Words Aninda Sardar

There are few words in the world that evoke the spirit of adventure as the word Jeep does. With the Compass Trailhawk, the brand has not only preserved that legacy but actually taken it a step further

To be able to scramble straight down a steep slope, more than 45 degrees, at least three stories high and composed entirely of loose gravel, you’d probably have to be a mountain goat. Or, you could be at the helm of the Jeep Compass Trailhawk cutting a dashing figure as you execute a perfectly controlled slide right down to the bottom of the slope while your passengers hang on for dear life. Well, to be honest, there isn’t much hanging on for anyone to do, because this urban battle ready SUV makes things just as easy once you’re beyond the reach of the concrete jungle. If Jeep has embodied the legacy of an off-road adventure lifestyle since its birth in 1941, the Compass Trailhawk takes the weight of that legacy on its muscular haunches and carries it around with pride.

At Jeep, people walk the torque

Excuse the pun, it was just too good an opportunity to pass on, but you know you’ve walked into a lifestyle gig when you reach an event to introduce a compact SUV and you find at least three people sporting well groomed handlebar moustaches and one completing the huntsman look with a jauntily placed safari hat to boot. The message is clear. We are Jeep. We are about the spirit of adventure and we will wear it on our sleeves with pride. No M S Dhoni gloves jokes here please. Let’s just stick to the sleeves.

Even the technical presentation, led by FCA India top boss Kevin Flynn (brand Jeep is part of the FCA group) turned out to be just that. A technical presentation and not a marketing one disguised as a tech deck. Concise, to the point and with talk of only how the Compass Trailhawk is even better at bringing adventure home than the regular Compass, which is pretty darn capable in its own right. By the end of the crisp short session, we all got out not with our heads bristling with questions left unanswered with a perfunctory “I’ll get back to you” but with an eagerness to drive this compact SUV and put it through its paces the best we could. The fact that we had been promised a proper off-road trail that we would be driving through only heightened that sense of anticipation. Clearly, this wasn’t just about selling a car. No, at Jeep they sell a lifestyle and everything they do tells you that.

It’s a mountain goat with wheels

No, it truly is and gives that whole idea of Go Anywhere a brand new definition. From the regular Compass, which was already a brilliant platform to begin with, the Trailhawk has higher ground clearance, steeper angles of approach and departure and a Rock crawl mode. It also has a straight out of the crate new 9-speed automatic transmission, which makes life easier off-road…on road…pretty much everywhere.

Under the hood, which now has a matte black decal that not only looks cool but also reduces glare from the dashboard on to the windscreen, of our test vehicle was the old 2-litre Multijet diesel engine but in BS VI guise, putting out 170 horses and 350Nm of peak twist. All of this mostly goes to the front wheels but because this Jeep has an intelligent four wheel drive system, power and torque are transferred to whichever wheels have maximum grip. So if the vehicle’s sophisticated computers realise that one of the wheels is spinning freely without any grip, then it simply takes all that power and torque and redistributes it to the other wheels to help the Compass Trailhawk get going.

The good bit about all this electro-mechanical jiggery pokery is it doesn’t disturb the aura of the people inside the compact Jeep. It’s all done seamlessly. It’s so smooth in fact that you don’t get to feel the gear shifts. At all. Which, also contributes to the Jeep’s cabin comfort, because the less noisy BS VI engine coupled with that silky silent gearbox and new all terrain tyres that generate less noise, makes the cabin more silent and relaxed than before. It is something my passenger and I talked about over and over again as we bounced over rocks, splashed through streams and slid down steep descents. That is when we weren’t getting a wheel high up in the air as we tried to get down deep slopes at odd angles that tested the Compass Trailhawk’s wheel articulation to the limits. In fact, if you’re a purist who enjoys the rawness of it all you might find the adventure experience a bit sanitised here. But since we weren’t purists and were more like a couple of happy kids, there was no dearth of excitement for us. Especially when we slid straight down a double dip incline that must have been a few stories high. Not even three hours away from any sign of civilization other than the spotters who were guiding us and fellow Jeep testers, dampened our enthusiasm.

Back on familiar (for us) black top, the compact Jeep proves agile and taut. No sign of nervousness on the twisting and turning black ribbon of a road down from Aamby Valley. It’s pretty easy to drive too and doesn’t feel like a handful when you’re cutting across the urban jungle. Besides, if you’re the outdoorsy sort that likes the whole spirit of adventure gig the Compass Trailhawk is a perfect companion because not only is it an ace off road, it’s also fab when the road reappears.

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