance, yikes!  That giant sucking sound is the money being vacuumed out of our checking account.

Having now been beaten into submission by our uber-German taskmaster (the car, not the service manager), we have set out on a quest to find something less exalted, something less expensive, something… with a warranty.  This has set us to thinking about what we really need from a car.  After doing some preliminary research into the limits of what is available, we have come up with a few basic criteria:

  • all-wheel or four-wheel drive,
  • as close to 20mpg city and 30mpg highway as possible,
  • real passenger space for five (not just two up front and three bags of groceries in the rear seat),
  • cargo/trunk space for backpacks, sports gear bags, and the occasional saxophone, and all for
  • less than $30,000.

So, who are our contestants, Johnny?

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Independence Day 2008

Declaration of Independence

Declaration of Independence

Flags wave, fireworks fly, and magnetic stickers abound.  But what does it mean to be patriotic?  On the 232nd anniversary of the declaration creating the United States of America, it’s worth a few minutes to consider.  An essay from the Makinac Center for Public Policy captures much of how I feel.

It isn’t that flags, fireworks, or even the ubiquitous magnetic appliques on our minivans can’t be legitimate expressions of patriotism, but too often they seem to be substitutes for actual patriotism.  It’s as though if we put up enough flags we can convince others, or convince ourselves, of our commitment to the ideals on which this nation was founded, even if we are almost completely unable to express them, let alone actually live them.

Patriotism is more than an emotional response, chest thumping, or simple boosterism.  It’s about those noble ideals, and each doing our part to be true to them in the small things in everyday life, and not just the heroic moments that come to a few.