The SUV invasion is still well and truly in full swing where manufacturers continue to flood dealerships with hoards of the lumbering mechanised bland-mobiles. Most the brands are playing it safe and conservative, differences that separate one from the next continue to converge making it tough to pick a clear winner.
Thankfully the Americans aren’t afraid to try something different to shake things up. The Jeep Compass Trailhawk stands out against a sea of rivals that lack focus and attempt to please everyone with their jack of all trades approach. Priced from $44,750, the Trailhawk is the halo model in the Jeep Compass range and comes adorned with the Trail Rated badge bringing genuine off-road capability, courtesy of the Jeep Active Drive Low 4×4 system.
While most SUV’s focus on the day to day grind the Compass Trailhawk lives for the weekend where it can get down and dirty away from the asphalt. It’s not just an SUV with a 4WD option tacked on as an afterthought, it’s an off-road 4WD to the core wrapped up in the familiar family car package.
The Compass Trailhawk looks unique and respectable thanks to its standout black highlights draping over the bonnet, roofline and mirrors. The red recovery hooks up front, jacked up ride height and short overhangs emphasise the Compass Trailhawk’s true calling, yet it won’t look out of place when picking up the kids after a long day at school so long as you rinse all the weekend mud off first.
Given it’s American origins I was half expecting the interior to be packed with more cheap plastic than a Chinese toy factory. Instead you’ll be greeted with the soft pleasing tactile touch of leather for all of the control surfaces. That said, some spots do need more attention. For instance, the engine start button mounted on the steering column looks and feels like an afterthought, and the coarse plastic door handle shrouds aren’t the nicest to touch either.
When it comes to buttons though, no expense was spared, because they’re absolutely everywhere. The centre console is crammed so full of them that the designers forgot to leave room for any adequately sized phone. The button obsessed designers must have had a furious day at the office when they ran out of room for the heated seat controls as they’re only operational from the 8.4-inch infotainment display.
That said, the touchscreen has a well designed interface and the screen is easily visible even in bright situations. It’s hooked up to a loud and capable 6-speaker sound system. Fidelity is lacking on the loud end but after it blows your ear drums out you won’t notice that anyway.
When it comes to storage up front Jeep have had to get creative to make up for the small glovebox and centre console storage bin. They’ve added storage netting on the passenger side of the transmission tunnel and also snuck in a hidden section under the passenger seat cushion.
Even with a drive shaft running the length of the car, there’s no bulky transmission tunnel robbing rear passengers of valuable leg room. Head room back there is also excellent and the dual vents along with both a USB charging port and a 230V 150W traditional power socket will keep the kids happy. The boot provides 438L of storage space even with the seats up, lay them flat and it opens up to a total of 1251L. Under the easy to load and unload flat boot floor lies a full size spare wheel which is sure to take the stress out of long trips and off-road excursions.
Once in the drivers seat you’ll find visibility lacking out the rear and sides, the seating position is naturally high up which does help but you may want to opt for the “Advanced Technology Group” option which includes Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.
With 8-way power adjustment the driver’s seat can be easily setup to find the ideal level of comfort and driving position. The seats aren’t designed to hug you like a glove, there’s enough lateral support for daily driving but too much here would hinder off-road driving where you want the car to undulate beneath so you can steady your upper body and focus on driving without getting your teeth shaken out of your skull.
Lashings of red surround the instrument cluster, shifter gate and speaker trim along with the stitching found on the leather to add colour and personality inside. As the top spec model in the line-up you’d expect a sunroof as standard, instead the Dual Pane Sunroof is a $1,950 optional extra and one that looks well worth it as the interior can be fairly dark thanks to the black leather and high window sills.
When you take the 2.0-litre turbo intercooled direct injection diesel and give it 60 litres of fuel to work with the Compass Trailhawk makes short work of long trips. A full tank will easily get you from Melbourne to Sydney without even acknowledging the existence of any service stations along the way, thanks to the engine’s impressive fuel economy. Rated at 5.7L/100km, we managed 7.4L/100km mostly around town, stretch its legs and expect far better results.
Idle stop/start functionality is included though I found myself turning it off as the system isn’t responsive enough to be seamless and can get in the way occasionally.
The 125kW of power and 350Nm of torque is more than enough but like most diesel engines its hidden away at the deep end of the pedal. You’ve got to work that right foot of yours to unleash it. There’s 9 gears for the automatic gearbox to work its way through which assists with the fuel economy as you’ve always got the right ratio matched to the current situation.
The Compass Trailhawk sits up high with 225mm of ground clearance and rolls around on 60 profile tyres so naturally the ride is soft and comforting on ordinary roads allowing it to blast through all manner of speed bumps. Body roll is noticeable and is to be expected for an off-road orientated suspension setup.
And that’s where the Compass Trailhawk shines. Take it to the rough stuff, lock it in 4WD mode and you’ll be surprised at how easily it gets around. The short overhangs allow you to tackle steep inclines confidently while the hill descent control keeps your speed in check on the way back down. Multiple underbody skid plates have been fitted to stop the ground fighting back as you trample all over it in comfort. And this is why the Compass Trailhawk is such an impressive machine, it’s able to pull off the day to day chores expected of an SUV and when it needs to slip on some boots and get stuck in to real work it’s got the tools available to get the job done.
There’s no lack of features on the Compass Trailhawk that we tested but of course our model came optioned up from the factory with a few more bells and whistles than standard. Out of the box you get dual zone climate control, a reversing camera, speed limited cruise control, bi-xenon headlights, daytime running lamps, satellite navigation, electric parking brake, automated steering parking assistance, DAB+ radio, auto headlights/wipers and tyre pressure monitoring.
Our model came with the optional “Advanced Technology Group” and “Comfort and Convenience Group” which for $2,450 and $2,850 respectively bumped up the spec list even further.
Advanced Technology Group – $2,450
- Lane Departure Warning Plus
- Full Speed Forward Collision Warning Plus
- Exterior Mirror Courtesy Light
- Power Tailgate
- Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop & Go
- Automatic Highbeam
- Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Path Detection
Comfort & Convenience Group – $2,850
- Leather Seats
- Power 8-Way Driver Seat Adjustability with Lumbar
- Driver Seat Memory
- Heated Front Seats
- Passive Entry
- Push Button Start
- Remote Start
We find it hard to digest that a top spec model is holding top spec features hostage as part of an options pack. The high starting price of the Compass Trailhawk means that after maxing out the options list it starts to creep into the price bracket of its one-class larger sibling, the Cherokee Trailhawk.
Design and Comfort: 8.0/10
Performance and Handling: 7.5/10
Equipment and Features: 7.0/10
The Jeep Compass Trailhawk offers that which it’s rivals simply can’t, true off-road capability, and it accomplishes this without sacrificing features or road manners. It’s as impressive off-road as it is on-road. Considering its premium over other ‘domesticated’ urban-only crossovers, it’s no doubt a niche buy. But if you’re after such a thing, the Compass Trailhawk is a compelling package.
- Capable and efficient powertrain
- True 4WD capability
- Comfortable and practical
- Lack of storage up front
- Visibility lacking
2018 Jeep Compass Trailhawk Pricing and Specification
|Price (Excl. on-road costs):||From: $44,750|
As tested: $50,645
|Warranty:||5 Years/100,000 Kilometers|
|Country of Origin:||USA. Manufactured in India|
|Service Intervals:||12 months/20,000km|
|Engine:||2.0-litre turbocharged intercooled direct injected 4-cylinder, diesel engine:|
125kW @ 3,750rpm, 350Nm @ 1,750rpm
|Transmission:||9 speed automatic|
|Drivetrain:||4X4 Dual Range|
|Power to Weight Ratio (W/kg):||77.1|
|Turning Circle Radius:||10.76m|
|0-100km/h (s)||Claimed: 9.7|
|Combined Fuel Consumption (L/100km):||Claimed: 5.7 / Tested: 7.4|
|Fuel Capacity (L):||60|
|Body:||5-door SUV, 5 seats|
|Safety:||5-star ANCAP, 7 Airbags, Reverse Camera, Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Hill Start Assist, Automatic High Beam, Adaptive Cruise Control, Parking Sensors Front/Rear, Collision Warning, Hill Descent Control, Lane Departure Warning, Anti-Lock Braking System, Brake Assist, Traction Control, Trailer Sway Control, Rollover Stability Control, Stability Control, Electronic Brake Force Distribution.|
|Dimensions (L/W/H/W-B) mm:||4398/1819/1657/2636|
|Tare Weight (kg):||1,621|
|Entertainment:||8.4-inch Infotainment System, 6 speakers, GPS Satellite Navigation, DAB+, Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth, USB and AUX|
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