Inspect the rucksack of any hinterland adventurer worth their salt and you’re bound to find a compass [or other directional finder].
While the Jeep automotive brand is storied for having moved many an expedition, its last Compass SUV (Gen. 1.5), despite having optional simulated crawl mode all-wheel drive, would hardly inspire a Rubicon trek.
As the Jeep brand’s first crossover built off a late 1990s Mitsubishi front-drive car platform, Compass’ magnetic needle pointer bearing had worn out compared to fresher competition brimming with GPS levels of refinement and versatility. The nameplate was axed in 2016 and FCA’s Belvidere, Illinois plant stopped churning out the super-value boxier Patriot sibling until it idled this past spring.
For 2017 FCA brought a new Jeep Compass compact SUV to a truly global market, launching in emerging economies like Brazil, China and India.
Driving the 3rd FIAT derived crossover to slot between the Renegade and Cherokee, Roadblazing.com was able to stay mostly on-road in the off-road kitted 2017 Jeep Compass Trailhawk.
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WHAT: 2017 Jeep Compass Trailhawk 4×4 2- Row off-road capable, compact crossover utility vehicle.
Power: transverse 2.4L SOHC 16V SI gas I-4 = 180 hp/ 175 lb-ft + 9-spd. torque converter planetary automatic transaxle + PTU to multi-plate wet clutch differential torque vectoring variable full-time all-wheel drive;
WHAT (A) STYLING DIFFERENCE: This 2nd generation MP Compass is a more graceful take on a minus-sized Grand Cherokee than the 1.5 generation Mitsubishi MK49 variant.
Yes, the chrome vertical bar grille remains but shortens & widens for prominence; The nose sweeps further back; Lower front fascia corners gain prominent fog light housings; Headlamp housings wrap further around the fender; Dark lower cladding circumnavigates the entire lower body including wheel arches; Wrap-around liftgate accents make for a narrower D-pillar imparting a “floating roof;” Fully wrap around rear tail-lamp housings, thinning at the tailgate diminish the quarter panel size; Lower tailgate is flush with bumper cover;
WHY: Circumnavigating emerging economy lack of pavement and depicting the North American urban active lifestyle-ist.
WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since late Autumn 2016
WHERE: Jeep new vehicle dealers
WHERE MADE: Toluca, Mexico
WHERE TO: Standard full-time Active Drive Low all-wheel drive, front PTU to center viscous multi-clutch differential e-varies front/ rear traction from 90/ 10% – lockable at maximum 50/50%, ABS limited slip, 20:1 low gear crawl ratio, rear prop shaft idling;
Select-Terrain II: Nominal F:R torque split = 90:10; selectable Auto, Snow (max. 60:40 split), Sand, Mud (max. 0:100 split) & Rock modes aided by ABS limited slip & hill descent control;
OFF-ROAD CREDS: 8.5″ clearance + H/T tires + front suspension & fuel tank skid plate protection, higher air intake = 19″-inches water fording, 1.5 degrees departure angle > Wrangler Unlimited Altitude!
HOW ROADWORTHY: Same powertrain fitted far lighter Compass Latitude FWD has to push/ pull 500 extra pounds; throttle action is met with tepidity of the slow locking 9-spd automatic transaxle torque converter;
3/4″ Suspension travel > Compass Latitude 4×2 = +1 Roly Poly lean and +1 rear trying to get away in tight bends; Ride errs on side of truck-like yet avoids excessive bob; Steering requires constant multi-corrections and numb to road; Brake reaction to pedal inputs languid, H/T tires produce long stops & dive is apparent; Despite moderate tire hum, noticeably less wind howl than inside a Renegade.
HOW FAR: 21 combined miles per gallon = Disappointing 4 mpg < EPA rating [despite hesitant Start-Stop]; Contends with 500 lbs. > front-drive Compass Latitude;
HOW BIG / LITTLE: √ “Fords” through creeks with 5 aboard, √ Gains 2nd Row mid-position leg-room having tossed the Gen. 1.5 Compass’ floor mount cup-caddy; √ Cargo capacity = +20%; -1 Rear headroom isn’t helped by the optional panoramic moonroof with power sunshade;
HOW USEFUL: √ Variable height load floor for choice of taller portage or concealed storage; √ Near flat folding 60/40% split 2nd Row tilting seatbacks; √ Power liftgate; √ Cargo bay corner bag caddies √ Full size spare tire; √ Front & rear red-painted tow hooks √ Adjustable height cargo load floor w/ tilt locking; +1 View out from tall greenhouse and low sloping hood; -1 Side pillar blind-spots; -1 Stingy front door pocket & center armrest space; -1 Wanting & unconcealed lower center stack wireless device space; -1 Small glove box; Tow Rating: 2000 lbs.
HOW SAFE: √ 7 airbags; √ IIHS Safety Pick; √ Rear camera, Audible sonar park assist; Blind spot + Rear Cross-traffic warning;
HOW PEOPLE FRIENDLY: √ Heated front seats; √ 8-way driver power seat; √ Heated tilt/telescope leather steering wheel with spoke integrated tactile redundant controls; √ Sliding center armrest; √ Large buttons and rotary dials for climate, audio volume/ tuning; √ 2nd Row ventilation ducts combined with USB x 2, 115V outlet housing; -1 Limited steering wheel reach adjustment; -1 Narrow front bucket seat cushions; -1 Analog gauge cluster crystal sun-wash prone;
Cool Gizmo(s): √ 7″-inch gauge cluster poly-chromic TFT multi-information display; 10-way rotary dial Select-Terrain drive mode control; √ Panoramic glass roof;
Details Done Right: √ Soft-material dash top; √ Dorsal steering wheel horizontal spoke redundant audio switches;
Nearly Non-Descript: -1 Cheezy & sparse red bezels; -1 Partial leather seat covering; -1 Coarse grain plastic cabin trim; -1 Uneven fitting glove-box door;
HOW “APP” -LICABLE: √ Segment largest 8.4″ capacitive touch LCD infotainment screen; √ Voice command, hands-free communications; √ Android Auto, Apple Car Play smart phone integration; √ Subscription based Sirius XM Travel Link (5 yrs.); √ 160 W 6- speaker audio searching for spatiality; √ USB x 2, 12V x 2, 115V AC x 1; -1 Wiggy U-Connect app operation;
HOW MUCH: $34,360 = 2017 Jeep Compass Trailhawk 4×4 as tested
WHAT’S MISSING: Less tentative transmission; Fewer dummy warning gremlins; +1 Steering weight build-up; +1 Re-assuring brake action; +1 Seat cushion comfort; +HP engine option; Adaptive cruise control;
ANY COMPETITION: Chevrolet Equinox: +1 Diesel engine option, 4G LTE; Ford Escape: +1 Engine options, chassis control, front sport seats; Kia Sportage: +1 Turbo powertrain acceleration, value; Subaru Forester: +1 Engine options, off-road credentials, cabin finish;
FINAL WORD: Fancy answer to the Lada Niva and Mahindra Scorpio on other continents; The solution for urban Americans who demand extra off-road agility but lack the coin commanded by the British purveyor to HRM.