Originally an all-purpose vehicle during the Second World War, the new Jeep Compass maintains its status as the master of city and country, motorway and mountain
Stateside, the humble SUV and Jeep motif intersperse the traffic with authority. The Jeep is a nickname derived from the General Purpose or ‘GP’ version that went into production in the US in 1941 and was used during the Second World War. The term was trademarked two years later and has since been inherently tied to this kind of special exploration vehicle, and influenced the design of many other international sports utility brands.
This year Jeep launches its latest family member: the new Compass. A more compact version of the chunkier Wrangler and Cherokee models, it is still very much in keeping with the adventure-driven soul of the Jeep, but with a sophisticated nip and tuck to the profile. The Compass Limited is the model at the top of the range and the one I decide to test drive.
Hitting unlock on the key fob and watching the eyes of this road-roving animal light up must be one of the most pleasurable reasons to own one. The tall, well-shaped physique of the body is modelled in clay, a Jeep tradition. The Compass also adds classic high wheel arches, LED rear tail lights and a sleeker version of Jeep’s recognisable sweeping seven-section front grille, giving this car serious presence on the road even when stationary.
Inside, the manual six-speed gearbox slides into go. Sitting comfortably on the plush man-made leather seats it’s obvious that there’s been a sharp improvement in interiors. For colder days there’s even rapid-warming seats and a heated steering wheel. And it’s spacious enough for four adult passengers to fit comfortably; wellies and wine well-stacked in the hands-free, auto-opening boot.
We cruise through late night London, over Westminster Bridge and along the Embankment, heading further east towards Suffolk, our journey’s end. The external handling and response is assertive and firm, which has been made ever easier, thanks in no small part to Apple CarPlay. The Compass glides steadily like a powerful Friesian horse under pedal-tapping feet.
Out of London, the traffic easing off, we continue on the motorway. Under low-lit streetlamps, here the Compass shows its long-haul journey prowess after being fairly nifty in heat map traffic. Once we are up to speed, after a little hesitation in lower gears, we continue sprightly on our way.
The Compass can climb gracefully up the sharpest of inclines
State-of-the-art sensory ‘lane departure’ means I’m automatically nudged back into my tracks should I steer outside of my fast-paced path. Intelligent forward collision control will also warn me through onwards-road-monitoring if I’m too close to anyone else – and will even, when required, apply the brakes for me.
The in-car app Uconnect plots my journey and tells me I’m doing a green-coloured 90 per cent great. It monitors acceleration levels, braking and overall power usage (particularly interesting data if you’re off-roading). After three hours on the road, reaching the most northerly part of Suffolk through winding lanes, this makes for reassuring news.
Next on this weekend’s test drive, we ask the sat-nav to take us for lunch. Crowd-pleasing surround sound is chosen as we venture nearer our country watering hole. Parked up and hungry, we pile into the pub, leaving the Compass to survey the village view. Two seconds later I receive a notification on my phone telling me my car’s parking location has been marked in Maps. Very clever, Compass.
When we return, bellies full of roasted salmon and venison, the dashboard’s digital voice alerts us that ‘there may be ice on the road’. Further outdoor afternoon activity is aborted, although the English snowflakes don’t quite justify implementing ‘snow mode’. Rest assured, though, that the Compass can climb, navigate and steer most gracefully over, up and down the sharpest of inclines and surfaces.
On our journey back to London, our drive remains smooth and calm – passengers softly sleeping through the relentless foggy rain – and yet we power comfortably on. The Compass succeeds as a suitable ride for escapades in both the city and the country. And it’s certainly robust enough as its original iteration, for any war-like family battles.