2017 Jeep Compass: Small Impact

Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins

Branded after its big brother Jeep Grand Cherokee the all-new Compass compact SUV is rough, rugged and raw; well, at least on the outside. Step inside and the small wonder continues to surprise with modern gadgetry, telematics, and advanced safety features. Jeep lifers expect their utilities to handle active lifestyle adventures with aplomb whether on domestic grounds or international terrain. Although small, the Detroit native is as multi-purpose as a Victorinox Swiss Army knife with one exception to the rule; it’s an All-American.

Back in 2009 Jeep committed to refreshing the product line with the Compass now receiving its due process. Centered within a growing segment that expects to hit 7.5-million registrations over the next three years, the Compass is primed for globalization in markets like Brazil and Mexico and is the key reason why Jeep tailored the vehicle with 17 various powertrain combinations. This includes five global engines with two being diesel.

Based out of the historic Hotel Emma the Jeep was introduced in San Antonio, Texas this past week to a group of automotive journalists. Extraordinarily accentuated, the new Compass replaces the Patriot and the old Compass. It’s been re-invigorated with American ingenuity such as the 4th Gen 8.4” Uconnect multi-media and infotainment system (also offered in 5” and 7” touchscreens), the fabled Jeep 7-slot chrome grille embedded in a Gloss Black field, typical 4×4 off-road capabilities, available dual-pane sunroof, strong trapezoidal wheel arches, and the optional Gloss Black hued roof. Like a pro running back the SUV’s stance is wide, muscular, and planted. Furthermore, with Uconnect Services, Bluetooth streaming, Apple CarPlay, and various apps I was able to play my Apple Music, use apple Maps to navigate around Texas, and tap into Siri when I needed information.

“First and foremost, the all-new Compass is an authentic Jeep SUV delivering class-leading off-road capability,” said Art Anderson, Vehicle Line Executive — FCA US LLC. “Our new 2017 Jeep Compass also delivers a world-class on-road driving experience in all weather conditions for a true ‘no compromise’ compact SUV.”

Engineered with more than 65% high-strength steel Jeep built the vehicle with more rigidity and compliance. With its small-wide 4×4 architecture the 4-wheel independent suspension blesses the trail rated Compass Trailhawk with 8.5” of ground clearance and 8.2” of rear wheel articulation for optimized traction on unsettled, rocky grounds. Moreover, frequency selective damping (FSD) on the front and rear struts provides even greater handling. Witnessing my Red Trailhawk maneuver through Mother Nature from behind the thick, tilt/telescoping, multi-functional steering was amazing.

For the media drive Jeep provided both the Compass Limited and Compass Trailhawk to test on and off-road. In North America the SUV will be powered by the familiar 2.4-liter Tigershark 4-cylinder engine with 180-horsepower and 175 lb.-ft of torque. It can be paired with three transmissions including a 6-speed manual, a 6-speed automatic or the 9-speed automatic. The best fuel economy of 23 city / 32 highway / 26 combined mpg originates from a 2.4-liter, 6-speed manual, and 4×2 pairing. My Bright White Compass Limited 4×4 had the 9-speed, 19” Starfish wheels, sunroof, and a $34,460 price tag ($28,995 base). However, it struggled during much needed acceleration when I entered the highway.

Of course Jeep owners are all about the great outdoors and more often than not take their utilities on epic journeys. This is where Jeep Active Drive (optional on all models) comes into play. Torque can be directed 100% to a singular wheel if traction is needed in dicey situations. Jeep Active Drive Low is standard on the Trailhawk. Both systems feature Selec-Terrain, Selec-Speed Control, and Hill-descent Control. Selec-Terrain will work in Auto mode or driver’s can manually switch to the Snow, Sand, Mud, or Rock (Trailhawk only) setting.

The Compass Trailhawk is its own special model with unique geometry, durable skid plates, red tow hooks, dark gray metal colors to replace the bright elements, and aggressive 215/65R17 all-season Falken WildPeak H/T tires with taller sidewalls, grabby tread, and a full-size matching spare. The Trailhawk can also ford in waters up to 19”. Its approach angle is 30-degrees and departure angle is 34-degrees. So of course I was looking forward to playing with the smaller, harder Jeep after the on road drive in the Limited.

For lunch we camped out for the afternoon at the popular Flat Rock Ranch in the Hill Country of central Texas a few miles outside of Comfort, Texas (45 miles NW of San Antonio) to challenge the Compass Trailhawk through an off-road course on the property’s 1,300 rugged acres. We set the vehicle in Rock mode and traversed up and down hills, over rocks, through beds of water, and around muddy bends. Impressed, I was! (in my Yoda voice). Better known for mountain biking, trail running, and camping, the 28 miles of existing single tracks were right up my alley. Now only if I had thought to bring the Ghost Kato 27.5er.

Not to be outdone by its physical capabilities the Compass is also endowed with over 70 artificial intelligence systems in the form of Hill Start Assist, ParkView Rear Back Up Camera, Forward Collision Warning-Plus, LaneSense Departure Warning-Plus, a power liftgate with an embedded rear spoiler, Adaptive Cruise Control-Plus, Electronic Stability Control with Electronic Roll Mitigation, and a Sentry Key Theft Deterrent System that makes it nearly impossible to get away with the Jeep without the original key.

Showing up in dealers this spring the Compass is available in various trims dubbed Latitude, Sport, Limited, and Trailhawk with a starting MSRP between $20,995 and 28,995 depending on your selection (excludes $1,095 destination charge). Yes, the Compass could use a bit more power, but other than that the small wonder delivers everything active lifestylers such as myself need, including roof rails, a hitch, and up to 2,000 pounds of towing capacity. Now go experience life!

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