Powering the Compass is the same 170bhp 1,956cc Multijet-II turbo-diesel engine, but it is BSVI-compliant now. And although this is the same powerplant, it has been recalibrated. They have reduced the combustion noise, smoothened the initial torque curve from 0-1,750rpm and a full 350Nm of torque is available from 1,750-2,500rpm. It's great off-road, which we got to check it out for ourselves and we will talk about that a little later. But it´s no slouch on-road either with the new nine-speed transmission and the gas pedal calibration that has been changed. So on the road, it feels very relaxing, uses the torque and shifts early. But then, the punchy feel from the manual trim is lost and the sprightly performance has been toned down. The engine is fairly audible post 3,000-3,500rpm, but there's no point in shifting higher up the rev band with such a strong mid-range. Yes, it does rev till 4,500rpm, but even when you back off, it manages to make good progress with momentum. And it’s a lot smoother without having to keep the engine at boil. This should help create a good balance of performance and lower fuel consumption. That we shall ascertain in our road test later.
A little more on what’s new – the nine-speed torque converter automatic transmission. This ZF autobox is very compact and packaged nicely especially if you think about nine gears being fitted in the space for six. This means shortened shifts and reaction times with the ease of shifting. One can shift manually by opting from the shift cog, but you don't get paddle-shifters. However, one doesn't feel the need as the gear shifts feel smooth although with a bit of delay and induces a slight head nod. The steering too has been tuned to Indian driving conditions to offer the right balance of good off-centre feel and a lesser amount of effort to manoeuvre the vehicle, latter of which we mostly experienced off-road. It still doesn't feel loose and weighs up nicely at high speeds.
Now, a Trail Rated badge means business as Jeep believes that it's not given but earned. This is an assurance of Trailhawk's ultimate 4x4 capability tested on parameters of traction, water fording (483mm), manoeuvrability, articulation (ramp travel index 321) and ground clearance. We were given a first-hand experience of all of this, which felt relatively easy thanks to the Trailhawk. There's no limited slip differential, but this Compass use electronics. Also, the Jeep Active Drive System with the help of the Power Transfer Unit ensures that both front and rear axles are moving at the same speed. Now with that thing sorted, Jeep has exclusively provided the Trailhawk with Jeep Active Drive Low. This means one has a selectable low range via a final drive ratio of 4.334 and a crawl ratio of 20:1. In simpler words, a copious amount of torque is supplied for enhanced climbing abilities in the rocky sections and challenging terrains.
Apart from the auto, snow, sand and mud drive modes that control the amount of wheel-spin, the Trailhawk gets a rock mode. Mostly used during off-roading, be it the ditches, river-crossings or even deep ruts, we were not just pushing the car forward but up the slopes as well. We even drove over rocks. This is when we want the maximum amount of torque that can be had onto the rear axle. Paired along with the low range and 4WD lock, the Trailhawk did this effortlessly. Needless to say, a better approach (26.5 degree), departure (31.6 degrees) and breakover angles (21.2 degrees) helped get out of sticky situations unscathed. And finally there's hill descent control too that manages constant throttle and braking without any driver input. Upon its activation, the vehicle could sense that it’s going down a slope and actuated the brakes automatically. We only had to steer the way down.
The all-independent suspension setup and the high tech dampers have resulted in a plush ride. Koni’s FSD (frequency selective damping) is used, which is a little more expensive than conventional ones but they do provide a big benefit. It's vital how quickly that the wheel comes down and stays on the ground. And so, instead of just using the valve body for the rebound damping, Jeep has channels to allow to drop the wheel down rapidly. Faster wheel down means the vehicle also catches its grip quickly. Generally the downside of this is that if it instantly comes down the travel, there will be a clunking noise. However, Jeep has damped the last bit of travel with a hydraulic rebound stop. So even out on the road, going over a speed breaker or coming out of a pothole, there isn't any clunking noise but just a wuff. And it’s supple off-road, so the side-to-side movement is evident but not very dramatic.
Still, this suspension has been tuned to provide a flat ride and straight-line stability too is excellent. We would have loved it if the brakes had a little more bite, nevertheless the dual-purpose tyres shod with Falken all-terrain rubber were a surprise. They did squeal while taking corners, but still provided enough grip to traverse any terrain confidently.