2010 Jeep Compass Limited 4x4 - Review
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS
By Carey Russ
SEE ALSO: Jeep Buyers Guide
In the heady days of the SUV boom of the 1990s, Jeep was perfectly positioned. All it had ever made were rough, tough, rugged off-road capable utility vehicles, and even when adding the luxury and convenience features demanded by a mostly-urban marketplace the essential nature of a Jeep was not compromised.
At the top of the lineup, the Grand Cherokee was equally at home at the country club or way out in the country, far from pavement and civilization. The entry-level Wrangler was and is the best inexpensive turn-key offroad machine on wheels.
This is because of it's simplicity. With a simple ladder frame, solid axles front and rear, and plenty of clearance, it traces its ancestry directly back to the Jeeps that were the basic military utility vehicle of World War II. Until recently, windows were removable plastic side curtains. The doors are still easily removed, and the windshield can be folded flat.
The Wrangler is still with us, but as of model year 2007 a very different Jeep debuted as the co-entry level offering for people who were adamantly not going to do the Rubicon Trail for their vacation, and who wanted amounts of comfort and interior quiet that were not ever going to be in the Wrangler repertoire. That Jeep was the Compass, the first Jeep crossover, and the first Jeep not designed with back-of-beyond off-road prowess in its specifications.
Does the Compass dilute the Jeep brand? Not even -- it's brand expansion. The likely Compass buyer wouldn't have considered Jeep before, and is looking for comfort, style, and safety in everyday use, not heavy-duty offroad ability. So the Compass's car-like unibody construction, fully-independent suspension, and four-cylinder engines make sense.
There are two trim levels, Sport and Limited. As is the Jeep convention, "Limited" denotes top-of-the-line specification, although various option packages enable a Sport to nearly meet a Limited there, or for the Limited to be even fancier. Power is from parent Chrysler's 172-horsepower 2.4-liter "World Engine", matched to either a five-speed manual or continuously-variable (CVT) transmission, although the front-drive Sport may be had with a smaller, 2.0-liter, 158-hp version of the World Engine, for improved fuel economy. After interior upgrades, improved soundproofing, and revised suspension tuning last year, 2010 changes include the availability of the five-speed manual transmission with the 2.0-liter engine, standard front active head restraints, option package revisions, and available remote start and automatic climate control.
I've spent the past week with a well-equipped Limited 4x4, and it was a good week for a Jeep. Meaning bad weather, with more than enough heavy rain and strong winds. The 4x4 Compass may not thread its way through the boulders and tree stumps of the Rubicon Trail, but it did thread its way through heavy traffic in bad weather just fine -- and I consider passing between a couple of semis in wet and poor-visibility highway conditions to be just as hazardous as any off-road exercise. The Compass handled that, and all other tasks, easily. It's small outside, for easy parking when parking space is scarce, and its interior has the space and versatility to work in everyday life. It has all of the utility and comfort expected in a small crossover, and Jeep panache.
A Compass is a Jeep, no doubt about that. With the signature seven-vertical-slot grille, round headlights, and trapezoidal wheel arches in athletic but not muscle-bound flared fenders, it could only be a Jeep, and bears a more-than-passing resemblance to the first-generation Liberty. It does -- appropriately -- have a more car-like, or crossover-like, look, with a sloping, curved windshield, arched roofline (with built-in luggage rack, of course), triangular D-pillars, and decidedly un-boxy proportions and profile. The strong shoulder line and distinct fender flares give it a healthily muscular look, no steroids, and large taillights give it presence from the rear.
Space, comfort, convenience, and versatility are what buyers of compact urban crossovers want, and the Compass delivers. The high roofline means easy access, good headroom, and a high-eyepoint seating position. All models are well-equipped for their price points; the Limited has evolved into almost a luxury-intender, with leather seating and steering wheel rim, heated front seats with power adjustment of the driver's cushion, including height, power windows and mirrors, speed-sensitive power door locks and remote keyless entry, cruise control, a 115 VAC power outlet on the console, rear seatback recline adjustment, a fold-flat (forward, for cargo) front passenger seat among other conveniences. (The Sport "E" package includes many of these, too) Seat comfort and visibility are good, instruments and controls are easily visible and used, including the touch-screen navigation system. There are useful storage spaces around the cabin, highlighted by an open tray with rubber floor above the glove box. Lit cupholders are a pleasant touch, especially at night. The rear seat has very good room for two, but a high central tunnel makes the center position a short-term proposition -- as in just about any small vehicle. Luggage space behind the rear seat is good, with a space-saver spare under the floor. The ability to fold either part of the rear seatback, and the front passenger seat, flat means that a Compass can hold more than you might believe.
All Compass buyers get standard side-curtain airbags to complement the multi-stage front bags, although seat-mounted side airbags are optional. The unibody structure features a central safety cage and front and rear crumple zones for further protection in case of an accident. Antilock brakes with Brake Assist, traction control, and the Electronic Stability Program with the Electronic Roll Mitigation extension are also standard safety equipment in all Compasses. Standard brakes in 4x2 models are disc/drum, while 4x4s get four-wheel discs.
RIDE AND HANDLING:
As a Wrangler is designed for its natural habitat of rough stuff, the Compass is designed for its more benign habitat. Which is city and suburban pavement, with forays into the woods or desert by means of "improved" trails. At heart, the Compass is a car, with unibody construction, fully-independent MacPherson strut front and multilink rear suspension in place of the Old Jeep standard of a separate frame and solid axles. Large-diameter wheels and tires give it from 8.1 to 8.4 inches of ground clearance, so light-duty fire-road use should be fine, and that clearance can help in dodging the hazards of city streets and highways as well. The ride is smooth and untiring, steering is light but not too light, and noise levels are reasonable for its class thanks to attention to detail in materials, construction, and aerodynamics.
With 172 horsepower (at 6000 rpm) and 165 lb-ft of torque (at 4400 rpm), the Compass's 2.4-liter twincam alloy four-cylinder engine is well-suited for its job. Its long stroke, relatively large displacement, and variable valve timing on both camshafts widen the torque band, for good low- and mid-range acceleration. The optional CVT is more efficient than a regular torque-converter automatic, and "AutoStick"™ manual shifting (by software simulation of six ratios) is possible but necessary only for traversing dubious surfaces - Jeep territory. The "Freedom Drive I" single-range four-wheel drive system uses electronic sensors and an electronically-controlled coupling to transfer torque to the rear wheels as needed, and works in concert with the ABS and ESP systems. It is transparent in operation. Unusually for a small crossover, the 4x4 system can be locked to better handle slippery snow, slush, or mud.
CONCLUSIONS: The Compass shows a new side to Jeep.
SPECIFICATIONS 2010 Jeep Compass Limited 4x4
Base Price: $ 25,135
Price As Tested: $ 29,905
Engine Type: dual overhead cam aluminum alloy 16-valve inline 4-cylinder with dual balance shafts and variable valve timing on both camshafts
Engine Size: 2.4 liters / 144 cu. in.
Horsepower: 172 @ 6000 rpm
Torque: (lb-ft) 165 @ 4400 rpm
Transmission: continuously variable (CVT) (opt)
Wheelbase / Length: 103.7 in. / 173.4 in.
Curb Weight: 3304 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower: 19.2
Fuel Capacity: 13.5 gal.
Fuel Requirement: 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires: P215/55 R18 94T Firestone Firehawk GTA
Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, ABS, BA, ESP standard
Suspension, front/rear independent Macpherson strut / independent multilink
Ground Clearance: 8.1 inches
Drivetrain: transverse front engine, single-range four-wheel drive (opt)
PERFORMANCEEPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city/highway/observed: 21 / 24 / 22
0 to 60 mph 11 sec
OPTIONS AND CHARGESSun and Sound Group -
includes: power sunroof with express open/close, 9 Boston Acoustics speakers with subwoofer, 2 articulating liftgate speakers $ 1,295
Security and Convenience Group -
includes: remote start system, supplemental front seat- mounted side airbags, security alarm, daytime running lights, soft tonneau cover $ 545
Continuously-variable transaxle II with Tip Start and Auto Stick $ 1,100
Media Center730N CD/DVD/HD/NAV Radio - includes:
30GB hard disk, 6.5" touch screen display, GPS navigation system, 1 year SIRIUS Traffic Service, Uconnect phone with voice control, iPod control, auto-dimming rear-view mirror with microphone $ 1,200
Destination charge $ 630