A night before the show floors at the Los Angeles motor show could go live, I got a glimpse at the new Jeep Compass in the flesh. It's a stunning SUV, embodying almost everything its larger sibling the Grand Cherokee offers. And I have little doubt that its debut in the Indian market will create a stir, the likes of which no American brand has witnessed in a long time. And that excitement will not be just because of the way it looks, it is a very attractive SUV, but also because of its price. The Jeep Compass is expected to be launched in the Rs 25 lakh segment, give or take a couple of lakhs here and there depending on the trim levels. That price could be the deciding factor cementing Jeeps long term intentions for the Indian market.
Just a few months ago Jeep launched the Wrangler and Grand Cherokee but given India's steep duty structure, pricing was steeper than anticipated and that put it at the receiving end of a lot of negative feedback. The Jeep Compass could set things right for this American SUV manufacturer whose association with India dates back to World War 2 when it gave rights to manufacture its CJ line of Jeeps to Mahindra. Today however the Jeep brands association is stronger with Mahindra than it is with the original company. However the Compass could change all that.
The Compass has several aspects that could work positively in its favor. One, it's a striking SUV with strong design cues and a muscular stance that should appeal strongly to us. It is without a doubt the handsomest SUV to emerge in this segment. Head of design, Mark Allen, worked towards making a smaller more compact version of the Grand Cherokee, Jeep's largest selling SUV globally. And the team have succeeded in pulling it off. From the slim headlamps to the seven slat grille enveloped in black mirror finish plastic surrounds, to the wide and tall rear, the Jeep Compass looks like a shrunken Grand Cherokee. And yet it also has its own distinct identity. At just 4.4 metres in length it is not going to benefit from any tax breaks but those dimensions give it a commanding stance. Clearly the Compass will target SUVs like the Hyundai Creta, and even the Fortuner and Tuscon.
Interiors are spiffy and also one of the best I have seen on an SUV in this segment. Taut lines, soft touch surfaces and strong highlights give it a very sophisticated and upmarket air. Space is decent with generous room for 5 passengers. A 40:20:40 split offers loads of seating and luggage carrying options that should enhance practicality.
At the time of launch Jeep will offer just a diesel engine, this will in all probability be the 2.0-litre Multijet. This engine comes mated to both 6-speed manual and 9-speed automatic transmissions. In addition Jeep may also offer the 2WD drivetrain in addition to the 4WD configuration. The 4x4 Jeep Compass offers a drive selector called Selec-terrain, it allows you to choose a variety of driving modes to find traction on snow, sand or mud. It also has an auto mode that uses sensors to determine the surface condition and choose the optimum drive mode needed. The Jeep Compass Trailhawk edition additionally offers a 4-low drive mode that provides optimal traction over rocky surfaces, but Jeep India may not offer that edition for India. The drivetrain seamlessly shifts between FWD and AWD as per the driving conditions and if needed can also transfer a 100 percent of torque to the rear wheels.
All-new 2017 Jeep Compass Limited
There will be three variants on offer, starting off with the base Sport, then the mid-range Longitude and at the top will sit the Limited. The Sport and Longitude variants will offer 220mm ground clearance with a 30 degree approach and 34 degree departure angle. The Limited however will have slightly lesser ground clearance and different approach / departure angles because of a sportier front lip that reduces ground clearance.
Nonetheless, Jeep promises loads more excitement with the Compass. It's got the potential to upset a lot of established brands and create a whole new audience for itself. And considering India will be a critical export hub for all RHD markets such as South East Asia and Australia among others, the Compass is already on a winning trajectory.