I just spent the last 48 hours behind the wheel of two newly redesigned Jeeps, the 2008 Jeep Liberty and Jeep Patriot. And let me tell you, some times it isn't about the size, it's about how it fits in your world.
Just viewing the two vehicles side by side, it's clear the Liberty is the beefier looking. It also has a stronger looking front face that eliminates the traditional round headlights. It stands 5.6 inches taller than the Patriot and offers a third row of seating. The Liberty is equipped with a 3.7-liter V-6 engine with 210-hp and is offered in two variants of Jeep's famous 4X4 Trial Rated suspension.
The all-new Jeep Patriot shares the same platform as its slightly smaller sibling, the Compass. It stands at a mere 65.7 inches and but is available with Freedom Drive I and Freedom Drive II that provides true Jeep 4x4 Trail Rated capability in a compact SUV. Its 2.4-liter DOHC engine puts out 172 horsepower with 165 pound-feet of torque.
I took the Patriot home for the evening (which is a 98-mile trip from the office on several highways) and was surprised that it was very nimble and quick in traffic. The steering was tight compared with the Jeep Wrangler I recently drove on a long trip. The Patriot's size didn't make me feel like I was in an overly huge SUV. My ride height was somewhat level to the vehicles around me, so I didn't have that "I'm looking down at you" feeling. The window switches were located in the middle on the center console (very similar to my MINI Cooper). Its little 2.4-liter had the power needed to climb a steep pass through the mountains with little resistance and kept gaining speed. Most SUVs fall flat on the pass and tend to bog down the higher they go. The suspension felt a little sportier and less like a floating boat. I felt very comfortable and, to be frank, I really liked this little guy.
The following evening I took the Liberty home. Again, I racked up the same amount of miles in less than 24 hours. I wanted to compare the size and capabilities of the two Jeeps. The Liberty took a little more effort to get into. I'm not a tall lady and my short legs require a little more lift to get into the cabin. The increased ride height was did impart that "I'm looking down at you" feeling. The interior definitely felt bigger -- a huge difference from the Patriot.
When I got the word on Tuesday that I was relocating, I was able to use the Liberty that night to carry the entire contents of my office, including a chair and a small filing cabinet. I wouldn't have been able to pull this off in one trip with the Patriot.
The power from the V-6 made was adequate to the point that it can pick up speed when needed, but felt short as it made its way up the mountain pass. It wasn't a horrible loss of power; it just wasn't a dramatic thrust as the gas was fully applied. Slowly but surely in this case.
Another difference between the two Jeeps was the gas mileage average range. The Liberty averaged 21-24.4 mpg, whereas the Patriot only gave me a range of 17.7-19 on speeds between 65-75 mph. The smaller SUV tended to use more gas in the same driving situations as the full-size.
But I still feel a pull to the Jeep Patriot's total package: It's an SUV that looks like an SUV but doesn't feel like an SUV; and for around $4000 less than the Liberty. If you need to have three rows of seats and a larger towing capacity, the Liberty would be more up your alley.
So size doesn't really matter in my opinion; it's how you use the vehicle and how you feel in it when driving. Both these Jeeps can handle that for you.