After a rather long product winter, 2011 is shaping up to be a big year for Jeep. Obviously, the biggest news from Chrysler's off-road brand has been the introduction of the 2011 Grand Cherokee, and after driving the new all-roader (twice), we've learned that the automaker is still fully capable of delivering competitive, well-rounded products. But beyond the Grand Cherokee, Chrysler has made tweaks to both its Jeep Wrangler and Patriot for the 2011 model year, and we spent some time this morning at the Pentastar's Technical Center in Auburn Hills, Michigan, to see what all the fuss is about.
Looking at both the Wrangler and Patriot from the outside, you won't immediately notice the new changes these vehicles receive for 2011. The Patriot receives a slight styling update – a cleaner front end with repositioned fog lamps is up front, body cladding has been added to the sides and a new rear bumper is found out back. The Wrangler has even less in the way of exterior visual updates, save the new body-colored hardtop available on the Sahara trim level.
What really impresses us, though, is the larger attention to detail in both of these vehicles. On the Wrangler, for example, little kitschy add-ons like an off-loading Jeep integrated into the windshield outline (pictured right) or the seven-slat grille design for the sun-blocker behind the rear-view mirror. Little things like this are only part of the story, though – the new interiors that both of these vehicles receive are seriously worthy of your consideration.
Wranglers get an updated dash with softer, rounder shapes, and although hard plastics are still used throughout, it fits with the SUV's bad-to-the-bone attitude. Still, new improvements for 2011 include the addition of optional leather seating and Jeep's new corporate steering wheel.
The Patriot, on the other hand, gets a full host of updates, with soft-touch materials used throughout the cabin. Chrysler says that specific touch points have been enhanced in the Patriot to rid the interior of cheap-feeling buttons and knobs, and the new seats (both leather and cloth) are really comfortable. It's a huge, much-needed leap forward for the Patriot, and it makes it much more competitive against vehicles like the Kia Sportage, Honda CR-V and Ford Escape.
Similar updates will make their way onto the unloved Jeep Compass, which will launch closer to the end of the year. In the meantime, click through our galleries below to see live shots of the 2011 Wrangler and Patriot live from Chrysler's design dome.
Photos Copyright ©2010 Steven J. Ewing / AOL