jeep whiteI have this daydream about getting an overland permit and driving a rugged four wheel drive truck across sandy dunes to a rambling sea-sprayed house. There, my garden would coexist with sea grapes and climbing roses and bask in the warm sun and cool air. And when my garden’s harvest is done and my family still needs to be fed, I would hop into my truck and make the leisurely trek to civilization for bread and jam and conversation. 

Those lucky few who live or vacation in remote areas reachable only by four wheel drive–and often only at low tide–know the joys of Jeep. Jeep is a truck (or SUV in modern lingo) that revels in taking us where we need to go, regardless of the challenges of terrain or water. 

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It was just such a truck that was a comfort recently as we faced down Hurricane Sandy in Connecticut. With the storm bearing down on us, the Jeep Patriot in our driveway made us feel a little more secure: not only would its sturdiness and and ample cargo space help us to haul home groceries, bottled water and gas cans that we would need after the storm, but it would help us traverse debris filled streets and downed branches that littered our roads. But it became more than that: it also became a de facto charging station for our phones and laptops: The Patriot has several charge ports, including USB ports and a two-pronged plug outlet, all of which work even when the car is not running. Charging in the JeepThe Jeep Patriot’s USB port, 120V chargers and two-pronged plug port were essential when we lost power

The Patriot is Jeep’s pedigree SUV: it is everything the brand was built on, and it does what it does very well. Designed for off road challenges, the Patriot’s sturdy command of the road had no trouble traversing the storm littered streets. Where sedans may struggle with standing water or branches getting stuck under the car, this SUV has no issues; it rolled right along. 

Prepping for SandyPrepping for Hurricane Sandy was made a bit easier with the PatriotJeep’s focus with the Patriot is rugged capability as a luxury rather than luxury for luxury’s sake. So while it is not one of the many amenity-laden SUVs on the market, it has all the necessities, from Chrysler’s UConnect media console (navigation, music, satellite radio, and a 28 gigabyte hard drive that stores music and photos), USB ports, a two-pronged plug, 120v charge ports, heated seats and more. The design of the Patriot’s instrument panel follows this thinking: its controls are tucked into a streamlined, old school dashboard with subdued ambient lighting so that everything is visible but not demanding of attention. The media console is demure; there are buttons and knobs to control the basics–radio and climate–and a touch screen to operate the rest. Those who want the technology can have it, but it can be ignored, too, which lets the sights be the focus of your time in the Patriot.

And in the Patriot, the views are easy to see. The truck’s high stance and its tight, upright seating, which leaves all passengers feet resting squarely on the floorboards, gives everyone optimal views–for us it was views of sheared trees and downed power lines, but ideally, it would be an up close look at pelicans nests and pounding surf. Patriot interiorThe Jeep Patriot’s interior is roomy and streamlined with a familiar, old-school feel, despite having lots of great new technology 

Someday I’ll get my overland permit, and even if it’s only for a day trip, I hope I’ll be in the Patriot and its “Sun and Sound” feature: a sunroof and a very clever set of speakers that drop down from the lift gate when it is open, creating what might be the best tailgating or picnicking car–ever.

What We Love
Heated seats– Jeep has among the best
Radio control buttons on the back of the steering wheel–so intuitive!
Sun and Sound package with drop down speakers that are built into the lift gate
The price–about $25,000; lease price is around $200 a month
Great ambient lighting–on instruments, cup holders, tuning knobs and buttons
Streamlined design has an old school feel
Chrysler’s UConnect media console with secret CD/DVD port (see it here)
Utility shelf above the glove box and in the cargo area
USB, 120V and two-pronged charge ports that work when the car is  off, allowing you to charge your devices without running the engine

What You Need to Know
Gets 21 miles per gallon in the city, 26 on the highway (we averaged about 20)
5 passenger seating
172 horsepower engine, which may feel underpowered when towing or accelerating
Air vents and climate control are all located in the front (none in the back seat)
Cloth seats are standard, a leather trimmed option is available on some models
Rear cargo floor is 23 cubic feet; 53 with the rear seats folded flat
Maximum towing capacity: 2,000 lbs.

Disclosure: Chrysler provided the Jeep Patriot for our review; opinions expressed here are all ours.