- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 13, 2006

I doubt there is an individual in North America who doesn’t know that the Jeep brand name means rugged and capable. From the Jeep’s reputation in WWII to its conquering some of the world’s most torturous off-road environments Jeeps have become renowned for their abilities in extreme conditions.

Today, the new car market is changing as are the philosophies of automotive manufacturers. Jeep is no different then any other, so they are looking toward expanding their appeal with vehicles such as the Compass.

At one time the folks at the top of the Jeep management ladder stated every Jeep would be “Trail Rated.” Meaning every vehicle would be capable of handling the riggers of the Rubicon trail, a 10-mile trek through some of the worst conditions found in North America. As the desires and needs of car buyers changed it opened the way for vehicles such as the Compass. Do not be mislead, the Compass is a very capable vehicle.

During my test of this Jeep I encountered high speed interstates, winding country roads and even off-road conditions.

All this

proved that while the Compass wouldn’t be practical on the Rubicon Trail, it sure handled every condition I threw its way without a stumble. And, if the vehicle could handle all of this it sure could handle the daily routine of the typical American family.

Design is more aerodynamic than expected of the traditional sport utility. Paying close attention to wind resistance to help in stretching fuel economy, the Compass front end is sleek, attractive and lowers wind noise in the passenger compartment.

Both front and rear fenders create muscular bulges that lend an image of being incredibly strong and capable. The rear windows offer good visibility and a large rear tailgate opens to revel an expansive cargo storage area. Which, brings up one important surprise the Compass resented; the amount of room offered was a pleasant revelation.

For me it starts with getting the driver’s seat in the proper position, then I move to the rear seat directly behind. I do this with every car I test for it is an excellent assessment on how a particular vehicle will fit a family’s life. The Compass passed with room to spare. Not a lot of room granted, but I and my twin could be happy to travel in this Jeep.

The happy traveling was compounded by the comfortable driving characteristics exhibited by the design. Power comes from an engine that is part of the DaimlerChrysler world engine program, which is meant to be a global power plant.

The 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine produces 172 horsepower and 165 lb-ft. of torque. Perhaps it isn’t the most powerful available, but achieves the objective of being smooth in application, fuel efficient and small in packaging.

I have been under-whelmed by the new Continuously Variable Transmissions (CVT) finding their way into some vehicles. However, the one used in the Compass shows that the technology is coming along quite rapidly.

Jeep purists will say that this direction is beyond the personality of what Jeep stands for. However, forward thinking individuals still rule the day and if they need to build vehicles such as compass to keep the ability to produce the kind of Jeep vehicles that can conquer the Rubicon then I am happy to encourage them to do so.

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