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Trailhawk: Jeep Compass variant has go-anywhere mindset

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If you really want to know what makes the 2018 Jeep Compass Trailhawk different from its brethren, you need look no further than the features that are ONLY available on the Trailhawk version. Understand that Jeep Active Drive (AWD) is optional on all compasses – except the Trailhawk, where it’s standard – and that’s the starting point for everything.

STANDARDS

Jeep Active Drive Low is only used on Trailhawk, where it’s standard. The system has a fully disconnecting front-wheel-drive mode, automatic engagement, and a variable wet clutch in the rear drive module; there is programming for off-road, low-traction, aggressive-launch, and fast-turn driving. The Trailhawk has an impressive 20:1 crawl ratio in low gear. Terrain response for Trailhawk is completely automatic. There is no center differential, and the system can divert full power to a single wheel. Only the Trailhawk has skid plates, which protect the fuel tank, transfer case, transmission, and front suspension.

TERRAIN SELECTION

The Selec-Terrain system provides five modes, which work with the Selec Speed Control and Hill Descent Control systems. The modes are Auto, Snow, Sand, Mud and – only on Trailhawk – Rock.

All modes are controlled by buttons on the console that are legibly labeled and easy to operate. They complement the 8.4-inch touchscreen in the middle of the dash, which intuitively assists in controlling infotainment and navigation functions.

For me, the Trailhawk’s capabilities encourage the driver to find a place to push the limits, get off-road, and find some fun.

POWERTRAIN OPTIONS

Four Compass trim levels are available in your choice of front- or all-wheel drive, three different transmissions, and one engine: a 180-horsepower, 2.4-liter 4-cylinder that delivers 175 lb.-ft. of torque. The four trims are Sport, Latitude, Trailhawk, and Limited.

Standard on the Latitude 4×4, Sport 4×2 and 4×4, is a 6-speed manual gearbox. Jeep’s impressive 9-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode is standard on Trailhawk and Limited, both of which come standard with all-wheel drive.

ON THE ROAD

Understanding the Trailhawk is meant for rough roads, often far away from pavement, it still handles pretty well on the road and delivers a compliant, though somewhat agitated ride with noticeable engine and road noise.

INTERIOR

My Trailhawk tester provided a plentiful 127 cubic feet of interior space. This felt comfortable and offered excellent sightlines to maneuver on and off the road. Though the interior contained a number of plastic trim items, the seats were upholstered in a combination of sturdy cloth that was trimmed in durable leather.

I found the front seats firm and well-bolstered, which plays well for off-roading. The outboard back seats had plenty of head- and knee room and access was easy in and out of the Trailhawk.

My Trailhawk tester had a starting price of $29,690, but with add-ons galore it landed at $33,560. Equipment was extensive, including roll mitigation, front and rear tow hooks, rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot warning, along with navigation, parking assist, satellite radio, remote starting, and a power tailgate. One handy item, especially for adventuresome backwoods boomers, was a full-size spare wheel and tire; though it was steel (not alloy).

For my money, Trailhawk is a winner – providing definitive off-road chops and an exterior look that is stylish and capable of fitting in anywhere pavement may be – or not be.