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2014 Jeep Compass Test Drive written by Bob Plunkett

2014 Jeep Compass Road Test Review

By Bob Plunkett

A rare California rain makes slippery asphalt on Wildcat Canyon Road, which slithers through foothills of the El Cajon Mountains west of San Diego, as we carefully steer a 2014 edition of Compass, Jeep's compact-class crossover utility vehicle with the unified structure of a front-wheel-drive (FWD) car.

There's no need to sweat slipping and sliding around the Teflon-slick canyon curves because the Compass we're driving carries Jeep's optional Freedom Drive I package which adds a full-time 4-wheel-drive (4WD) traction device with lock mode.

It normally runs in FWD mode, yet an electrically controlled coupling can divert as much as 60 percent of the engine's torque to the rear wheels when additional tire grip is required. You can rack a lever to lock the center coupling so the system splits the powertrain's muscle 50-50 between front and rear tires for tricky traction situations like slippery wet pavement, icy-slick snow or sand.

Jeep reworks Compass for 2014 with fresh exterior styling, increased content in the cabin with standard front-seat-mounted air bags and optional ParkView rear backup camera, and then offers a new 6-speed PowerTech automatic transmission with AutoStick manual shift controls and a choice of two efficient 4-cylinder engines.

The 2014 Compass configures through three trim levels tagged as Sport, Latitude and Limited, with FWD or 4WD traction available for each trim.

The smallest powerplant -- a 2.0-liter 4-in-line with twin cams on top and dual variable valve timing (DVVT) -- serves as the stock engine for Compass Sport FWD and Compass Latitude FWD. It produces 158 hp at 6400 rpm plus torque of 141 lb-ft at 5000 rpm and earns EPA fuel economy figures as high as 23 mpg city and 30 mpg highway.

Available shifters include a 5-speed manual (Magna T355) exclusively for Compass Sport FWD or the new PowerTech 6F24 automatic 6-speed with AutoStick.

A larger 4-cylinder engine -- displacing 2.4 liters and also stocking dual cams and DVVT -- motivates the Compass Limited but is available on Sport and Latitude. This plant's muscle numbers tally to 172 hp at 6000 rpm with 165 lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm.

The 2.4-liter plant also links to the PowerTech 6-speed automatic or a Jatco CVT with the optional Freedom Drive II off-road package. The CVT -- with electronic controls and lockup torque converter -- engages when the off-road mode is activated and enables Compass to crawl over rough terrain.

The Freedom Drive II off-road package installs a 140-amp alternator, brake lock differential, fuel tank skid plate shield, tow hooks and 215/65R17 Goodyear Wrangler GTA all-terrain tires to make this wagon a capable trail runner.

Other electronic controls also apply with the Freedom Drive II package:

* Off-road Brake Traction Control System (BTCS) keeps the vehicle rolling even on split-friction surfaces like gravel where one wheel loses traction.

* Hill Start Assist (HSA) holds the CUV on a slope.

* Hill Descent Control (HDC) keeps the wagon's wheels firmly planted when trekking down a steep grade.

Styling of the Compass sheet metal incorporates familiar hallmarks of Jeep such as the 7-slot grille and large round headlamps in clusters which become focal points on front corners flanking the chrome-clad grille. Compass stands tall in the traditional 2-box format of a wagon but with all corners contoured and the horizontal lines chiseled and planed in streamline fashion. Wheel openings are shaped in a trapezoidal design with wheels pinned at corners of the platform and front and rear overhangs crimped to make transitions easy on steep off-road slopes.

Compass 2014 comes with a long list of standard equipment including air conditioning, power accessories, keyless entry system, cruise control, a rechargeable flashlight and fold-flat rear seats split 60/40.

Compass Limited carries heated perforated leather-trimmed bucket seats, projector halogen headlamps and 18-inch painted aluminum wheels capped by 215/55R18 Firestone Firehawk GTA performance tires.

Jeep marks MSRP figures for the 2014 Compass from $18,595 for Compass Sport in FWD format to $27,895 for Compass Limited with 4WD traction.

For more information on Jeep vehicles, click here.