Some brands love to entice you with their coolest – or, hottest – version of one of their vehicles.
Jeep is no exception. They have almost 80 years of experience of off-roading and winning wars. Their reputation for making rugged vehicles that can do anything you want is why it is the most valuable brand among several at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
When you look at the lineup, there seems to be a sense that Jeep is offering vehicles to compete with soft roaders, while maintaining this image and reputation. Aside from the Wrangler and Gladiator, the other four models could be considered “soft roaders.”
Lucky for us, all four remaining Jeep lines have one specific trim level that gives you that sense of adventure Jeep is known for. It is called Trailhawk.
A Trailhawk adds a low "gear" to its all/four-wheel-drive system, proper angles of approach and departure, a higher ground clearance, more protection on the sides and the underbody, plus some sportier and more rugged trim pieces inside and out.
When the opportunity came to revisit the small Jeep Compass SUV, it was delivered in the Trailhawk trim. And, believe me, you don’t know how happy I was!
What I had was a 2020 Jeep Compass Trailhawk that wanted to play in Minnesota’s winter wonderland. It certainly looked the part with its Spitfire Orange/Black two-tone paint job. It means that you can spot it across the parking lot rather easily.
When you finally get to it, you will notice how handsome it really is. It looks like a Grand Cherokee that has gone through the dryer in the High setting, but still looks good. The floating roof design is a huge winner in my book.
The best part of this Compass is how much the Trailhawk trim gives it plenty of butchness. The bumpers offer a greater angle of approach up front, instead of a lower fascia that prevents one to get up a steep incline. The raised ride height is an improvement over lower trim models, along with its 17-inch wheels and red tow hooks front and back. It is a vehicle that looks like it earned its Trail Rated badge on the front fender.
The same theme is seen on the inside. The Compass Trailhawk had an all-black leather interior with orange stitching all around from the seats to the dashboard to the door trim. inside. Instrumentation featured two smaller main dials with a sizable TFT information screen in the middle. The rest of the controls, including the starter button on the steering column, are good to the touch and logical to operate.
If there was a complaint about the interior, it would the front seats. The Compass Trailhawk's seats were firm with narrower cushions flanked by some aggressive bolstering. I wished they were more comfortable overall while keeping the balance of support. Yet, I did find a driving position that worked for me behind the wheel. Rear seat room offered plenty of leg and headroom for all shapes of people. Cargo space is quite expansive, starting from 27.2 cubic feet behind the rear seat, expanding to 59.8 cubic feet with the split seatbacks down.
The Compass offers a 180-horsepower 2.4 liter four-cylinder engine connected to a nine-speed automatic transmission and Jeep’s Active Low 4X4 System with two all/four-wheel-drive ratios for the driveline. This system also includes Hill Descent Control, as well as a lock for the drive system. It works just fine and does very well in snow, ice, and off-tarmac situations. It is suitable on the road, as well.
In terms of fuel economy, I averaged 23.0 MPG. According to Jeep, I should average around 25.0 MPG.
While driving the Compass Trailhawk, I found the ride quality to be pretty smooth on all surfaces. On some uneven roads, the suspension system responded quickly keeping the Compass on an even keel. Handling is controlled with good cornering and overall stability control.
The steering is quite good, with a good turning radius and solid feel on the road. On-center feel is quite good. Brakes are also solid with good stops in both normal and panic situations.
Cutting to the chase on pricing, my 2020 Jeep Compass Trailhawk tester came with a sticker price of $31,210. So, yes, you will pay for the privilege of being hot, cool, or ready to hit the trail. However, you can still get a Jeep Compass just for practicality and brand namesake, starting at $22,095. You have five other trim levels to choose from, along with some that even have just the front wheels driven.
My consumer advice for those looking at a Jeep is to simply pay the extra money and get the Trailhawk edition. Or, you can go hardcore and get a Wrangler or Gladiator. But, honestly, when you want to have a solid commuter with the ability to get through tough weather and tougher terrain, a Trailhawk is all you need. You might even fall in love with the Compass Trailhawk!
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
All photos by Randy Stern