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2017 Jeep Compass car preview / test drive and video

Three reviewers: Patrick Rall, Michael Volkmann, Triple T (skip to the second review)

by Patrick Rall in (4)

We spent a day driving the 2017 Jeep Compass Limited around San Antonio, and taking the new Compass Trailhawk around an intricate off-road course, both of which displayed the versatility of this sharp, new compact Jeep.

2015 jeep wrangler

The new Compass both looks and performs like a small Grand Cherokee, in our testing over both the off-road course and a few hundred miles of on-road driving which included flooded, washed-out roads from thunderstorms which pounded the area the day before we arrived.

My 2017 Jeep Compass for the on-road portion of the drive was a Limited, which came with standard four wheel drive and a 9-speed automatic transmission; all American Compasses have the 2.4L Tigershark engine with 180 horsepower and 175lb-ft of torque. The Limited is the top of the line in luxury features, and when you add on the optional Advanced Tech Group, Dual Pane Sunroof and Beats Sound System, this Jeep has everything that you could want from a vehicle of this size with its $34,260 price tag (as equipped). I didn’t find that it was lacking in any category.

dashboard

Our drive started on urban highways, but as the morning went on, we were driving the new Compass on back roads which got progressively tighter and curvier. On the wide open Texas highways, the Compass has as smooth and comfortable a ride as the Grand Cherokee. It doesn’t pack Hemi power, but the new 2017 Jeep Compass still feels like it has plenty of power – it just won’t satisfy your need for speed like the Hemi-powered Grand Cherokee. It will, however, comfortably allow the Jeep to keep up with fast-moving highway traffic.

When we got onto the tight back roads, the 2017 Compass Limited proved to be a worthy adversary for the twisties. The steering provided a solid amount of feedback for a mid-sized SUV, and the system was responsive when cutting through areas which required me to cut back and forth on the wheel.
This isn’t a vehicle that you are going to buy to go road racing, but we were able to cruise through the rural Texas roads with ease.

jeep compass limited

Some of these roads cut around and through huge farms, with odd switchback turns, livestock around every turn, and several areas where the road was covered in more than a foot of water. The new Compass made for a great highway cruiser, but more importantly, this smooth-riding SUV was able to easily cross the flooded roadways. The Limited isn’t intended for serious off-road use, but if you should come across a hazardous situation like a washed out or flooded road, it’s sure footed and confident.

While driving the 2017 Compass Limited across Texas for some three hours, I also enjoyed the comfortable leather driver’s seat, the open-air quality of the huge panoramic sunroof, and the sound quality of the Beats Sound System. Opening the sunroof and cranking up the sound system cuts down on the tranquility, but it makes for one fun little SUV in which to cruise through the countryside.

Off-Road with the Compass Trailhawk

For the off-road course, I moved into a new Compass Trailhawk; as the name suggests, this is the “Trail Rated” trim for the new mid-sized Jeep, adding unique wheels and tires, a suspension which has this Compass sitting an inch higher than the Limited, and fascias changed for improved approach and descent angles. There is also a “Rock” drive mode which improves the Compass’ ability to creep through the roughest terrain.

lone wheel

The previous Jeep Compass was often criticized for being a “mall crawler” that few took off-roading because it wasn’t off-road capable [we did take that perception on]. The Jeep team addressed that with the 2017 Compass, working to make this SUV as capable in rough terrain as the other smaller Jeeps, and more capable than anything else in the segment. Some people will continue to criticize it for not being an extreme enough off-road vehicle, but it is the most off-road friendly vehicle in the segment.

To illustrate this point, we spent the afternoon piloting a 2017 Jeep Compass Trailhawk through a grueling off-road course which contained deep ditches, steep inclines and declines, thick mud, and an assortment of rocky paths. We got to experience the new Compass in every key off-road setting, with the exception of loose sand.

off-road

With the new Compass set to Rock mode and 4 Low, our group of SUVs easily made out way up the narrow dirt paths and over some humps which were severe enough to get the back wheels 4 feet off the ground. The suspension setup did a fine job of providing control of the vehicle, even when more than one wheel was off of the ground, with the Jeep four wheel drive system constantly transferring power to the wheels that were on the ground.

The only point at which the new Compass broke a sweat was when climbing the steepest inclines with the loosest footing. I found myself asking for power as the wheels spun, but the Jeep was able to climb to the top in every situation. It also stormed through mud that was at least 18 inches deep before crossing a path of large, smooth rocks.

Many of the people who buy a Jeep, even a Wrangler, do not spend a world of time off-roading. Jeep didn’t engineer this vehicle to be a beast in the woods, as they know that owners will rack up far more miles on paved roads, but the point of this off-road exercise was to show what the new Compass can do for those who want the most out of their Jeep.

limited and trailhawk

More importantly, the off-roading abilities of the new Compass Trailhawk – coupled with the ability of the Compass Limited to deal with the rain-flooded roads – will allow someone who has no interest in off-roading to approach a hazardous driving situation with confidence. The Compass will providing off-roading fun, but it will also allow a small family to get through an area of flooded roadways and back to their nice, dry homes.

rear compass

The Compass Limited is a great SUV for someone who wants the premium feel of the Grand Cherokee in a smaller, less expensive and more efficient SUV while the Compass Trailhawk is perfect for the buyer who wants to be able to drive it to work every day and drive it through rough woods every weekend.

The 2017 Compass looks good inside and out, but it also drives great on-road and off – giving Jeep one more option in a booming segment.

Second view

by Mike Volkmann

The new 2017 Compass is a big deal for FCA. Its debut officially marks the end of the Daimler/Mitsubishi based small vehicles. While there are Patriots and “old” 2017 Compasses on the lot, the new Compass will not be mistaken for the old one.

dash

Besides the handsome, grown-up looks of the Latitude, the first thing I noticed is what seems to be a larger door openings front and rear, with a lower door sill and seats that are flatter and easier to get into and out of. Sitting inside, there is more leg room, and the amount of seat and steering column travel was surprising. The front seats are flat and comfortable, they don’t hug you like the former Compass Limited seats hugged me.

gauges

Inside, there really isn’t much shared with the Renegade. The switch gear and dash shape are very different. The redundant controls on the dash board almost appear angled down and away from the driver. The center of the dash is flat and large, but the materials are nice and it’s quiet with the doors closed. The shift knob is big and chunky, almost cartoonish... its about the only thing I did not like about the interior other than the 7” uConnect display.

stereo

The 7" uConnect is nice and functions just like the 8.4", but the bezel is large and plain, and it looks like they just covered the excess space with black plastic. It’s a bit disappointing looking but it works and its better than the smaller 5" system that is in the Renegade and the older 6.5" uConnect that is in the Patriot and “old” Compass.

Rear seat leg room is substantially better than in the Renegade. The back seat bottom is also softer with more cushion feel; the back of the seat is still hard, but not as much of a slab as the old one. The extra space between the front and tear seat will be helpful for families like mine that still have a rear facing child seat. All four door panels have a soft touch feel and vinyl trimming with colored stitching on the arm rests. It really does feel and look like they used the Cherokee to plan the look and feel of the interior. It works well and is a good upgrade over the previous Compass.

cargo bay

fusesThe rear cargo area seems wider and deeper than the previous Compass. The floor panel lifts up to expose the spare tire well. Our test vehicle was not equipped with a spare tire. Other than the tire repair kit, the well becomes a large storage area if needed. In the rear corners there are storage cubbies that are about 5 inches deep. The drivers side one pops out exposing a small fuse box and positive battery connection point. There is even a cargo lamp on the side panel which I thought was a nice touch.

The Compass is easy to maneuver, and to back up using the camera; and overall visibility is quite good. It’s much quieter inside than the prior Compass. Driving through the lot, you can hear the engine is running but overall the sound mellow and not overstated; hitting the gas to enter the freeway is when you hear the 2.4 MultiAir zinging. The Compass is not a rocket ship by any means, but it has plenty of power for daily driving duties to and from work. The Aisin 6 speed shifts effortlessly and smoothly.

engine

The suspension is more compliant but also does not feel as mechanical as the previous Compass. If the goal is a more carlike feel rather than an SUV, they certainly nailed it... until you hit a string of bumps on a road and are reminded that the dampening is tuned “like a Jeep.”

The stop-start (ESS) system works quite seamlessly. When you stop at a light the engine shuts off and a notification comes up on the dash. Let your foot off the brake and the engine has started and is ready to go before you start to push on the gas pedal. I was quite impressed that it reacted so quickly. Other than hearing the engine turn off and start up, it works so well that some may not notice the ESS system working, especially if they are playing music and not staring at the dash. During my drive I never switched it off and the ESS system shut off at every stop light and performed flawlessly. Its seems strange at first if you are not accustomed to it, but after a few times it became normal and was easy to forget that it was working.

The new 2017 Compass is really a nice CUV that is much more class competitive and looks and feel. The bread and butter feel reminds me of the front wheel drive Cherokee, which people have noted as “feeling like a Chrysler,” not a Jeep. While some may say that is a bad thing, I don’t agree. The new Compass will make a great vehicle for a young adult who wants a CUV that has an upscale feel, but still looks and drives “like a Jeep.” 

A professional looks at the interior

“Triple T” wrote, “They did a nice job on the interior. The dash cover is urethane — nice for the class — and the front door uppers were urethane-coated. There were secondary finishes on much of the other pieces. The armrest leather (or imitation leather?) on the Trailhawk was stitched; the entire thing is well executed. The rear door upper was straight PP, but they did such a good job with color matching and pattern matching it is nearly undetectable. Quite clever.”

2017 Jeep Compass • Off-Road in the Original Jeep Compass

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