Sep 062017
 

On an off-road course, like Moab, UT or California’s Rubicon Trail, Jeep’s reign supreme. Every Jeep offered has the ability to climb rocks, but some are more suited to city driving, like the Compass.

Redesigned for 2017, the small SUV brings more convenience features and an improved on-road experience as well. I recently test drove the 2017 Compass Sport FWD for Latino Traffic Report, and while it didn’t climb any rocks, it did get me through at least one on-road challenge.

The Compass Sport I drove was practically a base model, with a few optional packages. One option I would have passed up, and the most expensive one at $1500, was the six-speed automatic transmission. I would have preferred the standard six-speed manual transmission on the Compact Sport. Jeep also offers a nine-speed automatic for some 4×4 models.

While these transmissions could be matched to a choice of five engines worldwide, in North America, the 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder powers the Compass. The test model had an EPA estimated fuel economy of 22 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. I averaged 25.9 mpg during the weeklong test drive. To stretch fuel efficiency further, the engine cuts off at idle but it also tends to weaken the air conditioning.

The front-wheel-drive test model did not offer Compass’s best-in-class 4×4 off-road ability, but it did have some of the new features for 2017, like a 3.5-inch LED driver information display (DID) instrument cluster, Uconnect 5.0—one of four new Uconnect infotainment systems—displayed on a rather diminutive touch screen, a capless fuel filler, push button start, ParkView Backup camera, and Remote Keyless Entry.

Of the more than 70 available safety features on the new Compass, like electronic stability control, roll mitigation, and traction control, it was the tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) and tire service kit that really impressed me.

While driving around town, the TPMS warning light appeared. Some TPMS systems just show the alert icon, forcing the driver to guess which tire is low, but the  DID on the Compass displayed PSI levels for all four tires so that I was able to monitor the leak. Upon returning home, I could hear the sound of air hissing from the left rear tire and by the next day, Sunday, it was flat. With plans to fly out of Austin on Monday, I had to find a quick fix.

Checking the trunk for a spare tire, I found the tire service kit that included sealant and a pump. With a little help from a friend, we injected the tire with the sealant and while the leak persisted it did slow down. The electronic air pump helped assure me that I could refill the tire upon my return. After a few days, it had lost some air but the pump, which plugs into one of two 12-volt auxiliary ports, was quick and easy to use.

The test model also included the Technology Group ($495) with the Park Sense rear park assist system and Sport Appearance Group ($595) with 16-inch wheels and tinted glass. It did not, however, come with a blind spot monitor or forward collision warning technology, nor are these technologies available on this trim level.

Pricing for the Jeep Compass starts at $22,090. The as-tested price came to $24,680.

: The 2017 Jeep Compass offers segment-leading off-road capability, a manual transmission on the base model, and improved fuel economy.

No: The as-tested Compass Sport FWD lacked the ability to add important safety technology like a blind spot monitor, plus the engine stop-start technology weakened the air conditioning.

Jan 072015
 

2014-Jeep-Grand-Cherokee-Laredo

The trailblazing Jeep Grand Cherokee continues to break new ground in 2014. Sporting an eight-speed transmission and offering a diesel engine in the lineup, it hasn’t missed a step with the latest generation.

Jeep recently delivered a Grand Cherokee Laredo E 4X4 for review. While not the fanciest trim level, the Laredo E will probably be the most popular and with good reason.

While the premium Jeep gets credit for creating the luxury SUV segment, the mid-level Laredo feels just as solid and plush with its premium cloth seats. The stitching along the dash is nice plus the seven-inch digital display in the instrument cluster can be customized to show a variety of information. I always keep my average fuel economy calculator showing to optimize fuel-efficient driving.

While the diesel will beat most gasoline-powered engines with a best-in-class 30 mpg on the highway, the 3.6-liter V6 with 290 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque on the Laredo has an EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy of 17/24 mpg. I averaged 19.2 mpg. A 5.7-liter V8 is also available.

Jeep

Rock crawling remains a Jeep specialty and the Grand Cherokee offers three 4×4 systems, a class-exclusive Quadra-Lift air suspension, and class-leading Jeep Selec-Terrain traction management system with new Selec-Speed Control.

Grand Cherokee also boasts best-in-class towing of 7,400 pounds (6,200 with the V6) and the eight-speed transmission improves its 4×4 performance with a lower crawl ratio. I didn’t get to test it on this drive but at the launch last year near Enchanted Rock, Texas, it crawled with finesse.

On road, the Laredo moved fluidly and quietly, plus all Grand Cherokee models include standard paddle shifters mounted on the back of the new steering wheel.

There offers more than 60 available safety features, including Front Park Assist, Forward Collision Warning with Crash Mitigation, Adaptive Cruise Control, and a blind sport monitor. Unfortunately, the test model did not include any of these, nor can they be added to the Laredo. Also missing is a back-up camera.

What the Laredo E did include was Electronic Stability Control, Keyless Enter-N-Go, anti-lock brakes, side curtain and knee airbags, and Hill Start Assist, among other features.

2014-Jeep-Grand-Cherokee-Laredo-rear

Upgraded exterior details, like new headlamps and grilles that distinguish each trim level are matched to new features on the inside including a seven-inch customizable gauge cluster and five-inch touchscreen on the center stack. The 8.4-inch touchscreen is available but not on the base model. The extra large screen, however, has converted a CD player into a $200 option.

Creature comforts include dual-zone air conditioning, cruise control, Uconnect entertainment system with integrated voice command and Bluetooth, and a leather wrapped steering wheel.

Added equipment like Sirius Satellite Radio came with the Customer Preferred Package ($1,700) and heated front seats and the Selec-Terrain system were added via the All Weather Capability Group ($1696). The Security and Convenience Group ($1,350) added a power liftgate among other features.

Available in four trim levels, pricing for the 2014 Grand Cherokee starts at $30,190. The as-tested price for the 2014 Laredo E came to $37,530.