Dual airbags went into redesigned Jeep Wranglers, introduced in early 1996 as '97 models. A revised suspension that did away with the leaf springs was also new. Appearance did not change so much, except for installation of round headlamps. Three trim levels went on sale: SE, Sport, and Sahara. The new canvas top, with plastic windows, folded more like a traditional convertible's roof. A hardtop with full metal doors and roll-up glass windows was optional. Wheelbase was again 93.4 inches, and overall length was identical to that of the earlier model. Powertrains were as before: a 4-cylinder engine in the SE, and a 4.0-liter inline six for both the Sport and Sahara. A 5-speed manual transmission was standard; 3-speed automatic optional. Command-Trac 4-wheel drive was standard, and antilock brakes were optional only on the Sport and Sahara.
The Jeep Patriot's interior is basic, but attractive and sturdy-looking. The Patriot's interior on the base Sport model is equipped with vinyl seating for five that shows some big expanses of plastic on the dash but with large, easy-to-read instrumentation. Automobile says that "the Patriot's upright dash and flat expanse of hood make you feel as though you're in something substantial--more truck than minivan--and the simple controls are logically laid out." In 2008,Jeep equips the Patriot with chrome accents on the stereo as well as the door locks and handles, which adds some style to the purposeful interior. The shiny additions didn't especially impress Edmunds, who complain that the "cabin features large gauges and simple controls but is ultimately defined by a sea of hard, low-quality plastic."