If you’re short on torches and pitchforks, I know a guy.
That’s a disingenuous offer, really, because the 2011 Jeep Compass is actually pretty decent. As has been the trend recently, Jeep spent what little money it had on fixing the bits that needed it most.
The first thing to go was the old mug. Where the styling of the original Compass was something of a caricature of Jeeps of old that exacerbated its lacking off-road credibility, the 2011 looks pretty good with its mini-Grand Cherokee face. Unfortunately, Jeep didn’t make it much past the A-pillars and the rest looks about the same, save new LED taillights and some new wheels.
Jeep didn’t get far inside, either, where most of the Rubbermaid interior remains. It’s been augmented by new seat cloth and some soft-touch materials on armrests and such, and nav-equipped models get updated software with easy-to-use Garmin-based navigation. The interior otherwise is the same, with good outward visibility, decent cargo space, and cramped rear seats.
We can forgive that, though, since the real money was spent where you can’t see it. The 2011 Compass is now available with Freedom Drive II, the second and more-capable generation of the Compass’ all-wheel-drive system. When so equipped, the now-Trail Rated Compass gets a 1-inch lift in ride height to an impressive 8.4 inches (0.3 inches more than the rear axle of a Jeep Liberty), 17-inch wheels with all-terrain tires, skidplates, tow hooks, a full-size spare, and, most importantly, a second-generation continuously variable transmission with low range. For that, you give up manual shifting ability on the CVT, but it’s a worthy trade.
Drop the Compass into Low and pull the 4WD Lock handle, which locks the center differential at a 50/50 front/rear power split, and the pulleys in the CVT will be locked into a 19:1 ratio for maximum crawling power. It will also automatically engage Hill Descent Control and Brake Traction Control and disengage traction control.
The result is a surprisingly capable Compass. On a test drive outside Jackson, Wyoming, the Compass was able to keep up with the rest of the Jeep lineup on moderately difficult snow-covered trails that saw steep descents, rocky riverbeds, and muddy hill climbs, even if it had to make a few runs at some obstacles.