Reviews

2015 Jeep Compass Driving Impressions


When it first entered the market as a 2007 model, the Compass was considered to be a modern Jeep, intended to attract customers who hadn’t been lured by the traditional-type Jeep products. Likely buyers weren’t off-road aficionados, and were presumed to prefer a comfortable ride over intensive off-pavement capabilities. Yes, they liked to know that their Jeep could handle the occasional rural byway, or a lumpy, rock-strewn gravel road. But on the whole, the Compass was designed to appeal to a more urban customer.

Now, the Compass comes across as a trifle old-fashioned, weighed against some contemporary rivals. Some folks like it that way. Still, a Compass is harder to recommend to prospective buyers who would otherwise be looking at typical crossover-type, carlike SUVs. A Compass might be a little too basic, reminiscent of the past rather than wholly indicative of today and tomorrow.

That said, the Compass has a lot going for it, starting with relatively spirited performance from a relatively small engine. Fuel economy isn’t bad, either. Our Limited 4×4, with the 2.4-liter engine and 6-speed automatic transmission, averaged almost 25 mpg in mostly urban/suburban driving.

Jeep’s 6-speed automatic transmission is well-behaved. The 5-speed manual gearbox works well, too, and gets the most out of the four-cylinder engine.

A 2.4-liter Limited can pass semi-trucks on two-lane highways and uphill 70-mph freeways, and it cruises along just fine. Passing need not be a worry (although careful timing and full throttle are necessary), and the Compass can maintain 70 mph without feeling overworked.

The Jeep Compass is relatively quiet, perhaps more quiet at higher speeds than around town, thanks to the sound-absorption material in the rear wheelwells, quarter panels and C-pillars. At slower speeds, the proven 2.4-liter engine has never been known to be silky, compared to some rivals. The Jeep 2.4 is known more for its reliability and reasonably good mileage than its smoothness.

The 2.0-liter engine might be lacking in power for many buyers, with just 158 horsepower and 141 pound-feet of torque. Especially if it’s mated with the CVT, although the Auto Stick with six steps helps a lot to work the power more effectively. But with the 5-speed manual transmission in a 2WD Compass, the 2.0-liter’s fuel-mileage estimate of 23/30 mpg looks inviting.

Handling qualities fall around mid-pack when compared against some modern rivals. Ride comfort earns a similar ranking. It’s not harsh by any means, but hardly cushiony, either, in the contemporary sense. Overall, we like the ride and handling of the Compass. It’s nimble and corners well, thanks to somewhat stiff shocks and springs and a hefty anti-roll bar. Even though the ride isn’t soft, it’s comfortable.

Along winding wooded roads, a Compass revealed itself to be steady and silent, with the suspension isolating the cabin from bumps and tosses. We aimed for potholes and weren’t jarred when we hit them. There was none of the old Jeep head-toss, or side-to-side jouncing, and no trace of wallow over ripples. The turn-in for corners was secure, with no play in the wheel or wandering.

In deeply rutted and muddy terrain, we found the Compass superior to most other compact SUVs, thanks to abundant ground clearance and plenty of traction.

With the Freedom Drive I all-wheel drive system, virtually all of the power goes to the front wheels. As traction is needed elsewhere, up to 60 percent can shift to the rear wheels. The coupling is through a two-stage clutch system that’s magnetic and electronically controlled, rather than viscous. The system also has a locking center differential.

With the Freedom Drive II system, it’s hard to imagine getting stuck in snow or mud. The locking differential can offer the best possible traction from a standing start, and the Brake Traction Control dabs the brakes (at lightning speed) at individual wheels to keep them from spinning. The locked differential keeps the torque evenly distributed at 50/50, up to 10 miles per hour. At that point the torque begins transferring again, as calculated by the electronic control module based on vehicle speed, turning radius, and wheel slip.

On loose, wet gravel roads that climbed, descended and twisted in every direction, a Compass didn’t skate on the slick round stones even with standard touring tires. When slamming the brakes at 40 mph, the ABS with rough-road detection worked hard but successfully.

* The advertised price does not include sales tax, vehicle registration fees, other fees required by law, finance charges and any documentation charges.

* Images, prices, and options shown, including vehicle color, trim, options, pricing and other specifications are subject to availability, incentive offerings, current pricing and credit worthiness.

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