While it looks like a downsized Grand Cherokee, Jeep’s top-line, full-size SUV, the 2017.5 Jeep Compass compact crossover/SUV has been completely redesigned and exceptionally better than its forerunner that is being sold alongside the 2017 model.
Compass is offered in Sport, Latitude, high-end Limited and serious off-road Trailhawk that we tested. The latter has a higher stance, skid plates, heavy-duty suspension, rugged tires and a bona fide 4WD system with 4WD Lock mode, a feature many of its competitors like Subaru’s Crosstrek, don’t have. And this feature is important if getting stuck in deep snow, slippery mud or sand.
One feature that makes the Trailhawk stand out is its blackened hood decal that gives it a rugged look. But it doesn’t have to look rugged because it’s Trail Rated meaning it’s able to tackle most off-roads that its owner may encounter.
Trailhawks’ superb 4WD system consists of a single knob with buttons for 4WD Low, 4WD Lock and Downhill Descent, plus, they’re encircled by a rotary dial for selecting Auto, Snow, Sand, Mud and Rock conditions.
Compass’s classy interior has been vastly improved. After a low 21-inch step-in, you’re treated to perforated and heated leather front seats that are bolstered with semi-aggressive lateral support that aren’t confining. They merely hold the torso during spirited driving or off-road jostling.
A vertical stack contains large and easy to use HVAC controls, and an 8.4-inch touchscreen with Chrysler’s optional UConnect infotainment system that serves the navigation, audio, rearview camera and app systems. An electronic emergency brake automatically engages when the engine is running and a door is opened, a nice safety feature for those who forget to put the trans in Park. The engine was equipped with a start/stop function that can be shut off because it can be annoying when in stop-and-go traffic.
The rear seat has easy ingress/egress thanks to wide opening doors. Leg and head room are exceptionally generous which should please tall riders.
Cargo space, after opening the power lifgate and with the rear seatbacks upright, is 27 cubic feet or more meaningful, the area measures 32 inches deep, 40 wide and 28.5 high. Flip them (although they don’t fold flat) and space expands to almost 60 cubic feet or 62 inches of loading depth. The front passenger seatback also folds for carrying even longer items. And a low 31-inch cargo load height makes heavy items easier to slip in.
All Compass models are powered by a quiet running 2.4-liter, 180-hp (175 lb/ft of torque at 3,900 rpm), 4-cylinder. When coupled to the standard 9-speed automatic transmission on 4WD models, EPA mileage estimates come in at 22 city, 30-highway mpg. The combination is tow rated for up to 2,000 pounds.
Since it’s a relatively small engine combined with a pretty hefty 3,600-pound curb weight, the engine strains with two adults aboard under hard acceleration and while ascending steep hills. It could use more power and perhaps a turbo would help. But for around town driving, I’ll take the economy over power.
As for ride and handling, it’s car-like on roads and nicely soaks up harsh off-road trails like Jeep’s are accustomed to.
Starting at a base of $28,595, a host of options increase this modest price. The Safety & Security Group ($795) includes rear park assist, blind spot, cross path detection systems plus rain sensitive wipers. Add the Leather Group ($1,295); Navigation Group ($895) with nav, UConnect and satellite radio with travel link and travel plus; remote start and auto dimming rearview mirror add another ($395) while the power liftgate, remote start, Beats audio and Cold Weather package tag on an extra $1,585. Include delivery ($1,095) and the bottom line reflects $34,455. Not bad for all this content that includes a long list of standard safety features with such niceties as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and one of the best 4WD systems on the market. The price also includes a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.
If you always wanted a Grand Cherokee but can’t swing its high-end price, the Compass Trailhawk is the next best choice.