Can The 2023 Jeep Compass Go Off-Road?
The 2023 Jeep Compass is all-new, riding on a platform not yet shared with any other Jeep or Stellantis product, executives say.
All Compass models come with 4x4 drivetrains and a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder.
The crossover feels like it would be comfortable in daily driving suburban life, while the Trailhawk, with all-terrain tires, can do fairly well on desert dirt.
When you think of Jeeps out on the trail, you almost certainly think of Wranglers, those rough riders of the Rubicon that can go anywhere, crawl up anything, and clamber over rocks of all sizes. But the far-more civilized, compatible cruiser for everyday livin’ is the Jeep Compass, and while it handles suburban comforts with aplomb, it can also manage to drive up steep-ish dirt hills and then get back down again confidently.
That was the biggest surprise takeaway after a day’s drive in the new 2023 Jeep Compass. At a private ranch in the Malibu Hills, freshly rutted and muddy after weeks of rare California rain, I got to drive up and down a steep set of dirt trails in a 4x4 Compass Trailhawk with all-terrain tires and came away convinced that in such a rig I could drive out into the mighty Mojave desert and quite likely drive back again, the better for the experience.
The Compass debuted in 2006 and caused a bit of outrage because it could not cross the Rubicon, that famous Jeep trail of giant granite boulders in the Sierra Nevada Mountains that leads from the western foothills all the way up to Lake Tahoe.
And while the Compass couldn’t manhandle the mountains as well as the Wrangler, it was far more capable of handling the everyday needs of customers who found themselves in Greater Suburbia most of the time.
This 2023 model is the third generation of Jeep Compass, and it keeps getting better every time. Last year Jeep introduced a new “modern, spacious interior” and added more of the connectivity buyers seek, as well as two Jeep 4x4 systems and “Selec-Terrain” traction management to get the Compass through at least the occasional off-road adventure.
“This has been a two-step process that began in 2022, where we redesigned the Jeep Compass from the inside out,” said Scott Tallon, product director for Jeep in North America. “We completely gutted the interior, so when you get into Compass today, the first thing you’ll notice is its striking interior—it’s very beautiful, aesthetically very pleasing on the eye. The designers did a great job using mixed materials and different color combinations to create a premium feel for the inside of the Compass instead of just a sea of darkness.”
Jeep didn't ever describe the previous Compass interior as “a sea of darkness,” at least not in ads, but ok. This one does have nice contrasting colors and materials, for sure.
The dash has a 10.25-inch fully configurable driver’s information center and a next-generation 10.1-inch Uconnect infotainment screen. Tallon says both are “best in class.” The new screens are standard in all five Compass models, as are wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Wireless phone charging is also available. Inside is 100 cubic feet of passenger space and almost 60 cubic feet for cargo.
Outside is all-new, too. The first-gen Compass, from 2006-2016, was about as bland as bland could be. When that model was first redone in 2017, it got a lot better. This new one is downright attractive.
“The styling was a big part of what attracted consumers to begin with,” said Tallon. “So, over the course of these years, we continue to enhance and change the styling. We’ve modified the front end, changed the finishes, the headlamps, the grill, the lower facia, and the liftgate.”
The drivetrain is all-new, at least in the Compass. For 2023, all Compass trim levels are powered by Jeep’s 2.0-liter direct-injection turbocharged four-cylinder engine. You will also find that powerplant in the Wrangler, Grand Cherokee, Cherokee, and lots of other Stellantis products. It delivers 200 hp and 221 lb-ft of torque.
That’s enough to get the Compass from 0 to 60 mph in 7.8 seconds—a second and a half quicker than the previous model. It’ll also tow 2000 pounds, enough to haul your jet skis or a smaller bass boat.
The Compass is designed for city life, and at that it should excel. It offers comfortable roominess in all seating positions, as well as the connectivity today’s buyers demand. The fact that Jeep doesn’t list approach, departure, and breakover angles may say a lot about its real off-road worthiness. But if you get the Trailhawk trim, you get Active Drive Low that adds a respectable 20:1 crawl ratio, while other models get the Jeep Active Drive 4x4 system.
Both systems offer three modes: Active, Snow, and Sand/Mud, while Trailhawk models get a Rock mode. Trailhawk also gets hill-descent control, which applies the brakes to individual wheels for safety going down steep grades. It activates at hills steeper than eight degrees.
There’s also an electronic differential feature that grabs a spinning wheel to transfer torque to the wheel still on the ground. For regular driving to the elementary school pickup lane, the Compass has a fully disconnecting rear axle that will improve gas mileage when you don’t need 4x4 power.
Prices range from $31,590 for the Sport model up to $40,430 for the loaded High Altitude trim. The Trailhawk is $37,835. Get the Trailhawk, and do a little off-roading.
Is it really necessary to have 4-wheel low on a crossover? Has Jeep finally got it right with this latest Compass? Please comment below.