Sheesh, have some more koolaid Chris. And more than anything, try not to make unfounded assumptions about people. I find it tiresome to itemize and rattle off my credentials anytime someone wants to challenge them (maybe some day I'll make a bio and link it in a signature) but they are all besides the point anyways, either the information I'm giving out is accurate, or its not, and the other forum readers are free to weigh the evidence and put it with some google searching to draw their own conclusions. As soon as we devolve to the point of outright attacking each-other rather than the argument points we no longer have a productive discussion going.
Neither I nor the other readers have any use for us going back and forth about "well I owned this and that" and "I grew up in such and such driving blah blah blah". Yes, I've owned four trucks and two SUVs and grew up smashing them around the trails and forests of northern Minnesota. Real trails, by way, not some sanctioned dedicated play-pen with stickers and trail guides.. raw rocky muddy no-man's-land with overgrown abandoned logging trails privately owned and maintained by no one.
Nobody here cares.
My old man was an ASE certified master mechanic with whom I've spent thousands of hours in the garage turning every nut and bolt there is to turn, rebuilding engines and pulling transfer cases, swapping bent axles and driveshafts, fixing frame damage...
Still, none of this is hardly relevant. People can know things without necessarily having direct experience and/or academic background. (But sometimes it does help)
Here is the issue your comments do not reflect experience. For instance your down playing the role of skid plates on a crossover running less than 10" of ground clearance. Made worse by the fact the axles are tucked up into the body. So the parts that are going to be mostly in danger of contact with obstacles are not beefy solid axles but cast aluminum,thin tin and plastic. But skid plates are also a big part of going or getting stuck not only in rocks but mud or sand as well. They allow a vehicle to skid over things without parts catching on whatever your driving over.
Then the whole gearing thing anyone that does real off roading particularly up steep terrain or places tires are wedged by rocks and things know that a 20:1 crawl beats a 17:1. I know that number seems small but to put in perspective let's look at it from terms of gearing. If we were to go with your line of thought a Compass with 3.08 gears would perform almost identical to your 3.73 gears on slopes,rocks and would have nearly the same low speed control. Anyone in the off road community that truly gets out and wheels knows this is not true. Yes other 4x4 vehicles with low range boxes can push from around 35:1 to 100:1 crawl ratio and numbers like this seem huge and they are impressive. However most 4x4 that are not dedicated offroaders live,work and wheel in high range some pushing less crawl than you have. Our Ranger runs a 3.29 on 31s we run it most often in high range. However it is a 4.0 v6 so that helps make up for gearing some. The very fact we don't have a low range means if your wheeling in areas where having the best gearing is important you best get the best gearing you can.
I don't really get overly impressed by ASE mechanics for normal repair. If they are specialized in something more complicated that is where they might have some advantage. I have worked under a few and was doing the work then they would "Inspect" to see if it was done right.
I also have shown a few up. We had a dodge truck with a rattle master tech kept saying the engine was gone till I reached under the truck with a hammer and smacked the cat and the rattle stopped. My father in law live with us for the last few years he has 30+ years of ASE certification under his belt and he will tell you it is no big deal. He is no longer able to really get out there and work on his cars. You know who he trust to work on his vehicles well not the ASE just down the road I'm the one working on his trucks!!!!
Now I'm not out to be attacking our own vehicles we all like so much but they are what they are, and they are primarily a re-worked-re-badged fiat car whose primary goal was high sales volume. Of the three or four companies that collaborated on this the Jeep division put forth the most minimal effort they were required to do. The engine comes from Chrysler, the drivetrain was outsourced, the interior and infotainment was primarily done by Chrysler. Jeep merely spec'd out the bare minimum required to willingly have their name put on it and thats what the bigger companies involved put forth but without overspending. It is what it is, and the trims are just that (trims).
They are marketing the vehicle to a wide audience and have adapted it slightly here and there to suit various personas and invoke certain lifestyles. Thats great. Everyone can get a Compass thats tuned for them. But they are all almost identical at heart.
First on this I want to address the fact that these are based on the Fiat 500. Yes the platform is a Fiat 500 but that platform is a great platform for crossover duty so I don't hold that against them. Look at the Subaru Impreza it is a basic car. But it has proven it can hold up to being transformed into the WRX STI, XV and crosstrek. With an automatic and X-mode the Crosstrek is very hard to beat and is as capable off road as the non-Trailhawk trims of the Compass. There are others that have done a pretty decent job of building a crossover as well.
In the case of the Renegade and Compass it was not minimal effort. They took the Fiat 500 floor pan and tweaked it so it could endure crossover duty and allow for a lifted suspension. Then they added the Renegade or Compass shell that was designed to help make the floor pan more rigid and durable than the 500 shell.
The 2.4 engine was picked because it seems to be a good engine and would make enough people happy that knew what they were not buying a race car. But a very capable crossover with decent MPG. Plus they knew it fit just fine already
The transmission was spec'd out to ZF because it made sense to do so. These guys build great transmissions and they made sense to reach out to then for an all new wide gear range transmission that would not be a troublesome CVT.
It looks like from the link you posted to me a while ago that Fiat had already been using that outsourced 4x4/AWD for some time and realized for this crossover it was up to the task and with again some tweaking the results are very good.
Then we have suspension that was tweaked and even parts totally redesigned with again very good results.
Compare this to the Toyota Rav4 they basicly tossed a tiny lift and bigger tires on a Camry wagon with a so so 4wd system. Don't even get me started with Honda CRV! LOL So don't be so quick in comparing our Jeeps to the 500 just because they used that already very good platform. A lot more went into them that makes them do what they can do.
I also like how fiat actually embraced Jeep and think they have done a great job making sure all of the Jeep lineup retains off road capability. So much better than the direction Daimler-Benz was taking Jeep.
You are convinced there is more added capability on the trailhawk trim than the evidence supports, owing to placing too much value on trivial things like a microscopic "lift", some skid plates you should never rely on, slightly higher bumpers and a negligible bit of different code for the same transmission. Oh, and we can't forget the final drive gearing... that one is still my favorite of all because not only can the average person easily see that the difference between 17:1 and 20:1 doesn't mean sh!t when the Rubicon is sporting 84:1, but I like how you tend to just plug your ears with your fingers and go "la la la la la" and pretend that me doing things like successfully pulling a 3500 pound trailer 1000 miles including through a mountain range doesn't demonstrate the un-sung capability that ALL the Compass 4x4 models have.
There is some narrow range where the capability of the TH exceeds the other 4x4 Compasses, no doubt, but its a gap so demonstrably small and meaningless for the life of me I don't know why we are still going back and forth on it. I only try to point that out to help others who are doing pre-purchase research (its still fine to buy a TH if thats the aura you want your vehicle to put off), and to try to help some of you keep your perceptions of reality in-check because you embarrass us all when you run around bragging about your 19.9 millimeter lift in a world where only differences measured in inches (plural) count.
I still say your inexperience in off roading is showing and this is why you don't see or understand why the Trailhawk is much more caplibe than the other trims. Your making the assumptions because you have not found or maybe recognized the limits of the Limited you to believe that the Trailhawk is not much more capable.
Maybe where your wheeling is not quite as bad as you think it is and has not pushed your limited to where you are finding it's limets
You might have also just been very lucky up to this point in your wheeling adventures. I actually see this all the time. We see small stock cars (Honda Civic mainly) up in roads where we have bounced off our skid plates. We hear them beating the bottom of their cars to death but still make it. Then often we are driving around these cars (if there is a way around them) that are sitting there with a tire jammed into the wheel well or with a puddle of oil under them. Then sometimes they are lucky and they are just stuck in the middle of the road high centered or dropped a wheel in a rut and bottomed out.
Then sometimes you have been lucky and your luck runs out. Like years ago I had been wheeling my Sidekick in an old phosphorus mine and driven around the edge of a huge mud hole many many times on this one trail. Then apparently some big trucks on like 40" tires had been in the area tearing everything up for fun. So I go to drive around this as always and next thing I know the whole passenger side of my hood is under water. I took for granted that nothing had changed there in years. I was still lucky I had not hydrolocked my engine but I did have to call the wife and she had to drive 30 miles to bring me stuff I needed to recover my Sidekick.
What I am telling you though is that we have found some of the limits of our Trailhawk. We have scraped up those skid plates which means had they not been there we could have damaged things or been stuck. This means for the wheeling we are doing we need those skids and maybe another 1" of ground clearance. If you have any less Ground clearance and lack skids it it likely your going to be in trouble but you might get lucy.
We have pushed the gearing as far as I deem it safe too. If you have less gearing you might get lucky hitting things faster than we do to get over them.
We have brushed our front lower fascia on some some of the same places we pushed the gearing. Here luck will not help you. Sure you might make it but your going to have front end damage to more than just that airdam. Same holds for the rear so far we have cleared in the rear but by the hair of your chinny chin chin. Breakover well fuel tank skid lucky because we were off camber. I have been looking at rock sliders like RRO make. If we hit that place again or another like it I want to have them as we could have been down on the body easy.
But if your Jeep is fine wheeling where and how your wheeling and you don't find the bottom with it or find a place your revving the engine hard to get up you likely have enough Jeep for you! As noted even in non-Trailhawk trims they are amazingly capable for a crossover. There is a reason when Subaru is playing around showing off their capabilities they don't invite the Compass or Renegade as they would make it difficult to make the Subaru shine even in just the AWD traction stuff next to these Jeeps.
We can agree to disagree, I don't give a hoot. But if I lived closer I'd really enjoy the chance to chase you down some trail you think is latitude/limited-proof because I'd enjoy every mile watching you fog up your mirrors steaming in rage when you find you can't shake the regular 4x4
Wish you did live closer but I would warn to make sure your triple A is paid up. Since we are finding some of the limits of the Trailhawk other trims are going to get into trouble. We knew when first looking at the latitude that if we had gotten it with the six speed we were going to have to use our other vehicles to go many of the places we go. So Trailhawk was a no brainer.
Heck last night I ended up backing down a road after seeing how rough it was just a few 1000 ft in. This is a place we will go or try to but not without a back up vehicle most likely my Tracker to scout ahead because even the Compass might not be able to find a place to turn around should it get too rough. The road is pinned to a mountainside with a big drop down to a creek on the other side no to almost no shoulder. Locals report this road as being difficult in a Jeep Jeep as they say with very few places for vehicles to get pass each other We will see!