Labeled a concept at the 2005 Frankfurt Motor Show, the Jeep Compass provided a first look at a thinly veiled near-production soft-roader destined to expand the line-up. While we had to travel around the world for the official unveiling, Jeep has been parading a heavily disguised Compass through the hills near our Los Angeles offices, allowing us to chart its trail to production. Fanatics deny that Jeep would ever allow the tank to hang so low in the rear, but welcome to a new world at the Chrysler Group, where they build Jeeps on Mitsubishi Lancer platforms.
The Compass should run the same 2.4-liter I-4 from the Patriot and Caliber, but we would expect some power massaging beyond the estimated 170 horsepower predicted for the optional sport package. The second-generation continuously variable transmission is also found in the concept Compass, as will be -- we're guessing -- a six-speed manual transmission. This is a completely new segment for Jeep and will be an important test as to whether buyers are interested in a Jeep vehicle that doesn't have some type of trail-rated capabilities. We're told to look for the sporty car-based rally star to compete with Toyota's Scions, the Pontiac Vibe, and Mazda 3, with a considerable price advantage.