The Jeep Compass has been reworked for 2011. While some vehicles get updated after a few years on the market just to keep their styling fresh, 2011 represents an entire change in direction for the Compass. This is now a proper Jeep.
When the Compass first appeared in 2007, it was marketed as a Jeep for an urban lifestyle. It was a vehicle that shared design cues and a few components with the off-road vehicles in the lineup, but it carried a suspension designed to stay on pavement. The original Compass was the only vehicle in Jeep's entire lineup not to be badged with its trademark Trail Rated certification -- a designation created by Jeep to meet off-road standards. This 'Jeep for the city' attitude was not a sales success, and now the 2011 model will try and correct the Compass' initial mistakes.
Jeep's largest step in turning the Compass into a proper SUV/crossover is by offering the Freedom Drive II Off-Road Package. This makes the Compass a true 4x4 with low-range capabilities. Freedom Drive II also comes with 17-inch all-terrain tires, a one-inch raised ride height, a full-size spare tire, skid plates, tow hooks, fog lamps and manual seat height adjuster. This package now certifies the Compass as Trail Rated according to Jeep's standards.
The Compass needs more than just a suspension and drivetrain upgrade to be properly welcomed into the trail running side of the Jeep family. The Jeep Patriot is the Compass' fraternal twin, and the Patriot has been Trail Rated since its introduction. So when changing the Compass, Jeep not only needed to give it off-road capabilities, but the Compass also needed a distinct personality to stop it from cannibalizing its sibling.
Now that Jeep's original on-road/off-road strategy does not work for the Compass/Patriot twins, the company seems to be positioning them to go after two different types of Jeep customers. For 2011, Patriot has been updated to carry the attitude and appearance for a more extreme sports crowd found in the Wrangler. The 2011 Compass has been reborn to go after a more luxury-minded SUV buyer.
The obvious inspiration for the exterior styling on the 2011 Compass is Jeep's new Grand Cherokee. Jeep is even happy to point out this resemblance, as the Grand Cherokee is the most luxurious SUV in its lineup. In total, the 2011 Compass receives a new hood, new front fenders, new fascia/grille, new headlamps, revised side bodywork, new rear fascia, new rear bumper, and LED tail lamps, all mimicking the lines of the Grand Cherokee. On the practical side, these new panels also include lower body cladding for protection during off-road use, and they likely have better approach and departure angles than the old Compass.
Just like the Patriot's engine lineup, the Compass' two four-cylinder units carryover from the previous year. The 2.0-liter engine makes 158 hp and 141 lb-ft of torque, and the 2.4-liter puts out 172 hp and 166 lb-ft of torque. Both of these engines can deliver 23 city/29 highway mpg depending on options. The maximum tow rating remains at 2,000 pounds, which means the Compass will be able to haul small loads and trailers.
Inside the Compass is greatly benefiting from Chrysler/Jeep's campaign to improve interior quality. Although the greatest visual change for 2011 is just a new three-spoke steering wheel with integrated controls, the feel of the materials has likely improved significantly. Jeep is now using materials that are softer to the touch in areas such as the door inserts, center armrest, and cloth front seats. Standard interior features include air conditioning, power windows, power locks, power/heated exterior mirrors, keyless entry, cruise control and tinted glass.
Jeep has not yet announced pricing for the 2011 Compass that hits showrooms later this month. If Jeep can stay close to the 2010 model's $15,365 base price, it may find plenty of buyers who want a little piece of Grand Cherokee styling at budget pricing. At the same time, if Jeep can keep the Compass from stealing customers away from the Patriot, then Jeep may have finally found an appropriate home for the Compass.