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Jeep Finds Right Direction With Redesigned 2011 Compass

Although sales of the Jeep Compass never set the world on fire, they were nevertheless respectable, however, I suspect, after test driving one recently, that with the changes they have made for 2011 the Compass has, at last, found the right direction for success.

Let's face it, the old Compass, while it was a nice vehicle, was never anything to write home about. It was seemed slightly underpowered – although it was the CVT transmission that everyone agrees was likely responsible for that feeling – and the formal, rather tall lines were really a turn-off to many potential buyers.

For 2011, that has changed dramatically. Indeed, it seems like Jeep decided that instead of adding a tweak here and there, they would come out with a bold statement for their mid-sized SUV – which they did. Of course, they were likely under a corporate mandate to keep costs under control as they were in bankruptcy at the time the planning for the Compass was going on so they looked at the dramatic restyle that was about to take place on the highly regarded Grand Cherokee and decided to make the Compass the Cherokee's twin, albeit in a smaller package.

How did the changes work out? After driving the Compass through a late-season snowstorm that dumped about a foot of heavy, wet goo on the roads and left things a slippery mess, I found the Compass was right on course in the new direction Jeep was setting. For example, that it has more than a passing resemblance to its bigger stablemate, the Grand Cherokee, is no coincidence. The Compass design team used not only the updated styling of the Grand Cherokee, but they went to the corporate parts bin for things like hoods and grilles and such and they ended up with what essentially is a smaller version of the Grand Cherokee that has all the right parts, for a change.

Where the older Compass seemed stiff and underpowered, the new Compass is powered by a more powerful 2.4-liter inline four that puts out 172 horsepower. That change, alone, gave the Compass a new personality, however, when you factor in changes to the transmission and the ability to install a manual from which you can extract much better performance, the changes really hit home.

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