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2007 Jeep Compass Limited 4x4 Review

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2007 Jeep Compass Limited 4x4

SEE ALSO: New Car Buyer's Guide for Jeep

Jeep is finding a new direction with the 2007 Compass. The pun is irresistible, and also true. The Compass is something new for Jeep, an urban/suburban-oriented crossover vehicle. It's meant to bring in new customers, people who previously wouldn't have considered a Jeep.

With Jeep's reputation for off-road ruggedness, who wouldn't consider a Jeep for a sport-utility? Up until this year, anyone with a limited budget and a desire for some degree of civilized comfort rather than serious off-road ability was out of luck with respect to Jeep. The company's long-time entry-level vehicle, the Wrangler, was as noted for its lack of civilized comforts as it was for its excellent off-road ability. A Wrangler was and is one of the best and least-expensive turn-key off-roaders available, but that is not what many new compact SUV purchasers are looking for. They want a marriage of SUV style and car comfort, and that means crossover vehicle.

The crossover segments are the growth sectors in the auto industry, and Jeep is entering the compact crossover market in a big way - with not one but two new vehicles. Both the Compass and the Patriot are built on the same platform as the Dodge Caliber, with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, car-like unibody construction, fully-independent suspension, and front- or four-wheel drive. The Patriot is the more mainstream Jeep, emulating the late Cherokee in styling, and can be had with a dual-range 4x4 system. The Compass is aimed more directly at established street-oriented compact crossovers. It's the only member of the current Jeep lineup not really meant for serious offroad work. But with eight inches of clearance and an available single-range full-time four-wheel drive system, it should have no difficulties with winter weather and summer camping trips involving semi-maintained dirt and gravel roads.

Two Compass models are offered, Sport and Limited. As is the Jeep custom, the Limited is fancier and better-equipped. But both have a high level of standard comfort, convenience, and safety equipment. Both are offered in front- or single-range four-wheel drive form. I've spent the past week in a four-wheel drive Compass Limited. It's a pleasant and comfortable vehicle with some interesting and useful features that should please plenty of previously non-Jeep people. Serious Jeepers still have the Wrangler, and between the two is the Patriot. It looks to be an interesting year for the Jeep brand.

APPEARANCE: Although its styling is less boxy and conservative than is typical for Jeep, there is no doubt as to the Compass's manufacturer. The signature seven-vertical-slot grille, round (ok, oval) headlights, and trapezoidal wheel arches in athletic but not muscle-bound flared fenders see to that. New to Jeep design are more car-like elements such as the raked, curved windscreen, which, with the curved roofline, sloping rear window, and triangular D-pillars, gives the Compass a decidedly un-boxy profile. A strong shoulder line gives a muscular look. Body cladding is absent, but the Limited has a bright rub strip low on the doors provides protection. A black plastic-covered roof rack is standard on both models. Huge taillights give presence from the rear.

COMFORT: Compact urban crossover buyers want space, convenience, and versatility, and the Compass will not disappoint. Its high roofline adds interior space, and allows a high-eyepoint seating position for good visibility. Standard interior materials are synthetic, but with a pleasant modern design. The instruments are easy to see in all light. The Limited has standard air conditioning, power windows, locks (with remote entry), and mirrors and leather-trimmed seating. Seat adjustment is manual, but the driver's cushion height is adjustable. The rear seat folds flat with a 60/40 split in all models, and in the Limited each side has separate back angle adjustment. Add in the Limited's fold-flat front passenger seat, and the "UltraFloor"(tm) easy-clean faux-diamondplate vinyl load floor material, and a Compass can be ready for a large variety of cargo duties. In passenger trim, headroom is excellent for all, with legroom quite reasonable for all but the tallest rear passengers. Conveniences include an MP3 jack for all audio systems, with a small pockets in the console armrest for an MP3 player or cell phone. Both 12- and 115-volt power outlets are conveniently-placed to power or recharge electronic gadgets. A rechargeable flashlight docks in the rear dome light. My test example had the optional Boston Acoustics audio system, which provided good sound and has an interesting rear speaker arrangement - the two speakers mounted on the tailgate can flip down when the tailgate is open to act as a boom box for tailgate parties. Although not fitted to my test vehicle, Sirius satellite radio and the UConnectĘ hands-free connection system for Bluetooth cell phones are available.

SAFETY: Even in the base-model front-wheel drive Sport model, Compass buyers get a full suite of safety equipment. It's the first Jeep compact SUV with 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. Four-wheel antilock disc brakes with Brake Assist, traction control, and the Electronic Stability Program with the Electronic Roll Mitigation extension are just some of the standard safety equipment in all Compasses.

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. 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.

PERFORMANCE: The Compass's 2.4-liter twincam alloy four-cylinder engine makes 172 horsepower (at 6000 rpm) and 165 lb-ft of torque (at 4400 rpm). Its long stroke, relatively large displacement, and variable valve timing on both camshafts widen the torque band, for good low- and mid-range acceleration. My test vehicle had the optional continuously-variable transmission (CVT), which, with no discrete gear ratios or changes, performed smoothly and efficiently. It can be shifted manually, with "AutoStick"(tm) manual control of six simulated gear ratios. This is entertaining but mostly unnecessary, although it can be useful when descending long grades or slowly traversing dubious surfaces. The CVT improves both acceleration and fuel economy compared to a four-speed torque converter automatic. The "Freedom Drive I" 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, although it can be locked in four-wheel drive mode for winter conditions. So equipped, the Compass has no problem keeping up with traffic, and is reasonably economical. I averaged 23 mpg in a mix of city and highway driving.

CONCLUSIONS: If the Compass won't go some places where Jeeps have boldly gone before - like the Rubicon Trail - it will happily and comfortably go to any everyday place.

2007 Jeep Compass Limited

Base Price			$ 21,675
Price As Tested			$ 24,030
Engine Type			aluminum alloy dual overhead cam
				 16-valve inline 4-cylinder with
				 variable valve timing
Engine Size			2.4 liters / 144 cu. in.
Horsepower			172 @ 6000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 			165 @ 4400 rpm
Transmission			continuously variable (opt)
Wheelbase / Length		103.7 in. / 173.4 in.
Curb Weight			3329 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		19.4
Fuel Capacity			13.5 gal.
Fuel Requirement 	87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires				215/55 TR18 Firestone Firehawk GTA
Ground clearance		8.1 inches
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc,
				 4-wheel ABS and
				 electronic stability control standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut/
				  independent multilink
Drivetrain			transverse front engine,
				 four-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		23 / 26 / 23
0 to 60 mph				est 11 sec
Towing Capacity 			1000 lbs standard,
					 2000 lbs with tow package

Jeep Green metallic clearcoat paint		$  150
Customer Preferred Package 25F - includes:
  9-speaker Boston Acoustics premium sound
  system w/subwoofer and flip-down liftgate
  speakers					$   495
Continuously Variable Transaxle II
  with Autostick manual mode			$ 1,150
Destination charge				$   560