2019 Jeep Compass Trailhawk first drive review
I wouldn't want to be a part of the product planning team in a car company which needs to update a car that looks great, drives well, has great brand recall and sells reasonably well even after being around for a few years. But the team at Jeep India were in this exact position and their response to that challenge is this, the new top-dog of the Compass range, the 2019 Jeep Compass Trailhawk.
Now if you are in tune with the workings of the car world, you will know that anything with the 'Trailhawk' badge on it means more off-road ability, more specifically low-speed rock crawling ability. So it's only pertinent that we start our test of this new SUV by doing exactly what it says on the cover. On a trail. And here it's very capable and, most endearingly, very easy. The balance and ease with which the Compass Trailhawk handles off-road terrain are one of its two biggest plus points. The suspension absorbs everything thrown at it, the steering is accurate but has a nice shape ideal for positioning it correctly in these situations.
We put it through rock patches, a water crossing, sandy trails, tight gravelly hairpins and some serious declines, and all the new off-road kit made their presence felt. The 26.5 degrees approach, 21.2 degrees break over and 31.6 degrees departure angles allow the Trailhawk to traverse big obstacles without bottoming out. The redesigned narrower alloys with 17-inch Falken all-terrain tyres have been also gripped well, the changes were made to allow for better sidewall protection. Water wading depth has gone up to 483mm as well due to a repositioned air snorkel, 120mm more than before. The new nine-speed torque converter automatic gearbox, easily the other big highlight of this SUV, is also adept in this setting. It keeps the engine on the boil at all times, thanks to it's low 20:1 ratio.
Then there's the new mechanically lockable 4WD system which always seemed to send power to the correct wheel, even if it took a second or so to figure out where to send it. Also new is a 4WD Low setting and a Rock mode, any tricky situation you find yourself in on a trail, this combination will be your go-to solution. Interestingly, the new auto box only slots into first gear in this Low setting, otherwise running only the other eight ratios. And for dealing with some of the massive slopes like we did, there's hill descent control now as well.
It does all this with its own brand of subtle aggression. The Compass' soft but angular styling remains but looks closely and you will notice the new all-black grille, the new front bumper with its quite attractive intakes and honeycomb pattern, the blacked out mirrors and anti-glare decal on the bonnet. We wish the Indian car got the signature red tow hooks at the front, regulations mean we have to settle for just the single one at the rear, but this has a tow rating of 1.5 tonnes so its plenty useful. Rounding these off are the trick Trailhawk badge at the rear and the trail rated badges on the front fenders.
The changes inside are minor but more apparent, thanks to the all-black theme. This looks nice but the sense of space that the standard Compass brought with its ivory/grey dual tone theme is now lost. Other than this, there are red accents all around and Trailhawk signages. In terms of convenience features, the Trailhawk has lost some ground to the Limited Plus, the powered seats, auto headlamps and wipers are now missing. But you still get the panoramic roof, the 8.4-inch infotainment screen and a cruise control system with a speed limiter. Adding to this is a larger, full colour 7 inch MID with info like oil temperature, AdBlue levels, and a reasonably reactive start/stop system.
In Trailhawk guise, the Compass is better as a city car. In urban conditions, aside from slightly hesitant shifts in the first few gears, the nine-speed auto makes for a much easier experience. It solves our biggest bugbear with the manual Compass, that SUV's painful and springy clutch action. The steering is like earlier, light and easy at low speeds but adding heft as speeds build, with some feedback available at all times.
The Trailhawk's gearbox isn't one for the enthusiastic driver. In that sense, there's a disconnect between this and the Compass' spirited handling package, which not only has impeccable bump absorption but also great dynamic ability (the 20mm rise in ground clearance hasn't impacted this in any discernable way). Any sharp throttle inputs see the engine rev out, the gearbox only waking up after this initial surge. But keep inputs smooth and the Trailhawk is a great mile-muncher. The power band isn't the widest but the gearbox makes sure to use the most of it. The gearbox misses out on a sport mode, and there aren't any paddle shifters as well. These might have given more control over this transmissions tendency to rev out the car unnecessarily, especially when some engine braking is needed.
The engine outputs remain unchanged, so it's the same 170PS and 350 Nm, but with slightly more eager throttle response to better deal with this SUV's low-speed use-cases. But 2.0-litre Multijet turbodiesel is now BSVI compliant, a segment-first. Jeep says this engine will have no problems running on BSIV fuel until BSVI fuel becomes available. Owners only need to top-up the 13-litre AdBlue BSVI additive every 7,000 to 10,000 kms. As far as safety is concerned, the Trailhawk remains unchanged. Six airbags, traction control and a hill hold function being highlights.
We've always liked the diesel Jeep Compass for its versatility. It looks good, is well packaged and has something for both the driver and the passenger. The Trailhawk is a new take on this same versatility, given its tremendous ability off-road and the convenient automatic gearbox.
We just wish the new transmission was better tuned. It addresses a big flaw in the standard Compass, but some of the sharpness has been diluted in favour of this new-found ease of use in urban conditions. Having said that, if you're looking for a diesel automatic SUV for roughly Rs 30 lakh on road, you can't do much better than the 2019 Jeep Compass Trailhawk.
Also see: Jeep Compass Trailhawk diesel auto First Drive Video
Starts Rs 15.6 Lakhs
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