The Jeep Compass has been around for close to two years now. When it first came into the market it got everyone really excited as it made the Jeep brand very affordable. It was a capable car but since then some new cars have come to the market to give the SUV some good competition. But the Compass is back this time as the Trailhawk, a car that Jeep says is much more capable and therefore much more exciting to drive on the road and definitely off it. We were in Lonavala to test that claim.
A lot of things worked for the Compass from day one when it comes to design. Cladding all over the car, square shaped wheel arches and the 7-slat signature grille being some of them but the Trailhawk also gets its own elements. The grille is black and the ground clearance goes up by a good 25 mm to 205 mm. The SUV also gets better approach and departure angles and the tyres too are different more suited to take on the difficult terrains. The black decal on the bonnet helps diffuse light that reflects on to you as a driver resulting in a safer drive for you.
The cabin gets an all-black colour theme which makes the car look sporty. The red accents on the seats and doors are a nice touch. The layout is pretty simple and it’s likeable at the same time but you might have to get used to a lot of buttons on the steering wheel. The 8.4-inch touch screen is compatible with Apple Carplay and Android Auto, recognises voice commands and comes with navigation. The instrument cluster is also nice and big with a 7-inch digital screen that displays a lot of information. Ergonomically the car scores well as storage options are good on the doors and between the seats. Finally the big panoramic sunroof adds its own charm to this exciting product. In terms of space it’s a mixed bag on the second row as the headroom isn’t very generous but the thigh support is exceptional. The second row also gets AC vents as well as a center armrest.
The 2-litre MultiJet diesel from Fiat has been the talk of town for some time now. It came in the Jeep compass then the Tata Harrier now it’s also come in the MG Hector. Good figures here on this turbo diesel as it churns out 170 PS of maximum power and a very good figure of 350 Nm which really plays its part really well in a lot of situations. But unlike the Compass what’s missing here is a petrol engine and manual gearbox. The only option you have on the Trailhawk is a diesel automatic 4×4 with a brand new 9-speed transmission. This helps in enhanced performance and superior fuel economy. The wider gear ratios and an auto start/stop system help in saving some fuel and the SUV also cuts off the power from the rear axle for a slightly better mileage. On the road the SUV is engineered towards giving you a more relaxed drive and one that is not at least skewed towards out-and-out performance and that sort of explains the missing paddle shifts on this car. So you’ve got to go easy on the throttle and that is where the engine and the gearbox will respond better to your needs; you don’t really feel that it is going beyond your expectations in terms of refinement and or that there is lag between gear shifts. Handling is impressive despite the ground clearance going up significantly. It’s a job well done by engineers at Jeep because you hardly feel any roll and it is a comfortable and stable drive. The ride quality is also good as the suspension does a good job on all sorts of surfaces.
A larger part of our drive was spent doing some great off-roading maneuvers in this car and this is a car that gets a badge of honour which is a trail rated badge and that means this it is very capable of doing almost everything thrown at it. To get the badge the car has to come out on tops in five categories that include traction, maneuverability, articulation, ground clearance and water wading capacity. Big changes on the Trailhawk really make your life easier off the road. These include 4WD low and apart from snow, sand and mud a new mode called rock mode. Most of our drive on the off-road track was spent in the four-wheel drive low and the rock mode and here the car really comes into its own. It was able to sail through every single obstacle thrown at it them without too much difficulty. Two more features that come to your aid while off-roading in this SUV are hill start assist and hill descent control.
The Compass Trailhawk is indeed a capable car. All the gadgetry and technology perform well and this is clearly the best performing SUV off the road in its particular segment. At Rs 26.8 lacs (ex-showroom) it isn’t the most expensive in the segment too. The Trailhawk really takes care of almost everything on its own, it does not test your skills as a driver too much and we don’t really know if that’s a good thing or bad.
Shams Naqvi is an anchor/producer for the News X motor show Living Cars