Driving Impressions: 2017 JEEP COMPASS LIMITED 4X4 By: Mark Moskowitz MD
For many Jeep means rugged off-road capability. Advertisements show Jeeps on boulders, on rocky paths and deep in streams. Dealer displays have Jeeps ascending 30+ degree ramps. Jeep is proud of the brand. Look at their specs page and both 'Jeep' and '4 x 4' badges are singled out to be mentioned as standard equipment on all-wheel drive Compasses. And they are successful. Land Rover purports the same image. Jeep outsells them ten to one in the US. Jeep outsells the entire line of Subarus!
I queried Gerald, an accomplished local Chrysler Jeep salesman in my semi urban Southeastern community. He's sold more than 300 Jeeps these last few years and stays in touch with customers. 'What percent of Jeep buyers take them off road?' He responded: 'about 2%......people don't want them scratched or dirty.'
'But there are clubs and tours and a bunch of off road parks', I countered. And brand loyal Jeep owners (Jeepers?) seek or our salesman finds them 10-year old Wranglers.
With this in mind, it made sense to test the civilized top of the line Compass Limited rather than the extremely off-road-competent Trailhawk. Like most buyers, difficult terrain experienced would be pot holed work sites and steep rutted driveways; (the Limited handled these with aplomb).
Jeep owners will tell you the Compass is not a crossover, it's a Jeep. For classification sake, call it a compact SUV. The new for 2017 Compass comes in four flavors. An entry level Sport has a six- speed manual and lists for $20995. Fifteen hundred additional dollars buys 4X4 capability. Mid-range is the $24295 Latitude. The Trailhawk and the luxury Limited start at $28995. Add the options listed below which included a panoramic sunroof and a host of safety and convenience features and a delivered Limited can list for over $35000.
My Limited was stunning in Redline Pearl over black accents. The styling was distinctively Jeep right down to a front facade indistinguishable from the Grand Cherokee. Rather than wax poetic, it lies somewhere between cute and attractive.
Driving the Jeep was mostly pleasurable. It had a substantial and solid feel typical of bigger vehicles. As suggested before, it left drivers confident over irregular surfaces and cruised comfortably on interstates. Body lean was far less than expected and the steering quick and responsive. On the downside there was occasional unexpected increased feedback when moving the steering wheel during interstate or moderate speed travel, the brakes were a bit 'grabby' at low speeds, and left in fully automatic mode the nine-speed transmission did not seem to help the 180 horsepower four cylinder move the Compass along. Improvement came in manual mode but with 0-60 times near nine seconds the Compass's acceleration was adequate but not astounding. One of my least favorite innovations was the Jeep's stop start feature (the engine turns off when others would idle). While improving gas mileage approximately 10% in traffic conditions, it can prove irksome. A turn of the steering wheel or high flow AC overcomes it.
The leather clad interior is rich and attractive. The driver's seat is far softer and much more 'accommodating' than the Grand Cherokee's. The front side bolsters are appropriately sized and do not impede arm movement. Eight-way electronic adjustment and 4 way power lumbar support system are pluses. I like the low console allowing knees to fall laterally. There is foot and rump room for substantial sized adults front and rear. The space behind the front seat has vents which are controlled from up front. The panoramic sunroof was easy to operate and allowed the rear seat occupants a skyward view though it compromised rear headroom for the very tall.
In the way back there is plenty of cargo room (27 cubic feet) and the space more than doubles with an easy fold down of the rear seats. Cockpit storage seems a bit compromised as I found no place up front to lay a phone flat and door pockets were a bit shallow.
The eight-inch screen was a joy to use. It responded quickly and intuitively to touch and voice. The Chrysler Jeep Uconnect system has always been easy to use and continues to evolve. A drag and drop feature allows one's favorite apps to be constantly accessible and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto allow tremendous flexibility. With car phone connectivity, do you really need Nav and Sirius?
Jeep's upscale sound option is the Beats Premium Audio System. In the confines of the Jeep, this driver had to dial back the factory bass setting.
The test car had automated emergency braking, BiXenon headlamps, lane departure and blind spot warning, rear cross path detection and park assist. These and more added $1640 to the cost of the Compass but seem a wise investment.
The entry level Sport comes with cruise control, steering wheel audio controls, power heated door mirrors, power windows, and a smaller five-inch touchscreen which accesses Chrysler's Uconnect system. Add the aforementioned safety features and all-wheel drive capability and it still seems an exceptional value proposition especially at the end of the model year when there are deals to be had. Upscale it with options or model configurations to taste.
The Compass would be one logical choice for a small family, a couple or a single. It seems poised and useful in a variety of situations and occupants are ensconced in a roomy and comfortable interior. It has exceptional manners if you need to travel off the beaten path. It's a good compact SUV. A few, perhaps simple programming adjustments (and I may be optimistic) to engine, drivetrain and steering would make it a great one.
Features of the test car not discussed include remote start, Remote Keyless Entry with Proximity Entry, pushbutton start, multiple drive settings (including Snow, Sand, Mud and 4WD Lock), heated leather wrapped steering wheel, seat heaters, dual zone climate controls, fog and cornering lamps, power liftgate and compact spare tire.