Jeep Compass Trailhawk Driven: Found its balls!

When the Compass Trailhawk made its grand debut a few years ago, we called it the compass we all wanted! It offered promising off-road credentials, and finally an automatic transmission for a class of SUV that was begging for one. But it also dropped some features from the existing top models and asked for a big step up in price for all the extra bits. Then the rest of the range was updated with more features as well as the 9-speed autobox, and frankly the Trailhawk lost its luster and a solid reason to buy one. The New Trailhawk is now fully loaded and just as capable, but will it be more desirable too?

Bright feathers

The differences to the Trailhawk are subtle, but the main differences are more in line with the refresh that took place with the rest of the Compass range. So the Trailhawk gets a new grill, hood decal with Trailhawk branding in bright red, and the DRLs have been moved from above the fog lights to above the new headlights. Another even more subtle but significant change is the front and rear bumpers which have allowed Jeep to improve the approach and departure angles even more. A change in ride height has also allowed the Jeep to get a better break across the angle in the equation.

Specifications for track rated

Old

New

Approach angle

26.5°

30°

Breakover angle

21.2°

24°

Departure angle

31.6°

34°

Greater visual impact on the side profile comes from the all-new design of the 17-inch alloys shod with Falken Wildpeak H/T tires more suited to the action our urban SUVs see on a daily basis; however, if you want to explore the capabilities of the 4×4 Trail Rated badge on the Trailhawk, consider switching to some A/T tires.

As before, the signature elements of the Trailhawk variant are the aforementioned 4×4 Trail Rated badging, red-accented compass badging on the front doors, another Trailhawk badging on the tailgate and a red-colored toe hook in the rear bumper.

The Trailhawk also gets the usual durable plastic cladding, which runs around the entire car rather than the body-coloured cladding found on some of the regular variants. We think this looks a little cooler and more

Fully charged

So while the changes on the outside weren’t a huge departure from the Trailhawk before it, on the inside, this SUV has seen a big change. The previous Trailhawk was pared down a bit, losing out on things like automatic windscreen wipers and automatic headlights, and the front seats weren’t powered compared to the existing range-topping model. This time, the Trailhawk gets exactly the same touch of finesse as the S variant. So the power front seats are now cooled, the automatic headlights and wipers are present and it even gets the lovely panoramic sunroof that we loved in the Limited Plus and S variants. Other amenities include dual-zone climate control, 9-speaker audio setup, 6 airbags and 360-degree camera to name a few highlights.

As for the rest of the interiors, they are the same as the regular Compass with reasonable space and comfort and a useful 408-litre boot.

Capable on and off road

The Trailhawk, unlike other off-road-focused SUVs, drives a lot like the regular Compass—and that’s a good thing. Since the engine and transmission are mostly the same, we’ll start with what differs the most from the regular Compass. The suspension has been tuned to protect from the road but it hasn’t seemed to affect the performance on the road that much. There’s a hint of stiffness over small bumps and imperfections at speeds above 40-50km/h, but you’d literally have to drive the two cars back-to-back to really point out any differences. On slower city crawls, the Compass rides nice and smooth and is quite adept at going over larger bumps and speed breakers without complaint.

As we mentioned earlier, the 170bhp, 350Nm engine is the same as the regular diesel car fitted to the Compass, save for a gearbox change to give the Trailhawk a very low 1st gear. This means that in most normal driving modes the car starts in 2nd gear, and only when you switch to 4×4 lock and 4×4 rock mode does it engage in 1s.

The steering is on the firm side but perfectly manageable in the city. However, the brake pedal could do with a little more feel. The initial bite is there but quicker stops require more pressure on the pedal and are something to get used to.

On the road, the engine is smooth with plenty of range. The shifts are also smooth during normal driving, but if you rush the gearbox, like other 9-speed gearboxes, it feels a bit sluggish to shift.

Off-road, the Trailhawk feels easy with the shorter 1st gear capable of climbing fairly steep rocky slopes, and the downhill control works like a charm when climbing down them. It feels reasonably capable of taking you to your farmhouse, into the woods for an adventure, and is even happy to cruise down any highway without batting an eyelid. That said, more focussed off-roaders like the Thar and Ghurka and Wrangler with fancier locking differentials, or just dedicated low-end gearboxes, are most likely to go further off the beaten path. But they won’t be as comfortable on the road.

Judgment

When the first trailhawk was launched, the price was a big step up to over two lakhs. This time, we expect it to be a much smaller step up, around a lakh over the existing S, but that means it will still cross the 30 lakh mark.

In this avatar, the Trailhawk feels complete, giving you all the premium SUV experience and bragging rights of the trail-branded brand. More importantly, it justifies the premium better. But you still have to prioritize its additional off-road capabilities over the standard 4×4 Compass, which frankly isn’t sloppy either. For most, the 4×4 S would be enough, but if you’re the sort who must have the Pro Maxes, the Ultras of the world, then the Trailhawk might be for you.

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