Jeep launched the Compass in India two years back and though it was a well-received product, it lacked one major convenience feature that owners wanted at this price point. We are talking about the diesel-automatic combination that most of its chief rivals offer. Jeep thought of going a step ahead and brought forward the diesel-automatic version but in the Trailhawk avatar. The Trailhawk line up is common in the Jeep line-up internationally. As the name suggests, these models are trail rated which means they are biased towards adventure use and come with various alterations over their conventional road-going cousins. And this model is exactly what we experienced in Lonavala for two days that gave us ample opportunities to sample what this new product is all about.
But before we get to the drive experience, the good news is that unlike other SUVs in the market, the adventure based version of the Compass looks better aesthetically. We had two color options on display, red and white and both of these came with black treatment for added oomph factor. This includes the roof, side mirrors, logos, front grille, lower parts of the bumper and even the new look alloy wheels. And then there is the black matt wrap on the bonnet that also add a functional vaue – it keeps glare away from the driver’s eye under the afternoon sun.
But more than that, the Compass Trailhawk sits about 27 mm higher up the ground that makes it look larger than what it is. Likewise, the bumpers are modified to bump up the approach and departure angles and the red tow hook looks purposeful at the back. It can help you pull or tow a vehicle that’s about 1.5x the weight of the Trailhawk – being a structural member and not an after-thought feature helps. That said, the front hooks have been given a miss for India in order to comply with the pedestrain crash norms. The macho looking 17 inch wheels come with specially made for Trailhawk tyres from Falken. These Wildpeak tyres have a size of 225/60 with improved side wall protection that came handy while negotiating rocks later in the day.
On the inside, the Trailhawk retains all the traits of the conventional Compass and we love the red contrast at place. For example, around the speedometer console, gear lever and even the speakers mounted inside the door. No one minds a bling factor or two, eh? The version we drove came with top spec features including a sunroof, keyless go, leather seats et al. However, some features like powered front seats, auto headlamps, rain sensing wipers or even an auto day & night internal mirror. Why? Costs need to be in check right.
But the Trailhawk is about a lot more and this is where we shall divulge into the powertrain on offer. You get the same 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine but this one now meets the upcoming BS-VI norms thanks to a diesel particulate filter and selective catalyst reduction. Owners will need to top up the diesel exhaust fluid every 5000 km and this is a simple task via the inlet located next to the fuel filler cap.
But not only is the Trailhawk a cleaner diesel SUV, engineers have also fine tuned the engine to iron some of the clatter than the normal Compass is known to have. Power delivery too is smoother and you never get pushed back into the seat once the turbo spools up. We feel this is deliberate and makes city runs much better.
Talking of which, the diesel Compass finally get an automatic in the form of a nine-speed torque converter. The figure ‘nine’ does sound a lot but while the first gear comes handy for off-road use, the higher gears make this an ideal mile muncher. The gearbox has a slower side to it, taking its own sweet time to shift up or down but a big boon as compared to the heavy clutch on the manual version.
Don’t expect it to work like a German ‘box, up-shifting immediately or dropping a gear or two when you need it to – in contrast, it takes time getting used to the set-up. For example, if you are doing 50 in the 4th gear and need to cover up ground fast, going down hard on the right pedal will make not make the Trailhawk jump ahead in enthusiasm. There is a clear lag.
But all this takes a back seat when you leave tarmac and hit the trails that are less explored. The experts at Jeep had chalked out an extensive route for us that allowed us to utilize all the bells and whistles the Trailhawk comes with. This includes the low ratio set-up, a 4×4 lock and even the rock mode. But before that, we were to use the crazy ramp over , approach and departure angles of the SUV and trust me, from a driver’s perspective, the first round of off-road bits did seem scary. However, the Trailhawk seemed to be enjoying it all.
Next on, we had a couple of rock crawl sections where the low ratio (20:1) set up came handy and all I had to do was give gentle inputs to the engine. The increased clearance also game us ample confidence to drive over rocks without damaging the underside. Talking of which, the Trailhawk also comes with beefed up skid plates for protection to the sump, fuel tank, exhaust and other pipes. The low ratio ends up offering the entire flow of torque at about 10km/h and this really allows the Trailhawk to find its away around the trail slowly without getting stuck.
The uphill sections didn’t seem like pieces of cake. A mix of rocks and sand make isn’t what a driver needs off the road but with tyres semi-deflated, we climbed up the sections with a grin on our faces. Wheel spins and power – both these essentials are managed electronically. And when we did find level ground to go faster on the uneven surface, the new FSD set-up (frequency selective damping) allowed the wheels to drop down quickly, in turn aiding traction. See the jumps on this page? No, the suspension never bottomed out either thanks to the hydraulic rebound stoppers. Did I mention even water fording abilities have gone up to 480 mm thanks to a different positioning of the air-intake as well as closing off a part of the grille!
Back on the road, it was good to see the Compass finally getting a cruise control. I also noticed the new, larger driver info display screen that also has the option to show temperature for the engine oil, transmission oil and even the level of diesel exhaust fluid. The start-stop aid was something I couldn’t use but Jeep claims this increases urban efficiency by 6%. And lastly, no one will tell you this but having kept the Compass for three months here at Cartoq, I can vouch for the new interface’s audio quality. There is a marked improvement which is mainly down to the new speakers. Did sound nice!
Prices for the Trailhawk will be announced by end of June and its fair to expect a jump of over about 2 lacs over the current top-end model. Yes, this will be an expensive compact SUV but if adventure is what you seek, the Trailhawk will not disappoint you. But if you only want the convenience of an automatic, should you be disappointed? The answer is NO. Jeep has unofficially confirmed that they will be launching the 4×2 diesel models with an automatic, but once it has gone through the homologation process for the BS-VI tuning. Good news for all then? Definitely!