Compass spins in new direction
Designers throw in a measure of Jeep toughness
The Jeep Compass was first launched as a 2007 model at the same time as its fraternal compact SUV twin the Jeep Patriot.
Compass was the more stylish contemporary face of Jeep, while the Patriot went with a classic, more conservative, Jeep styling.
The 2011 redesign of Compass takes it down a little different path and adds some new toughness that was lacking in the original. It's now a Jeep that not only looks more like a Jeep, it performs more like a Jeep.
The 2011 Compass is available in Sport, North and Limited trim levels and a wide range of options and option packages. All come with a host of interior upgrades, and improved ride and handling characteristics courtesy of upgraded steering and suspension systems.
Two four-wheel-drive systems are now offered in Compass, the Freedom Drive I and the new Freedom Drive II, which comes with a low range setting for off-road use. On a dry road, all drive goes to the front wheels but up to 60 per cent can be redirected to the rear wheels when needed.
The mid-axle coupling is a twostage electronic clutch system that Jeep claims is more efficient than a viscous coupling. My test Compass also came with a four-wheel-drive lock switch for this coupling that splits drive 50/50, a useful feature when driving off-road.
The engine choices are a 2.0-litre that can produce 158 horsepower and 141 lbs.-ft of torque, or a 2.4-litre that can produce 172 horsepower and 165 lbs.-ft of torque at a lower engine speed. Fuel economy is a little better with a 2.0-litre under hood, but it's probably not enough (for most people) to forfeit the extra power offered by the 2.4-litre engine.
Drive goes to the front wheels and there are optional all-wheel-drive packages available. If serious fourwheeling is contemplated, the trailrated Freedom II off-road package is the one, as it provides more ground clearance and undercarriage steel skid plates that protect the gas tank, transmission and engine oil pan.
This package also includes a transmission low-range mode, a hill descent feature, a brake-lock differential and an oil cooler for the engine. A down-side is extra weight, which decreases performance and increases fuel consumption.
The Jeep Compass appears to be struggling to find a unique identity. It now looks like a smaller version of the redesigned 2011 Grand Cherokee. The last -generation Jeep Compass from the front looked like a smaller version of the Jeep Liberty. The styling makeover includes a clamshell hood with a subtle power bulge, new front fenders, new headlamps and the iconic seven-slot Jeep grille gets a new chrome treatment. To complete the front transformation, the fog lamps are now highoutput projector lamps. In general there's more chrome-like trim on the exterior of Compass, plus new LED tail lights on the Limited model. There's also new lower protective cladding, and the end result is a vehicle that looks a more capable (as well as being more capable) of tackling the unpaved trail.
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