2008 Compass New Car Test Drive
The Jeep Compass is a car-based vehicle that's enjoyable to drive and comes with a choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. First introduced as a 2007 model, the Compass is built on a front-wheel-drive, car-based structure, a modified version of the platform that supports the Mitsubishi Lancer and Jeep Patriot.
One way to measure the value of the Compass might be to compare it to the trusty Jeep Cherokee that was enormously popular for 18 years and finally ended its run in 2001. The Compass is slightly bigger and much more comfortable than the Cherokee was 10 years ago, though without as much off-road capability.
The Jeep Compass uses DaimlerChrysler's 2.4-liter, four-cylinder World Engine, developed jointly for 21st century efficiency with Mitsubishi and Hyundai. It's a solid, sophisticated, 16-valve engine. Like other new four-cylinder engines, it is quieter and stronger than a four-banger was believed capable of being 10 years ago. It features electronic variable valve timing that continually changes the torque curve, bringing more versatility to the 165 peak pound-feet of torque, and more capability to the 172 peak horsepower. Emphasis during development of this engine was on fuel mileage; even carrying 3326 pounds, the Compass 4WD with a five-speed manual transmission delivers EPA fuel economy estimates of 22/27 mpg City/Highway.
The Jeep Compass offers an optional continuously variable transaxle, which performs like an automatic transmission. The CVT comes with the Auto Stick manual shiftgate feature for 2008. The Auto Stick enables the driver to shift up and down over six preset gear ratios, making it feel like a six-speed gearbox without a clutch pedal.
Also new for 2008, Jeep has recalibrated the engine and transaxle for improved drivability and reduced noise. Chrome interior accents brighten the 2008 models, and air conditioning and a tire-pressure monitor are standard equipment.
The safety, ride and handling of the Compass are all excellent, with a strong steel structure and well-planned subframe. Side-curtain airbags and electronic stability control with anti-rollover sensors are standard. Power windows and power door locks are optional, however. Remember manual door locks? Some cannot.
Inside, the Compass is thoughtfully designed. The instruments and controls are well placed and easy to use, though the materials feel cut rate. There's good interior space all around, with rear seats that fold flat to make about 54 cubic feet of cargo space. Options for added versatility include reclining rear seats and a passenger front seat that also folds flat, creating either a table or eight-foot-long space for storage.
The Jeep Compass comes as two models, Sport and Limited, each with front-wheel drive (2WD) or all-wheel drive (AWD). The standard engine is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that makes 172 horsepower and 165 pound-feet of torque. It comes standard with a five speed manual transmission or a CVT automatic ($1100) with Auto Stick manual shiftgate. A 2.0-liter four-cylinder is available as a $200 credit option for the Sport. It makes 158 hp and 141 pound-feet of torque and only comes with the CVT.
The 2WD Sport ($16,475) and AWD Sport ($18,225) come standard cloth upholstery; air conditioning; outside-temperature indicator; AM/FM/CD stereo with auxiliary audio jack; vinyl load floor; center console sliding armrest with cell phone or MP3 pocket; 60/40 split rear seat; tilt steering column; fog lamps; roof rails; and P215/60R17 tires on aluminum wheels. The Quick Order Package ($2,125) adds power windows and locks and keyless remote entry; cruise control; YES Essentials cloth upholstery; height-adjustable driver's seat; fold-flat front passenger seat; reclining split folding rear seat; map lights; removable and rechargeable interior lamp; floor mats; rear privacy glass; and a 115-volt power outlet.
Options include a 6CD player with MP3 ($320); sunroof ($800); heated front seats ($250); Security and Cargo Convenience Group ($695) including auto-dimming rearview mirror, vehicle information center, universal garage door opener, alarm, and a tonneau cover; Trailer Tow Prep Package ($250) with engine oil cooler, full-size spare tire, and wiring harness; and a nine-speaker Boston Acoustics sound system ($795) featuring Sirius satellite radio, a leather wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, and speakers in the liftgate that can blast the crowd at tailgate parties.
The 2WD Limited ($20,505) and AWD Limited ($22,255) add leather-trimmed and heated front bucket seats; height-adjustable driver's seat with lumbar adjustment; fold-flat front passenger seat; reclining rear seat; leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls; cruise control; Sirius satellite radio; power windows, mirrors and locks; remote keyless entry; electronic vehicle information center; auto-dimming rearview mirror; universal garage door opener; floor mats; and P215/55R18 tires. The front and rear fascia and side moldings have shiny aluminum accents.
Options for the Limited include the Sport options, plus its own Security and Cargo Convenience Group ($495) with daytime running lights, alarm, cargo cover, and Jeep's UConnect wireless cell phone link; chrome-plated 18-inch aluminum wheels ($825); the Boston Acoustics sound system ($495); and a DVD-based navigation system with six-disc CD changer ($1,395). A Rallye Group for Sport ($1,985) and Limited ($1,850) includes driving lamps, a rear stabilizer bar, rear spoiler, bright exhaust tip, and Mopar body trim; for Sport, it also adds P215/55R18 tires on aluminum wheels.
Safety features that come standard on all models include dual front air bags; head-protecting curtain side air bags; tire-pressure monitor; antilock brakes with brake assist (which applies more brake force than the driver is applying if sensors determine it's needed in a panic stop); traction control; and electronic stability control with rollover mitigation. Torso-protecting side-impact air bags for front-seat occupants are optional ($250) and we recommend them.