Boy is Jeep proud of its 2017 Jeep Compass. The superlatives from the press office are flying thick and fast, and really, who can blame them. Jeep, after all, did invent the entire idea of the Sport Utility Vehicle.
Still, the press release headline is hysterically over written: “An All-new Global Compact SUV Delivering Unsurpassed 4×4 Capability, World-class On-road Driving Dynamics, Advanced Fuel-efficient Powertrains, and Premium Styling.”
Yes, the Jeep Compass is solid, but don’t try and over-sell it before we even get to find out why it’s such a good little off-roader.
For example, there’s the Compass’ 4×4 drive system. Jeep says it’s the “most advanced,” and why doubt them? The 2017 Compass comes with two drive modes to choose from: Jeep Active Drive and Jeep Active Drive Low. This is the proverbial high/low gearing mix that actually allows you to go off road, rather than just thinking you can go off road. A crossover looks like you can tackle a rock filled defile, a Jeep can actuallydrive up there – and usually with ease.
Jeep says the Compass’ “small wide 4×4 architecture” merges best-in-class abilities with exceptional on-road driving dynamics. Which is, again, a nice way of saying that even though this guy looks pretty square from above, it actually drives okay on highways and pavement in general.
Styling & Design
On the outside, it still looks like the Jeeps of old. It’s one of those designs, like the Porsche 911, that worked well from the outset and became iconic seemingly overnight, so Jeep would be very foolish to mess with it. And with the 2017 Compass, Jeep didn’t mess with it much, but they did add an open-air, dual-pane sunroof.
It’s a nice touch – works on giving you that top down feeling, but helps you keep civilized on inclement days.
The inside is highlighted by what Jeep calls “sculptured forms,” which is a nice way of saying they don’t just glue gauges onto any piece of sheet metal they find handy. And speaking of, the inside is replete with high-quality materials and state-of-the-art technology. So far gone are the days of bare metal dashes and door panels, un-insulated interiors, and Spartan driving conditions.
Powertrain & Fuel Economy
Powertrain wise, there are 17 fuel-efficient options to choose from, but that’s worldwide – some of those are not available in the home market. The North American models do get the 2.4-liter Tigershark engine, which is a rather charmingly named throwback to days when cars had features like the Firedome and Go-Devil and stuff like that. The Tigershark plant gives you over 30 miles per gallon, which is pretty impressive considering these things have the aerodynamics of the crate they’re shipped in, and weigh a lot more than you’d expect.
The Jeep Compass also has an engine stop-start (ESS) system, so that gives you increased fuel efficiency as well.
Jeep says the Compass gets best-in-class 4×4 highway fuel economy with the Tigershark Multiair Engine, paired with the six-speed manual transmission. Speaking of transmissions, the available three are pretty impressive. Probably the most remarkable is the class-exclusive nine-speed automatic transmission for 4×4 models. There is this growing trend of auto-boxes with more and more ratios, but it’s quite interesting to see them turning up in a Jeep. Other options include a six-speed automatic for 4×2 models, and a six-speed manual for 4×2 variants.
Obviously the manual gearbox will be the one chosen by serious off-roaders. It has a 6.68 ratio spread and a 4.438 final-drive ratio for fuel efficiency at faster speeds; a first-gear launch ratio of 18.4:1 means the 2017 Jeep Compass will deliver quick acceleration.
And, since this is 2017, and not 1947, the Jeep Compass comes with all sorts of tech goodies. The Uconnect system is already into its fourth-generation and includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and the choice of a 5.0-, 7.0- or 8.4-inch touchscreen with pinch-and-zoom capability. It’s nice to have the options, but it still strikes me as rather odd. Why choose one over the other? Why not just get the biggest one you can?
Another interesting aspect to the Jeep Compass – you can’t really call it a feature – is how it will be manufactured in four different countries, making it sort of a world vehicle, in a way. Jeep builds the things in Brazil, China, Mexico, and India, and sells them in more than 100 countries.
The 2017 Jeep Compass comes in four different trim configurations: Sport, Latitude, Limited, and Trailhawk and should be in your local dealer showrooms as you read this.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He means well, even if he has a bias towards lighter, agile cars rather than big engine muscle cars or family sedans.