Jeep. It’s a name that’s synonymous with unbreakable cars, uncompromising off road ability, and being uniquely American. Well, once. Any Jeep labelled TrailHawk is still uncompromising in its ability to deal with mud, snow, sand, gravel, as easily as the tarmac, but not all Jeeps are unbreakable and not all Jeeps are American. AWT had a Jeep a couple of years that refused to play ball. It was a time when quality control wasn’t part of the first sentence in how to build one. Thankfully it seems those times are well and truly past as our Indian built 2018 Jeep Compass Limited with 2.4L petrol fed “Tigershark” engine proved.The time the Compass Limited spent with AWT coincided with a trip that would ultimately cover 1150 kilometres. This would start at AWT’s Blue Mountains based HQ, south via Goulbourn and Queanbeyan, east of Canberra, to Cooma before overnighting at the Aalberg Chalet. Mine hosts were Ulla and Lindsay, an engaging and effervescent couple, providing an atmosphere of welcome and warmth. From there a few hours at Thredbo for ski lessons for AWT’s junior staffers, before a drive along the “Barry Way” via Dalgety, the Boco wind farm, and the parched depths of the NSW plains before our eastward bounds journey had us in Bega for one night. From there is was north through Narooma, Ulladulla, and Nowra, diverting through the gorgeous Kangaroo Valley and marveling at the once ocean floor cliffs before rejoining the Hume on our way home.The Compass sits above the Renegade and below the Cherokee in Jeep’s substantial range. A choice of four trim levels are available, with Sport, Longitude, Limited, and TrailHawk on offer. The Compass Liited has a 2.4L petrol engine named Tigershark, or the preferred for long distance haulage diesel. The petrol engine has 129kW, 229 Nm, and a nine speed CVT auto. Fuel consumption is quoted as 9.7L/100km on a combined cycle from the 60 litre tank and 7.4L/100 for the highway. AWT’s best figure was 8.6L/100km on a purely highway driven cycle. This was with four up and the cargo area filled with three bags/travel cases. The petrol Limited’s weight is 1503 kilograms dry.Our journey starts with an eastwards bound run from the lower Blue Mountains to one of Sydney’s orbital freeways, The M7 takes drivers south towards the city bound M5 or the Canberra and beyond Hume. What’s immediately noticeable is suspension tune. It leans towards the harder side of compliance, and there’s an initial feeling that tyres were at the wrong pressure. That didn’t turn out to be the situation. What was also becoming clear was the lack of torque at low revs. On the flatter country roads it would purr along in a quiet, unfussed, manner. Thew CVT changes smoothly, unobtrusively. Heading towards Goulbourn, around two hours drive south of Sydney. there’s some good long gradients that test cars and with that peak torque available at 3900 rpm it needs a hefty shove on the go pedal to get the engine and transmission to drop back enough to get close to that rev point. Forward motion slows appreciably and in order to keep safety up for traffic flow, more pedal is needed.Downhill runs have the CVT finding itself in a cog and holding that, using the engine as a braking device. This would be ideal in a hybrid to charge batteries but it’s disconcerting in the Compass as it holds revs in the upper range. There’s a little more effort than expected to move the gear selector left to engage manual shift mode and override the computer’s selection choice. The movement isn’t silky smooth either. The same applies to the indicator stalk, mounted on the left hand side of the steering column in this case. There’s a plasticky click to engage but there’s an upside. Just about every other car maker has a soft touch program that indicates just three times. the Compass Limited’s blinker count is five.As the journey progresses south what also becomes noticeable is the lack of real road safety shown by far too many other drivers. NSW and the ACT have a myopic focus on speed as to why people crash. By the time a stop at Lake George, twenty or so minutes north of Canberra is undertaken, the amount of vehicles successfully completing a safe lane change is one. That’s the Jeep.The all purpose rubber fitted, Bridgestone‘s Turanza, with a 225/55/18 profile isn’t a fan of the rougher road surfaces and transmits that to the cabin via the MacPherson strut front and Chapman front rear. Get onto the smooth blacktop and the noise level drops dramatically and the ride becomes far more enjoyable too. Queanbeyan and it’s an 80 kp/h limit. The Compass Limited exercises her brakes here more than anywhere, with traffic lights and roundabouts working together to not make a fluid traffic flow possible. Unexpectedly the initial feeling of the seats being hard and lacking in support is slowly being disproved, with no real sensation of seat cushion related fatigue. The storage nook based under the passenger seat cushion is handy too.
Outside temperatures vary along the way. Countering that is the Jeep’s electric seats (quick, thankfully) and dual controlled climate control. There’s dial or icons on the eight inch touchscreen which are well laid out, simple to use, and efficiently effective. Economy has stabilised at 8.6L/100 and a pitstop for a break and top up has been undertaken. Mid afternoon has Cooma through the front windscreen. We’re in a convoy that includes an Audi Q7 and Ford Territory, driven by people that have no sense of road manners or safety. One overtaking lane has a Range Rover and Corolla ahead of the Jeep, with the Corolla inexplicably moving right, forcing the Rangie to brake momentarily before scooting past the left side of the Toyota. This has allowed us to do the same as the Corolla is clearly struggling. However again that lack of low rev torque is appreciable but the cams come on song at around 3500, and there’s a noticeable in the Jeep’s behaviour. It’s needed as the Q7 ranges up behind the Corolla before a sudden non indicated dart left to take up position a foot shy of the Compass. The merge lane to one lane is here and all of a sudden the Territory is almost buried in the Corolla’s rear, with the driver having no apparent sense of when to brake appropriately. The Jeep’s overall drive and safety package have been tested and passed.
Jindabyne and the twisting downhill run to the picturesque town has the steering come alive. Electrically assisted it’s light enough to not feel it is out of touch with the road, and weighty enough to provide a real sense of communication between car and driver. The CVT appreciates this sort of road more, and works in concert with the accelerator to be where it should be gear wise. Being a vehicle that has a 4WD mode that splits drive front and rear on demand, the predominantly FWD bias has the Compass track wide only occasionally. This requires naught more that a tap of the brake or accelerator to bring the nose back on line.
Finally it’s time to exit the Compass Limited and it’s a chance to appreciate the cabin ambience. There’s the natural level of fatigue after six hours of travel and breaks, but none extra from the seats and ride. The dash dials have a slightly old fashioned style of font for the numbers, with small LED light points spread around the dials. In between is a colour LCD screen, as is standard in just about every car, offering trip info, average and on demand fuel usage, and more. The rear seat passengers have enough leg room even with the adults pushing their seats back. Rear seat passengers also get a USB point, handy for the older but not yet teenaged ones. There’s a ski-port fold out cupholder for them as well.The front seat passengers have an elegantly designed dash to look at and feel. Soft touch materials abound, the trim is subtle, tasteful, and there’s plenty of room for legs, heads, and shoulders. A centre console mounted drive selector dial gives the Compass Limited some off road prowess including Snow, Sand, and Mud. All round vision is excellent and ergonomics including a push button start where one would find a keyhole makes the process natural and intuitive. It complements the redesigned exterior, aligning the Compass range more with the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee appearance. Audio is superb and well balanced, with the DAB tuner more sensitive than others, thankfully. What was noticeable was a lack of height adjustment for the passenger seat. It’s clearly not a big vehicle, making the interior packaging all the more remarkable for its successful implementation. The Compass is just 4394mm long, 1819mm wide, and stands 1644mm tall. It packs in a 2636mm wheelbase and has a stable chassis thanks to the 1550mm and 1546 mm track font and rear. This gives the Compass excellent cross wind stability and helps the compact SUV in its high levels of agility both off and on road. A 212mm road clearance allows for some good running on those tracks well beaten, plus the approach and departure angles of 16.8 and 31.7 degrees, it’s able to handle a good coverage of terrain. Although Thredbo was cold, it wasn’t overly endowed with snow. This unfortunately didn’t give AWT a real chance to try the Snow mode for any length of time. However some drifts were found and a simple flick of the drive dial had the Compass Limited crawl its way out without issue. Where the Compass Limited shine came later. From Jindabyne and along the Barry Way the road and terrain is tight, testing the handling and ride. The vistas are incredible, with ridge high roads providing unparalleled views all around. Sadly this meant that the view provided evidence of the terrible drought the farmers are enduring and all too often the tragic signs in a paddock were evidence of this.
The flat runs were fine for the auto and engine, but any uphill runs tasked the combination time and again. Anything over four thousand rpm and the noise was thrashy, whiny, and the Compass Limited really struggled to maintain forward momentum, even with the torque coming on stream. However there’s no doubt that with a lighter load the effort would, naturally, be less evident. Evidence of power was seen on the horizon, with a wind farm coming into view and the road would take the Compass directly between the line of the Boco Wind Farm. Almost silent, the huge turbines swung lazily, majestically, with the ridge they’re mounted on hiding a sudden drop to the eastern plains.The Jeep’s off road ability was tested somewhat after crossing the Snowy River and heading towards Bega. A rutted, sandy, gravelly road east of Cathcart called the Tantawangalo Road is a long, mostly one laned affair. It was here that the Jeep Compass and its all wheel drive system gets a workout. Slip the dial onto Sand and the dash lights up with an icon saying so. However it also shows that the traction control is disengaged. To AWT it seems odd that on such a surface that traction control would be disengaged. Especially when farmers are lawfully allowed to range cows freely on the roads.What also happens is that the computer bumps the engine’s rev point to around three thousand, taking advantage of the rise of the torque curve. This endowed the Compass Limited with a frisky, energetic, attitude, and could be coaxed into gentle skids on turns where it could be done safely. The handling tightens up and becomes even more responsive, and there’s just enough freeplay in the steering to set up for a Scandinavian flick style turn. The taut suspension also magically dials out the rutted surfaces and worked the coil springs wonderfully. The car could be throttle controlled, easing off for the turns before getting back on the juice, powering out and settling the Compass.
Overnight in Bega and north along the Princes Highway. Again there were far too many examples of why the government’s myopic focus on speed is a failure. Should the highway patrol police vehicles without working indicators then an absolute motza would be made and basic driving standards would increase. Further north to Nowra and to Kangaroo Valley. Again the uphill runs tested the engine and transmission and still averaged a sub nine litre figure.
The final run from Mittagong and Bowral and along the Hume to home, and the Compass Limited is settling into a rhythm. It’s a rev point of under two thousand at cruising speed and the car is composed, relaxed, almost as if it knows the home base is near.
At The End Of The Drive.
Jeep quotes 7.4L per 100 kilometres for the highway run. To achieve a final figure of 8.6L/100 km with a load aboard was a welcome surprise. The diesel is quoted as 5.1L/100 km for the highway so that final figure is superb in context. The overall fit and finish is as it should be, the initial misgivings over the ride quality were dispatched quickly, and for a family of four for a weekend away it suffices. Off road manners show why the Jeep name is the one to go to. In essence the 2018 Jeep Compass Limited was better than expected. And that’s a winner in anyone’s book. Here’s where you can find your true north: 2018 Jeep Compass range