Last year, Jeep celebrated its 75th anniversary as a brand. The automaker had made it through the carnage of World War II, the demise of some its previous parent companies, and stayed afloat on the rising and falling (and rising) wave of interest in SUVs over the years. It’s not an understatement to say 2016 was a big year for Jeep.
This year is going to be even bigger. A completely new Wrangler is on its way. The Hellcat-powered version of the Grand Cherokee will soon roar to life. Jeep engineers have also reinvented the compass. Correction: Jeep’s Compass. We recently found out how they did it by attending the media launch of the 2017 Compass and using the all-new SUV to navigate our way down the roads and up the trails of Central Texas.
The all-new, completely redesigned 2017 Compass will be a “global” vehicle. Jeep will build it in plants in four countries. North American market Compasses will roll out of an FCA facility in Mexico. Power will come exclusively from a 2.4-liter Tigershark I4. Two-wheel-drive models will be available with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic gearbox. Four-wheel-drive Compasses can be fitted with a six-speed manual or nine-speed slushbox. Jeep will offer the Compass in the following trim lines:
Sport, starting at $20,995*
Latitude, starting at $24,295*
Trailhawk, starting at $28,595*
Limited, starting at $28,995*
Like its predecessor, the new Compass will resemble its big brother, the Grand Cherokee. You can see the similarities in the headlight casings and the seven (shorter) slats of the Compass grille.
In profile, the 2017 Compass looks more like a menace than a machine. Notice that notch of sheet metal to the rear of the greenhouse area? Jeep calls that a “shark fin.” We can see why. A continuous strip of metallic trim starts at the bottom of the A-pillar, runs over the passenger compartment and the trapezoidal wheel arches, and underlines the glass panel of the rear lift gate.
The exterior styling gave the Compass an intriguing look from any angle.
The Compass may share design elements with the Grand Cherokee, but designers gave it some unique visual flourishes of its own to keep it from looking like a scaled-down WK2 wannabe.
For the on-road portion of the launch event, we rode shotgun in and drove a silver Limited model. Up front, it had projector beam headlamps with LED accents. Underneath, there was a set of available polished aluminum and gloss black 19-inch wheels. Our test rig was topped off with an optional gloss black roof, making it look lower and sleeker.
Inside, the Compass looked a lot like another one of its siblings: the Cherokee – from its door handles to its center screen and HVAC vents, to its shifter and Selec-Terrain controls.
The Trailhawk's interior (left) had the subtle red accents that the package is known for.
The cabin can be stuffed with technologies such as fourth-generation Uconnect 5.0, 7.0, 8.4 and 8.4 NAV systems with improved processing power, quicker startup times, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality (depending on the size of the screen selected).
Seven airbags are standard equipment. Available safety technologies include Forward Collision Warning-Plus, LaneSense Departure Warning-Plus, Blindspot Monitoring, Rear Cross Path detection, and Adaptive Cruise Control-Plus.
As of right now, the only engine the Compass will be available within the U.S. is the 2.4-liter Tigershark I4 with 180 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque. Depending on the configuration, fuel economy ratings range from a low of 22 city, 30 highway, and 25 combined (4X4s with the nine-speed auto) to a high of 23 city, 32 highway, and 26 combined (4X2s with the six-speed manual).
We hope Jeep eventually decides to offer a V6 as an option. The nine-speed automatic shifted smoothly, but the engine it was connected to was only adequate. It had no sense of urgency or building up of speed at any time. We gave it a shot at backroad speeds. We tried it out on the highway. We even floored it from a dead stop. In every situation, the four-cylinder instrument up front played one note, and it put us to sleep every time.
On-Road Driving Impressions
The Compass may be positioned between the Renegade and Cherokee, but it drove more like the larger of the two. The steering was nicely weighted, if a little slower than we would’ve liked. Outward visibility was not a problem. Fortunately, the brakes were connected to a left pedal that didn’t feel like a stiff mattress; there was no initial dead zone in the pedal’s travel. The tires were louder than the wind passing over the A-pillar, but they never really shouted as we made our way to the Flat Rock Creek Ranch in Comfort, Texas.
Off-Road Driving Impressions
Once we got there, it was time to make an orange Compass Trailhawk into a dirty bird. In front of us, there were controls for the Jeep Active Drive Low and five-mode Selec-Terrain systems. Around us, there were helpful Jeep Jamboree trail guides.
The Compass may look underwhelming, but it is still a capable vehicle.
Thanks to them and the Trailhawk’s 19 inches of water fording capability, 8.5 inches of ground clearance, and 30-degree approach, 24-degree breakover, and 34-degree departure angles, we got down, up, and across a variety of obstacles. The Compass looked like a Jeep wherever it went, especially when it had one wheel in the air above a pile of randomly stacked slabs of stone and proceeded to move forward.
It’s been a long time coming. Jeep has finally come out with a new Compass. It was worth the wait. The all-new Compass is an attractive, well-equipped rig and, as a Jeep should be, it has the power to get over terrain that other vehicles in its class can’t. If only it had that same kind of impressive power under its hood.
*Prices exclude $1,095 destination charge
The new Compass will have an abbreviated 2017 model year before it becomes a 2018 MY Jeep. A Jeep representative told us the 2017 Compass will start rolling out to dealerships soon. Expect to see “significant volumes” of the new model in showrooms by the end of March.