Surprise in a smaller package – 2018 Jeep Compass Trailhawk Review

We drive the 2018 Jeep Compass Trailhawk through a National Park in the US to find out that it offers a surprising amount of trail features

Reviewer: Raj Warrior

2018 Jeep Compass TrailhawkIt’s not often that you get truly surprised. Over the past few years we have seen a movement in Jeep that was largely dictated by the overarching needs of the broader FCA group. The first surprise that we encountered was the new unitary construction of the Cherokee. We were sure that it would be less of an off-roader for the move. To a large extent we were proven wrong – the new Cherokee remains very much a Trail-rated SUV with the ability to not just challenge the outback trails of the continental United States but the deserts of the Middle East as well.

Seen in that guise, the new Compass was actually a welcome improvement. Yes it does continue to build on the strengths of the unitary platform – this time with a variation of the Renegade’s platform. Unlike in the first generation, this time the Compass is seen as a world car, with production of variants slated for Mexico, Brazil, China and India. There are significant differences in the Compass made in these countries, with the Mexican origin cars slated for delivery to the US and the Middle East too.

The Compass is now closer to the Cherokee in guise. From the thrust of the familiar grille and the headlights to the rake of the bonnet and the squat stance – the Compass is so much more a smaller Cherokee than a larger Renegade.

We were driving the Trailhawk version of the Compass and that’s the only version we drove over the day – but like the rest of the line-up you can get the vehicle in 4×2 mode as well along with the usual grades of Limited, Latitude and so on. We don’t know whether the 4×2 will be offered in the region yet, but the car was also shown at the Dubai Motorshow ahead of its regional launch. We do hope that the offering focuses more on the 4×4 stable – something the Trailhawk pushes.

Design

2018 Jeep Compass TrailhawkThe 2018 Jeep Compass Trailhawk has all the signature cues of Jeep’s off-road champions – from the matte black on the bonnet to the larger tyre profiles, higher ride height and efficient 4×4 systems. The Trailhawk also gets the badging on the rear hatch, on the seats and along the side of the car.

The interiors reflect a solidity that is new to the compass, while staying in tune with the larger Jeep identity, the dark plastics, the rougher touch points and the meaty steering wheel are completely in sync.

Instrumentation remains a combination of analogue dials with digital displays, with the new large 8″ displays finding their way into the centre. The dashboard is stacked vertically, with the touch screen taking over many functions, though normal air-conditioning and media functions can be operated from the dials – even with gloves on.

Engine and Drivetrain

2018 Jeep Compass TrailhawkThe 2018 Jeep Compass coming to the region gets the 2.4-litre Tigershark with MultiAir2 engine. Not turbocharged, but an SOHC unit with sequential MPFI that is chosen because of its dependability and good range of power in the mid-band. The engine communicates that with its figures – 180 hp and 237Nm of torque. Neither of these is either path-breaking or a surprise for a naturally aspirated 2.4-litre engine. But the engine is mated to a nine-speed gearbox and in the Trailhawk also gets a low-range add-on that proves how much you can do with ‘normal’.

The nine-speed gearbox in itself just seems to be an overkill. When you are coasting along on the highway at speed limits and assume that the box is in the ninth gear overdrive slot – a quick tap to the side shows you a 7 on the display and no change in gear ratios on the wheels. There seems to be a case for shortening the ratios through the box since we have those extra gears available, but we guess that fuel-efficiency is more important.

Driving Impressions

2018 Jeep Compass TrailhawkThe 2018 Jeep Compass Trailhawk is able to munch up the miles on the highway just as well as any other crossover or small SUV. It does come with lane minding and other driver aid features, some of which prove to be a little intrusive – though in this case intrusive is supposed to be good. As pointed out there is too much of an overdrive element on the gearbox on the open road although we cannot complain about the range in low.

Once off-road, we selected the low range and left the drive mode in Auto. However, like other new Jeeps, here too the range of modes on offer has grown – from Rock to Snow and Sand and we think that all of these will be tested out in the region. It’s a small SUV so don’t expect ride height control. But the Trailhawk comes with underbody protection, including scuff plates and engine guards. Dial all of that in and add in a bit of trail savvy and you can get the Trailhawk through just about any obstacle. In fact the track chosen was common for both the Compass and Grand Cherokee Trailhawks and the little Compass kept pace with the pack throughout.

Low gear is a godsend. In the low range, the logic of having so many gears available becomes much more understandable although you are unlikely to use more than the first four while crawling along over rocky terrain. The springing does seem a bit firm (good) and the balance drawn between on-road comfort and off-road firmness is very tangible when you are coming off a large rock.

Ground clearance is 216mm and low-range crawl ratio is 20:1. Approach, breakover and departure angles are 30.3, 24.4 and 33.6. A proper performer by all counts.

Verdict

2018 Jeep Compass TrailhawkAs Jeep explores the beefing up of its range in the real volume segment, it is still managing to take the mediocrity of a common shared platform across the FCA group and then by adding its particular finesse turns the stuff into automotive gold. We love that the Compass can do all that the Trailhawk showed us it is capable of – and are equally sure that Jeep is happy to get more buyers of the regular, city-focussed versions of the Compass that are sold around the world. It’s great that you can still depend on the Jeep badge to surprise you with its off-road capability. Now, we will have to see what the price is for that muscle. As long as the Jeep Compass Trailhawk stays clear of the bulk of the Cherokee range – we have a winner.

Gallery

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Specifications

2018 Jeep Compass Trailhawk

Specifications 
Carguide IDJECO00027
ModelCompass
BrandJeep
Model Year2018
StyleSUV
Wheelbase (mm)2636
Length Width Height (mm)4394 x 1874 x 1647
Engine2.4-litre Tigershark with MultiAir2
Power HP@RPM180 @ 6400
Torque Nm@RPM237 @ 3900
Gearbox9-speed Auto
Doors5
Seats5
Fr SuspensionMacPherson strut, coil springs
Rr SuspensionChapman strut, isolated steel rear cradle
BrakesFront: ventilated discs / rear: solid discs
Wheels17-inch alloys
Tyres215/65R17 OWL All-season
avatar
Raj Warrior is the managing editor of Carguide.me and has been a part of the Middle East’s automotive landscape from the past 16 years. He has run top rung car magazines in India and Oman and is often referred to as the Automan of Oman, due to his long association with the magazine. A love of mechanisms and technology adds to his forte and contributes a mix of technical and lifestyle based assessment to his writing. An avid photographer, as comfortable on a motorcycle as he is in cars, Raj is driven by his love affair with all things on wheels and brings his passion to all his automotive ventures. Raj has chosen Oman as his home base because he loves the country, its friendly people and its great driving and riding roads.
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