The Compass Trailhawk is not exactly new to India. In 2019, Jeep launched this off-road-focused version here, but when it released the 2021 Compass, it held back the Trailhawk version and instead offered only the standard trims. Now, a year later, the updated Compass gets the Trailhawk version with all the expected off-road bits and a few minor tweaks. How is it?
On the outside, the Trailhawk’s black hood decal gets a striking, stylish red stripe with the “Trailhawk” lettering cut into it; the alloy wheels have a different pattern and the bumper gets a slightly different style, but as before it is cut sharper for a better approach angle.
As before, the higher ride suspension, full undercarriage and red rear towbar are also present; and like the previous Trailhawk, the front tow bar has been deleted due to pedestrian safety standards. The red Trailhawk badge continues to sit on the tailgate, while the Trail Rated 4X4 emblem adorns the fenders.
Unlike the 18-inch wheels on the facelifted Compass, the Trailhawk gets smaller 17-inchers, which offer better damping and rim protection off-road thanks to taller sidewalls. Curiously, the tires are labeled HT (Highway Terrain), but Jeep says these Falken tires are better suited for off-road work.
Inside, the new Trailhawk benefits from the updated Compass’ major interior makeover, getting the new dashboard, standalone 10.1-inch touchscreen, steering wheel and highly customizable 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster that thankfully also includes a nifty twin option for displaying the steering wheel.
Based on top-spec ‘S’ trim, the Trailhawk also gets goodies like a 360-degree camera, which is useful off-road spotting, a large panoramic sunroof and power and ventilated front seats with memory function for the driver’s side. Also, like the regular Compass, the space is not class-leading and the trunk is just about adequate.
Differentiating itself from its siblings, the Trailhawk gets red stitching on the seats, dashboard and steering wheel, with ‘Trailhawk’ embroidered into the seats. What sets it apart, however, is the Rock mode in the selectable driving modes. Interestingly, while the facelifted car had a separate Sand and Mud mode, the updated car – and thus the new Trailhawk – has these combined.
Driving the Trailhawk off-road is quite easy and the Auto mode works well — even locking the rear differential automatically when needed. You can also use the modes manually if you want specific control over the terrain. Snow mode starts the car in higher gears and is extremely gentle with the power, Sand and Mud limits wheelspin to prevent you from digging in with too much wheelspin, while Rock mode allows a little more spin to help you get a foothold on hard ground.
The modes work well, and the compass climbs over pretty much anything you throw at it; traction is good from the tires and power delivery is nice and linear, allowing for good throttle modulation. What makes a difference and sets the Trailhawk apart are the better terrain angles – 30 degrees for approach, 24 degrees for ramp break and 34 degrees for departure. Jeep hasn’t released angles for the new updated Compass, but the facelifted car had a 16.8-degree approach, 22.9-degree ramp break and 31.7-degree departure angle.
Another handy piece of terrain is the 20:1 crawl ratio. Interestingly, while others house the low-ratio in the gearbox – thereby multiplying the torque coming out of the gearbox – the Compass’ low-ratio is built inside the gearbox itself and is effectively the first gear in the box. Thus, for normal driving, the compass starts in the second ratio and gears 2 to 9 are used for normal road driving, first for difficult conditions and when 4low is selected. The advantage of this system is that it creates a more efficient power flow.
Impressively, with the Compass’ off-road prowess is its on-road manners. At low speeds there is a noticeable body shake and the ride is stiff, but it never crashes through potholes and as you go faster the ride just gets better and better. High-speed poise and stability, even over less-than-perfect road surfaces, is truly impressive and confidence-inspiring. The steering feel is impressive and there is a good weight on the steering wheel at high speeds. But at parking speeds, while the effort is acceptable, those who prefer a super light wheel will be disappointed.
The 170 hp, 2.0-liter diesel engine is refined and, together with the 9-speed autobox, provides a smooth driving experience. However, it is not lively and punchy and the gearbox is quite slow to respond, even in manual mode. That’s not to say it’s too low – the power on tap is enough to get you up to speed – but its smooth and linear nature is best suited to riding at a steady pace. Compared to the regular car, the Trailhawk also feels less peppy, no doubt the heavier weight is a factor, which also shows in its claimed fuel efficiency of 14.9 kpl, lower than the 15.3 kpl of the 4X4 ‘S’ trim car.
So which compass should you buy? Should you buy one in the first place? If space is a big priority, look elsewhere, but if you’re looking for a tough, well-equipped SUV that’s a joy to drive both on and off-road, then the Compass should be high on your list. And then, if you really want to hit the road and pick up where the compass leaves off, look towards the Trailhawk.