Blinding flashes of lightning, loud drumrolls of thunder . . . and then comes the lashing rain. It rains so hard, there’s soon a call to abandon ship. “It’s starting to flood. Leave the office.” But while the others race out, I’m not in so much of a hurry. In my pocket are the keys to the new Jeep Compass TrailHawk. Now, 483mm of water-wading depth isn’t all that much in the grander scheme of things, but it is better than most SUVs, and the TrailHawk also has its air intake moved higher up, its low-lying electrical bits sealed, and Jeep has even plugged most of the drains on the floor.
SMOOTH DIESEL: BS6 diesel is now much smoother and more silent, especially under load.
This is why I can take a chance with the rising water levels, and only head out when the traffic’s reduced. And then, just to be safe, I take the long way home. Must say, this is a heck of a way to start my association with the most hardcore Compass yet. It’s almost dark when I finally get going. Climbing behind the wheel is a bit more of a stretch due to the higher ground clearance on the TrailHawk. Once inside, all I need to tell me that Jeep has made this cabin more upmarket is a cursory glance. The all-black soft-touch trim is just stunning, the red highlights actually work quite well without looking garish, and that tough, built-to-last feel is there in spades too. The larger touchscreen now seems to work much better due to the new software, and the leather-lined cabin delivers a high-quality feel as well. The TrailHawk, however, still doesn’t get powered seats – a miss at this price – and while that panoramic roof is just stunning, it still remains an optional extra at Rs 70,000.
GOING LOW: Low-range transfer case and new 9-speed auto combine to give serious off-road ability.
As I set off, I’m immediately impressed by the big jump in refinement over our earlier long-termer. There’s a hush in the cabin that wasn’t there before, and with the better insulation, I also notice that the BS6 diesel is also a lot smoother. Some pools of water still exist on the road but the Compass just glides through them. Of course, I remain cautious, knock the automatic gear lever into manual and make sure I cross all of them, gearbox locked in second and on a steady throttle.
UP THE CREEK: No paddleshifters for the new 9-speed automatic gearbox; it’s something we miss.
Then there’s the improved ride. Where the earlier Compass all but muscled its way through potholes and metaphorically beat them into submission, this new one has a more supple setup that allows it to just glide over most imperfections.
As the roads open out, and I get a chance to put my foot down on the long elevated bridges that form the backbone of Mumbai, it doesn’t take long to notice that the BS6 engine isn’t as responsive as the earlier one. Yes, the amount of turbo lag at low engine speeds seems to have reduced and the motor is clearly a whole lot smoother, but this feels a lot more relaxed too. And then there’s the 9-speed automatic gearbox, which also isn’t too quick on the draw.
MUSCLE POWER ONLY: Manual seat controls on a car that costs Rs 27.60 lakh; not nice and difficult to justify.
Of course, when I get aggressive with the throttle, the Compass leaps up and comes alive immediately, and then performance is almost as strong as the manual. And what makes the drive nicer still is that the gearbox has a manual mode too; this makes shifting gears much nicer. This car will make for a great companion on a long drive, that’s for sure. And what I’m also keen to do with the TrailHawk is make full use of its greater off-road ability and low range. The TrailHawk, after all, is Trail-Rated and comes with Falken WildPeak H/T tyres that are well-suited to both, highway and off-highway use. The search for the right trail starts here.