Open Road

Making the Compatriot the Jeep we want - and deserve

If you're one of the hottest brands in the world, and you need to replace two vehicles that sell at a rate of nearly 200k a year, what exactly are you going to do? Do you take the safe route and attempt to mirror what has largely kept you a success thus far, or do you improve on the formula, and better sort your lineup? After 10 years with the Jeep Compass and Patriot, it is time for both to hang up their jackets and go in for the long dirt nap.

And what a strange 10 years it's been. Born of the age of Diamler-Chrysler, the "Merger of equals," the Compass and Patriot were brought into this world to shore up sales of Jeep worldwide, pull on the heartstrings of former Cherokee owners, and make sure teenage girls had an affordable crossover to buy in just a few years. As much as I like to throw shade at each model on both subjective and objective basis, I truly find the purpose of each vehicle to be relatively endearing. For less than $22,000, you could (that is, if you could find one) walk out of your local Jeep dealer with a 4x4 crossover, with a manual gearbox, decent all-weather performance, and somewhat respectable fuel economy. This of course ignores the fact that they weren't packaged all that well, based on the outrageously terrible Dodge Caliber, and used all those shared bits and bobs with Mitsubishi that should have been shelved by 2010. Yet, the twins lived on, and on, and on. We've heard stories as far back as 2012 that they weren't long for our world, and then we get news that they're making it through 2017. Just in time for the "Compatriot" to arrive.

I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out what Jeep intends to do with the Compatriot. As far as most blogs seem to know, we're getting a Compass and Patriot replacement that is based on the already well-received Renegade. A little bit of a stretch on the chassis will certainly aid in ride quality, and the Grand Cherokee styling cues will give it a much more upscale demeanor. Even the interior has looked very well executed, with a positively huge uConnect screen set in the middle of the dash. Could Jeep actually be trying to take their Compass and Patriot replacement significantly more up the product chain? I certainly hope so.

If you pilot your browser over to the Jeep configurators, you might be surprised by how low the base prices are on almost all of their products. Less than $30k for a new Cherokee? A Renegade for just under $18k? What a deal! It isn't until you get waist deep in the configuration that you figure out that most of the things that people want when buying a Jeep - Four wheel drive, an automatic gearbox, a radio that plays nice with your phone - are all hidden away behind expensive packages or add a pretty hefty price to the bottom line of your new crossover or SUV. There's a reason for it, and it is to bring people into the dealer. High MPG ratings and low base prices grab buyers' attention, but you'll almost never find that sub $22k Patriot on a Jeep lot. There just isn't any money in it for FCA, so unless you've ordered one, it is a rare sight.

So, here I go hoping that Jeep is at least a little more honest with us on the Compatriot. If you're going to try and mirror the Grand Cherokee, let's try to copy the packaging of it's bigger sibling once the Compatriot hits the lot. Down the street at Mazda, you'll find CX-3s and CX-5s with a bevy of impressive standard equipment at prices that are a bit higher than it's competitors, and both sell well for such a small brand. But for Jeep? One of the most valuable brands worldwide? Why would you not want a headlining mid-size crossover that gives buyers exactly what they want? If they want to kick out a base trim model that starts at $20k, that's their own deal. But I'd hate to see them hide away a capable 4x4 system, a good sized uConnect screen, alloy wheels, and a roof rack in a package that's over $25k. Even worse, I'd hope that they avoid giving the more hardcore 4x4 goods to yet another Trailhawk model. Not everyone wants a bro-styled SUV if they're going off-road, and not everyone needs a Jeep with an extra bit of ground clearance when they just want the capable differentials and crawl gears.

Truth be told, we should all have great confidence in whatever they come up with. Say what you will about FCA on the whole, the Jeep brand has avoided many of the problems Dodge and Chrysler have had the past few years (let's not mention Fiat and Alfa Romeo). The Renegade has been a runaway success, the Cherokee has surprised a lot of people, and with the new Wrangler coming next year, Jeep seems unlikely to miss on a strong 2017. Here's hoping the Compatriot keeps the ball rolling, and most importantly, I do hope that FCA actually goes about using the Compatriot name.

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