First Drive: 2011 Jeep Compass –

29 Apr 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on First Drive: 2011 Jeep Compass –
Jeep Compass

January 14, 2011

Review and photos by Peter Bleakney

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Jackson Hole, Wyoming #8211; I don’t think anyone has ever stated with any certainty that life begins at seventy, but I got a sense that the folks running the iconic Jeep brand are feeling it.

Jeep turns the big seven-oh in 2011, and things are rolling along nicely #8211; thanks to the Italians. After suffering a debilitating regimen of heartless cost cutting under the visionless rule of Cerberus, new owners Fiat are doing the right thing by letting the money flow, spawning a rebirth of sorts, with the impressive 2011 Grand Cherokee being the first born.

Arriving mid-January will be the refreshed #8211; no, make that reborn #8211; 2011 Jeep Compass. It starts at $18,995 for the front-wheel-drive five-speed manual Sport and stretches to the leather-lined $26,895 Limited 4#215;4. Jeep expects the mid-line $24,495 Compass North with Freedom Drive I 4#215;4 to be the volume seller.

Power comes from a 172-hp, 165 lb.-ft. 2.4-litre four, although in a rather strange marketing twist front-drive models can be had with a no-cost 158-hp 2.0-litre four which is probably available purely for fuel economy bragging rights. A five-speed manual transmission is standard and a $1,400 CVT (continuously variable transmission) with manual mode is available across the range.

2011 Jeep Compass. Click image to enlarge

I will admit that the outgoing googley-eyed Compass never even registered on my radar. The most that it had going for it was it was cheap – in every sense of the word. Its sister vehicle, the more rugged Patriot, handily outsold it.

So how does Jeep turn an also-ran into a contender?

First, by giving it a more upscale look: the new front end mimics its big brother Grand Cherokee, the rear gets a fresh fascia and LED taillights, a power bulge adorns the hood and select bright-work adds a dash of sophistication. Alloys are standard even on the base model.

Jeep has also lavished much attention on the interior. They’ve added soft-touch front door panels with a padded upper surface, better quality seat fabric, a new centre armrest, and perhaps the biggest signal of Jeep’s intent, a very nice three-spoke multi-function leather wrapped steering wheel that adds a surprising degree of class. The hard plastic dash is a carry over, but it looks good.

Cruise control is now standard on all models, as is backlighting of the door switches, door locks, windows and power mirror controls. Bluetooth connectivity is optional.

2011 Jeep Compass. Click image to enlarge

For the on-road portion of this snowy launch I drove the mid-line $24,495 Compass North with Freedom Drive I 4#215;4 system mated to the CVT. Freedom-Drive is a slip-and-grip system, meaning it normally runs in fuel-conscious front-drive mode but will send power aft if needed. For more demanding conditions, a flick of a button between the seats puts it in 4#215;4 Lock mode where front to rear torque split varies from 80/20 to 50/50 depending on conditions.

As with most vehicles fitted with CVTs, the engine drones when calling for acceleration, and this 2.4-litre “World Engine” (developed with Hyundai and Mitsubishi) is hardly the picture of refinement, but tweaks to the CVT result in a 12 per cent improvement in fuel economy over last year’s Compass. At 6,200 ft. (1,890 meters) we were also down about 20 horsepower, so the engine was working harder than usual.

2011 Jeep Compass. Click image to enlarge

Jeep Compass

Those who were inclined to label the Compass as a Jeep-grilled panty-waist poseur (who, me?) get their comeuppance this year. Fit the Compass with the optional $750 Freedom II 4#215;4 system (only available with CVT) and it gets Jeep’s coveted Trail Rating badge.

So what does this mean to you? Not a helluva lot unless your driveway is a boulder-strewn, mucky, icy riverbed with all the horizontal uniformity of a camel. On the factory all-terrain tires, my Compass with the Freedom II Offroad Group ate up this topographical nightmare and spat it out.

Thus equipped, the Compass gets a 19:1 low range gear (an extra pulley in the CVT), a 2.5 cm increase in ride height, driver height adjustable seat, tow hooks, full-sized spare, hill descent control, brake lock differentials front and rear, P215/65R17 OWL All Terrain Tires, skid plates (which got a work out), a re-contoured front fascia for improved approach angle and the ability to ford 483 mm of water.

It can also spit and scratch its butt.

2011 Jeep Patriot. Click image to enlarge

Standard safety kit for the 2011 Compass includes electronic stability control and roll mitigation, hill-start assist, active head restraints and side curtain airbags.

For those who prefer the more chunky looks of the Jeep Patriot, this mechanically identical vehicle gets all the interior and suspension upgrades as well as its own mild exterior refresh. The Patriot starts a grand cheaper than the Compass at $17,995 and traditionally has reached a more male-oriented demographic.

The compact CUV/SUV segment is fiercely contested. Now that the Compass has competitive interior refinement, on-road composure and class leading fuel economy, this little tyke could do some damage when price is factored in. The comparably equipped Hyundai Tuscon GL AWD stickers at $26,299, the Honda CR-V LX at $28,800, the Toyota RAV4 at $27,230 and the Ford Escape XLT 4WD 2.5L at $27,999.

And don’t ask any of these competitors to crawl over rocks, ford a knee-deep stream or spit.

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