The off-road focused Compass makes a return with all the updates from the facelifted Compass. We spend a day with it to see what it’s like.
When Jeep launched the facelifted Compass early last year, it withheld the Trailhawk and launched only the regular trim levels. Now though, a year on, the off-road focused variant is back with new bits from the facelift as well as expected kit from the earlier Trailhawk, along with a few small tweaks.
Jeep Compass Trailhawk facelift exterior: subtle changes
On the outside, the Trailhawk’s black bonnet decal gets a striking, neat-looking red stripe with the ‘Trailhawk’ lettering cut within; the alloy wheels are a different pattern and the bumper gets a slightly different styling, though, as before, its cut sharper for a better angle of approach.
Bonnet decal aside, it’s the shaper cut front bumper that really visually sets apart the Trailhawk.
Also, like before, the higher riding suspension, full underbody protection and red rear tow hook are all present; and, just like the previous Trailhawk, the front tow hook has been deleted due to pedestrian safety norms. The red Trailhawk badge continues to sit on the tailgate, while the Trail Rated 4X4 emblem adorns the fenders.
Unlike the 18-inch rims on the facelifted Compass, the Trailhawk gets smaller 17-inchers, which offer better cushioning and rim protection off-road thanks to taller sidewalls. Curiously, the tyres are marked HT (Highway Terrain), but Jeep says these Falken tyres are better suited to off-road duty.
Jeep Compass Trailhawk facelift interior: Small but comfortable
Inside, the new Trailhawk benefits from the updated Compass’ big interior revamp, thus, getting the new dashboard, the free-standing 10.1-inch touchscreen, the steering wheel and the highly customisable 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster that, thankfully, also includes a neat twin-dial display option.
Based on the top spec ‘S’ trim, the Trailhawk also gets goodies like a 360-degree camera, that’s useful spotting ground off-road, a large panoramic sunroof and powered and ventilated front seats with memory function for the driver’s side. Also, like the regular Compass, space isn’t class leading and boot space is just about sufficient.
Seats get ‘Trailhawk’ embroidered in red.
Differentiating itself from its siblings, the Trailhawk gets red stitching on the seats, dash and steering, with ‘Trailhawk’ embroidered into the seats. What sets it apart, however, is the Rock mode in the selectable drive modes. Interestingly, while the pre-facelifted car had a separate Sand and Mud mode, the updated car – and thus new Trailhawk – has these combined.
Rock mode sets apart Trailhawk from regular Compass.
Jeep Compass Trailhawk facelift: Off the beaten path
Driving the Trailhawk off-road is quite a breeze and the Auto mode works well – even locking the rear differential automatically when required. You can also use the modes manually should you want specific control over terrain. Snow mode starts the car in higher gears and is extremely gentle with the power, Sand and Mud limits wheel spin to prevent you from digging yourself in with too much wheel spin, while Rock mode allows for a bit more spin to help you gain a footing on hard ground.
Taller sidewalls offer better cushioning, useful off-road.
The modes work well, and the Compass clambers over pretty much whatever I throw at it; traction is good from the tyres and power delivery is nice and linear enabling good throttle modulation. What really makes a difference and sets the Trailhawk apart are the better off-road angles – 30deg for approach, 24deg for ramp breakover and 34deg for departure. Jeep has not released angles for the new updated Compass, but the pre-facelifted car had a 16.8deg approach, 22.9deg ramp break over and 31.7deg departure angle.
Another handy bit off-road is the 20:1 crawl ratio. Interestingly, while others house the low ratio gear in the transfer case – thus multiplying the torque coming out of the gearbox – the Compass’ low ratio is built inside the gearbox itself and is, in fact, the first gear in the box. Thus, for normal driving, the Compass starts in what is the second ratio and gears 2 to 9 are used for regular driving on the road, first being used for difficult conditions and when 4low is selected. The benefit with this system is that it creates a more efficient power flow.
Impressively, along with the Compass’ off-road prowess are its on-road manners. At low speeds, there is a noticeable body shake and the ride is stiff, but it never crashes through potholes and, as you go faster, the ride just gets better and better. High speed poise and stability, even over less than perfect road surfaces, is truly impressive and confidence inspiring. Steering feel is also impressive and there’s a good heft to the wheel at high speeds. At parking speeds though, while the effort is acceptable, those who prefer a super light wheel will be disappointed.
Along with the Compass Trailhawk’s off-road prowess, its on-road manners are also impressive.
The 170hp, 2.0-litre diesel engine is very refined, and paired to the 9-speed autobox, it delivers a very smooth drive experience. It isn’t peppy and punchy and the gearbox is also quite slow to respond, even in manual mode. This does not mean it’s underpowered – power on tap is sufficient to get you up to speed – but its smooth and linear nature is best suited to steady paced driving. Compared to the regular car, the Trailhawk also feels less sprightly, no doubt the heavier weight being a factor, which also shows in its claimed fuel efficiency of 14.9kpl, lower than the 15.3kpl of the 4X4 ‘S’ trim car.
2.0 diesel engine is smooth and refined.
Jeep Compass Trailhawk facelift: verdict
So, which Compass should you buy? Should you buy one in the first place? If space is a big priority, look elsewhere, but if you’re looking for a tough, well-equipped SUV that’s a pleasure to drive both on and off-road, then the Compass should be high on your list. And then, if you genuinely want to venture off-road and keep going where the Compass stops, look towards the Trailhawk.