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Better Direction For Compass

August 18, 2018

When it first rolled into Jeep’s showrooms as a 2007 model, the compact Compass sport-ute was my first indication that all was not well in the Daimler-Chrysler “merger of equals,” of which the iconic maker of 4X4 vehicles was part. Although it bore the unmistakable Jeep brand identifiers, the most notable being the trademark seven-tooth grille, it seemed like a cake that had been pulled from the oven too soon. The combination of a four-cylinder engine and continuously variable transmission made for less than scintillating acceleration; the interior featured an abundance of hard-plastic paneling and other features that spoke to cost-cutting on Daimler-Chrysler’s part. Fast-forward a decade, past a couple of corporate ownership swaps, and through a few nips and tucks to the original platform, and Jeep has taken the wraps off an all-new Compass that now points in a decidedly better direction. This latest-generation version slots in neatly between the cute-as-a-button Renegade and midsize Cherokee and sports a sleek-bordering-on-funky exterior profile along with a cabin that comfortably accommodates four adults. There are four trim levels — Sport, Latitude, Limited and off-road-oriented Trailhawk — with prices starting at a budget-minded $21,095. All models are powered by a 2.4-liter inline-four (180 horsepower and 175 foot-pounds of torque). The first three trims can be had with either front- or all-wheel-drive systems, while the Trailhawk is AWD-only. FWD Sport models are equipped with a standard six-speed manual transmission, while AWD versions get a nine-speed automatic (this particular transmission is standard on the Latitude, Limited and Trailhawk). Sport models are fairly Spartan affairs and include 16-inch wheels, Bluetooth connectivity, a USB outlet, six-speaker audio and a few other items. Bumping up to the Latitude adds upgraded seat coverings, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, keyless entry and ignition, and larger wheels. The Limited (which we sampled) throws on the goodies, to wit: a set of 18-inch alloy wheels, an 8.5-inch UConnect LCD infotainment interface with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, satellite radio, power-adjustable driver’s seat and more. The Trailhawk, meanwhile, rides on a platform cobbled together with stump-jumping in mind. Equipped with knobby off-road-friendly tires, greater ground clearance, an advanced Selec-Trac AWD system with crawl functions for rocky and steep surfaces and signifiers plastering the exterior, this is the Compass that comes closest to Jeep’s backwoods heritage. Our Limited tester’s $29,195 base price included such standard features as an AWD system with 4X4 differential lock, a rearview camera, heated steering wheel, automatic headlights and halogen headlamps. A long options list added the UConnect satellite navigation system, rain-sensing wipers, powered rear liftgate, Beats premium audio system, a trailer tow system (2,000-pound maximum capacity), parking and blind-spot warning system, automatic high-beam controls, lane-departure warning system and lots more. Adding it all up and factoring in the $1,445 delivery tab, our Limited’s bottom-line asking price came in at $35,360. Considering the amount of kit included, it’s a price that’s competitive with other compact off-roaders. On the road, the new Compass offers a smooth and comfortable driving experience. Road and wind roar are kept to a minimum, while the seating is softly cushioned in the best Jeep tradition. Instrumentation and controls are logically arranged and easy to read and operate, while the UConnect interface’s crisp and clear display is legible even with sunglasses on. Handling is precise and predictable, and a tight turning radius makes parking-lot maneuvers a snap. Acceleration remains only so-so, however, as the inline-four’s 180 ponies have their work cut out moving the Compass’ nearly 2 tons of mass. The roughly nine-second run to 60 mph is accompanied by a fair amount of mechanical howling, a situation that might be remedied by a bigger engine or a turbocharged option. That being written, our tester proved quick enough to handle daily errand-running and commuting demands. 2018 Jeep Compass Limited 4X4 Vehicle type: Four-door, five-passenger compact SUV. Base/as-tested prices: $29,195/$35,360. Engine and transmission: 2.4-liter inline-four (180 horsepower, 175 foot-pounds of torque), nine-speed automatic. EPA estimates: 22 mpg city, 30 mpg highway, 25 mpg combined. The good: Complete redesign yields a notably improved vehicle both aesthetically and performance-wise; smooth, comfortable and largely quiet ride quality; nimble handling, legit off-road abilities when properly equipped, roomy and attractively laid-out cabin; decent cargo capacity; good EPA fuel-efficiency rating. The bad: Four-banger roar under hard acceleration; pokey acceleration; engine needs another 40 horses to contend with the Limited AWD’s nearly 2-ton mass. Bottom line: Roomy and stylish, the all-new Compass 4X4 is a good all-weather choice for families on the go.

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