The Compass has received an update and has now become the ‘Trail Ready’ Trailhawk. Jared takes it for a drive to find out what it's capable of.
Just like Mercedes-Benz has its AMG vehicles and BMW has its M Division, American SUV manufacturer Jeep has something that is pretty similar, only it doesn’t have anything to do with on-road performance. Jeep has its own novel vehicles that are branded with a badge of honour called ‘Trail Ready’. A Jeep vehicle with this badge on it simply means that the vehicle is a proper off-roader and is capable of taking on anything that comes in its path.
The Compass itself is a highly versatile and beautiful machine. It even has the distinction of being the autoX ‘Best of 2017’, the year it was launched in India. It drives wonderfully in the city, and it can be quite capable off-road, when it needs to be. But what if you want it to be a hardcore all-terrain conqueror? Well, then, the new variant of the Compass, the Trailhawk, is the answer.
Earning the badge
The Compass Trailhawk looks exactly the same as the Compass both inside and outside. There are minor details that set it apart, but the most important differentiating factor is the tiny red badge that reads ‘Trail Ready’. Being worthy of this badge is a serious affair, and Jeep engineers have listed five criteria for a car to be Trail Ready.
The first and most important is traction. The Trailhawk gets Jeep Active Drive, which is a full time 4x4 system. It now also gets a special 4 Low mode that allows for a crawl ratio of 20:1, which no other SUV in the segment has. There is also an added Selec-Terrain mode called Rock. The driving modes control the amount of torque sent to the wheels through a very clever system, and the Trailhawk seems to be able to offer better torque management for traction than the Compass. Another added feature in the Trailhawk is the Hill Descent Control.
The next criteria is manoeuvrability, and for this the Trailhawk has been fitted with new all-terrain tyres. It also gets a new suspension setup in the form of an all independent format and high structural stiffness for better handling, as well as Frequency Sensitive Damping and Hydraulic Rebound Stopper. There are also skid plates to protect the underbody from any damage.
The last three criteria are ground clearance, articulation and water fording. For these, the Trailhawk's ground clearance has been bumped up to 205mm and the front and rear bumpers have been redesigned for better approach and departure angles.
On the Road
The Trailhawk gets the same 2.0-litre turbo diesel, but this time it’s BS-VI compliant, which is another segment first. Power output is rated exactly the same at 168bhp and 350Nm of torque, but this time the engine is mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission. This is the same gearbox borrowed over from the Cherokee.
The engine feels nice but it’s not the smoothest for a diesel, and there is a bit of turbo-lag as well. The transmission is also not the sharpest, as it seems to hold gears too long. Also, it behaves in a bit of a lazy way when you want quick acceleration. Other than that it still drives well in the city, and it's easy to handle. The ride quality is still phenomenal, and thanks to the new suspension, you can go over rough roads without feeling anything at all. The new tyres are also great on tarmac, and the electronic power steering feels great all the time. It’s a comfortable car, and with its small dimensions, it’s also practical. Another nice feature is the car’s ability to disconnect the rear axle when the car senses that there is no need for power to be sent to all four wheels. This disengages the all-wheel-drive system and allows for a better fuel economy on normal roads.
Off the Road
While the Trailhawk still performs with great ability on road, it’s only when it goes off road that it truly shines. Jeep India had set up a number of obstacles and trails for us to drive on, and we were amazed by how much more capable the Trailhawk is compared to the Compass. When it came to the rough stuff, what really stood out was how much the suspension has improved. The car feels so much better now when you are driving over rocky terrain.
The torque delivery to all the wheels makes it seem like the car has a mind of its own – and it does! While driving over some of the more difficult obstacles in Rock mode and with 4 Low engaged, all I had to do was provide steering inputs and modulate the throttle. With just 4WD locked and Auto mode engaged, the car did everything on its own. It was effortless to drive over huge dips, crawl over rocks, climb and descend steep slopes and drive through the mud. The electronic power steering also really helped, and it was shockingly easy to steer the car in whichever direction I wanted to go. The new transmission also showed its true colours, as it seems like it is better suited to off-road driving – it certainly made driving the car a whole lot easier over most of the obstacles. The improved approach angles and higher ground clearance also aided in tackling some of the terrain, and knowing that there were skid plates put my mind at ease every time I bottomed out.
Really, this car is leaps and bounds better than the Compass, when it comes to taking on serious terrain, while at the same time it drives just as well and comfortably in the city.
The Trailhawk is well deserving of the Trail Ready badge it carries. Within this segment, and in many segments above it, there are not many SUVs that can drive through such trails as easily as the Trailhawk. The Toyota Fortuner, Ford Endeavor and Isuzu MU-X might be able to take on some of the obstacles and trails we drove on, but it would certainly require a lot more muscling of the car from the driver. The Trailhawk, on the other hand, drove over everything we threw at it without breaking a sweat. This version of the Compass is purpose built to take on hard trails, while the majority of these big premium SUV’s are primarily for road use. The Trailhawk is also loaded with plenty of technology, features and safety equipment, making it the only premium compact SUV that can behave like a city car and at the same time be a full-time hardcore enthusiast off-road vehicle. In all probability the car will be priced around Rs 28 – 30 lakh ex-showrroom, and it will be worth every single penny.