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Another Jeep goes 2WD

Unpatriotic: New Patriot 2WD looks similar to the 4x4 version, but only drives its front wheels.

Patriot follows Compass as second cut-price 4x2 models from iconic 4x4 brand Jeep

31 Jan 2012

FRESH from launching its first two-wheel drive model since Jeep returned to Australia in the early 1990s – in the form of the facelifted 2WD Compass compact SUV – the iconic 4x4 brand has now released the second in a series of more affordable new 2WD models.

As with the Compass on which it is based, the introduction of the 2WD Patriot brings with it a price reduction across the model line-up, with the new 2.0 2WD Sport manual now starting at just $25,000 (or $27,000 in automatic form), while the 2.4 4WD now costs $28,000 (manual) and $30,000 (auto), representing savings of $2000 and $5000 respectively.

Like the Compass, the 4x2 Patriot is only offered in base Sport specification and with the smaller 2.0-litre petrol engine, which makes 115kW and 190Nm compared to 125kW and 220Nm from the 2.4-litre engine in the 4x4 model.

The 4x2 2.0 Patriot is available with either a five-speed manual gearbox or a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). On the combined fuel consumption cycle they return a respective 7.6 litres per 100km and 8.2L/100km – down almost 1.0L/100km on 4x4 variants (8.5 and 9.1L/100km).

Jeep sold 877 Patriots in Australia last year and 1312 in 2010, and Chrysler Group Australia (CGA) hopes the new variants and lower prices will increase those numbers.

Combined with the revamped, 2WD-equipped Compass, which opens Jeep’s other small crossover model range $1500 higher at $26,500, the revitalised Patriot line-up gives Jeep a two-pronged attack on Australia’s booming compact SUV market.

But the 2WD Compass and Patriot models will not be the only Jeeps to bring lower price and specification levels in a bid to broaden the brand’s appeal beyond its traditional 4WD customer base.

Next on Jeep’s 2WD list is the Cherokee, a model that was once a serious off-road wagon but which has softened its appeal in recent KJ and (current) KK generations.

The 2WD Cherokee – this time driving its rear wheels - will be available in Australia from March in base Sport specification, fitted exclusively with a V6 petrol engine and automatic transmission. Pricing for the 2WD Cherokee Sport will be available closer to launch.

9 center imageJeep has always offered 4x2 Cherokee/Liberty variants in the USA - even as far back as the tough XJ model - but until now the Cherokee has always been a 4x4-only model here.

The 4x2 Cherokee will bolster Jeep’s presence in the medium SUV segment, where sales of the rear-drive Ford Territory and front-drive Toyota Kluger are strong.

However, the Cherokee will become the only combatant for CGA in the class when the uniquely styled Dodge Nitro – which also offers only five seats - sells out during the first half of this year.

The KK Cherokee found just 1573 Australian buyers in 2011, while vehicles like the Territory and Kluger attracted a respective 13,866 and 11,692 homes.

The first 2WD models from the legendary US off-road brand arrive in Australia as another previously 4x4-only brand, Land Rover, releases its first 4x2 variant here in the form of the entry-level 2WD Ranger Rover Evoque.

“Two-wheel drive is where the market is heading and it’s important that we’re in there,” said CGA director of corporate affairs, Lenore Fletcher.

Meantime, at the hard-core end of the Jeep spectrum, the hallowed Wrangler off-roader has previously been available in the US in 2WD guise and such a model could also eventually be sold here, but Jeep has denied it will introduce a 2WD version of its flagship Grand Cherokee luxury SUV.

For now, the Wrangler will get a heart transplant in March, with the 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 petrol engine and a new five-speed automatic transmission finding their way behind its famed seven-slot grille.

The Pentastar V6, which has proven a success in the Grand Cherokee – in which it delivers 210kW and 347Nm - replaces the aging 3.7-litre engine and promises improved fuel efficiency, performance and refinement, while the W5A580 auto comes in lieu of the old four-speed, offering a lower first gear ratio for better off-road control.

The Chrysler group’s latest V6, one million of which have now been produced in Michigan over the past 18 months, may be tweaked in the Wrangler to produce slightly more torque at the expense of peak power to suit off-road driving.

The niche Wrangler had been Jeep’s most popular model here until the arrival of the new WK Grand Cherokee, which has been rolled out over the past two years.

The Grand Cherokee was Australia’s top-selling Luxury SUV in 2011, and sales should be further boosted in 2012 with the arrival of the high performance SRT8 variant in the second quarter of the year.

The new 347kW/630Nm 6.4-litre Hemi V8 in the SRT8 makes it the most powerful production Jeep ever built, as well as a serious competitor to high-performance luxury SUVs from European marques such as BMW, Mercedes Benz and even Porsche.

2012 Patriot pricing (plus on-road costs):
Sport 2.0L 2WD$25,000
Sport 2.0L 2WD (CVT)$27,000
Sport 2.4L 4x4$28,000
Sport 2.4L 4x4 (CVT)$30,000

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