The bet was simple: There was no way that the restyled 2011 Jeep Compass could make it through the advanced off-road course designed for the more capable Wrangler and Grand Cherokee. After all, this snow-covered trail offered some of the hairiest features we've witnessed on a press drive: slippery boulders, axle-twisting off-camber obstacles, plus steep drops and deep holes certain to remove the lesser Jeep's bumpers or underbody.
And we'd already proven, on the easier course, that the Compass was operating at the ragged edge of its off-road ability when we slammed it quite ungracefully up a mud-covered embankment just to prove we could. The Compass made it, but it wasn't pretty.
This was before we met Brian Nathan, chief engineer of the 2011 Jeep Compass. Nathan promised us the Compass would "walk right through" the advanced course. And then, with us at the wheel, he proved it.
We stopped betting.
Genuinely Capable All this gambling was set in the snow-covered wonderland of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. In December. It was wet and cold and muddy — far from the highly coddled, over-managed environment that accompanies most media introductions. This was about testing the vehicles, not sipping tea and discussing nuances. Heck, we even ate lunch in a barn with visible owl scat on the walls. Take that, Land Rover.
That Jeep was confident enough in the Compass to offer it with its Trail Rated designation for 2011 speaks highly of the often-overlooked SUV. The new option is called the Freedom Drive II Off Road package and it adds an inch of ground clearance, 17-inch all-terrain tires, a full-size spare tire, skid plates, tow hooks and a few other items. Most importantly, there's now a low-range mode for the continuously variable transmission (CVT) with a crawl ratio equivalent to 19.1:1.
The manually operated electronically locking center differential remains. Front and rear differentials are mechanically open units, but Jeep's brake-lock technology, which applies the brakes independently to a spinning wheel, effectively redirects power during wheel-lift situations like we encountered above.
And as much as we'd like to call Jeep on this one, we're reminded that Trail Rated isn't just marketing hype. It has its origin in the Nevada Automotive Test Center, which established the five criteria (traction, ground clearance, maneuverability, articulation and water fording) and a formula to combine them to determine the worthiness of off-road vehicles for the U.S. government. Jeep now owns the rights to the Trail Rated label, but the standards remain.
Same Power, New CVT Our test car is an all-wheel-drive Compass Latitude fitted with the biggest available engine, a 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder mated to a CVT. This particular CVT — known as the CVT2L thanks to its low-range ratio — is available only on all-wheel-drive Compasses with the 2.4-liter engine. It's offered as part of the Off Road package. The engine is rated at 172 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 165 pound-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm and can also be matched with either a five-speed manual or a conventional CVT (with no low-range ratio) in either front- or all-wheel drive.
Also available on front-drive base and Latitude style Compasses is a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder rated at 158 hp and 141 lb-ft of torque. It comes with either a five-speed manual transmission or the CVT2.
Fuel economy varies widely depending on powertrain configuration. Our 2011 Jeep Compass test car, with the low-range CVT, additional inch of ground clearance and all-terrain tires, is rated at 20 mpg city and 23 mpg highway, making it the least efficient Compass available. The most efficient, the front-drive model with the smaller engine and five-speed manual transaxle is rated at 23 mpg city and 29 mpg highway. All other styles fall somewhere in between.
Slow but Steady Our all-wheel-drive tester, loaded with three people and burdened with a 6,200-foot test altitude, lacked the power to spin its tires from a standing start on a snow-covered road. The message here is clear: This isn't a Subaru WRX — or even a Forester for that matter. Its powertrain isn't designed for low-grip, high-speed shenanigans. But what the Compass lacks in power, it makes up for in off-road capability.
It's also no Wrangler. Sure, it was able to walk through the not-inconsiderable off-road route we navigated, but the 2011 Jeep Compass lacks the wheel articulation, crawl ratio, grip and impressive approach and departure angles of its dedicated off-road brother. We wouldn't be afraid to use the Compass to access a somewhat remote fishing hole but don't plan on taking it to Moab for the Easter Jeep Safari.
On the road the base Compass' manners are on par for the segment. Higher-rate springs, dampers and a larger rear antiroll bar keep it from bouncing over Wyoming frost heaves at freeway speeds — something the old Compass was fond of doing. But you're still going to need to plan ahead when hard acceleration is required — especially at altitude.
Genuinely Better-Looking, Too And in a move sure to sour some 2011 Grand Cherokee owners, the 2011 Jeep Compass wears virtually all-new sheet metal, which closely resembles its bigger, more expensive, more capable counterpart.
There's a new hood, fenders, front and rear fascias and a body-color spoiler. Black lower-body cladding designed to protect against rocks and debris when off-roading is also new this year. Perhaps most significant, the Compass is no longer such a homely little pug.
Inside, things are better still. In the you're-going-to-touch-this-everyday-so-you-better-like-it department is a new, thick-rimmed steering wheel with integrated radio, cruise control and hands-free phone controls. It makes a difference. It's so good, in fact, that it makes us forget that this very same Compass once had a noodly, circular scrap of rawhide plastic with which to manage directional changes. New materials on the door panel and a new armrest go a long way toward improving the otherwise unchanged interior as well.
There's also an iPod interface and optional AM/FM/CD/DVD audio system with a 30GB hard disc drive. Navigation is available only on Limited styles. We weren't expecting such minor changes to elevate the whole interior of the Compass, but they do. It's not quite a mini-Grand Cherokee, but it's not the penalty box it once was either.
The Bottom Line A Compass Latitude outfitted with the 2.4-liter engine, CVT, Off Road package and Security and Convenience package will lighten your bank account to the tune of $26,195 including destination (base price is $23,295). About $1,550 of that is thanks to the Off Road package, which requires the CVT ($1,050) and the Freedom Drive II package ($500).
That's no small chunk of change, but at least Jeep is delivering a competitive package in return. And we say this not only because it looks 10,000 times better than the previous version, but because it is now authentically competitive within its admittedly narrow segment. Its interior look and feels — dare we say it — nice.
What's more, its newfound off-road abilities expand the 2011 Jeep Compass' repertoire far beyond its previous capabilities. It's now legitimately capable of moving over moderate off-road terrain with ease, which is something you won't do in, say, a Subaru Forester.
It's enough to make it entertaining in the rough stuff, and it might even win you a few bets.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored press event to facilitate this report.
2011 Jeep Compass Overview Edmunds experts have compiled a robust series of ratings and reviews for the 2011 Jeep Compass and all model years in our database. Our rich content includes expert reviews and recommendations for the 2011 Compass featuring deep dives into trim levels and features, performance, mpg, safety, interior, and driving. Edmunds also offers expert ratings, road test and performance data, long-term road tests, first-drive reviews, video reviews and more.
Our Review Process This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.
Consumer ratings and reviews are also available for the 2011 Jeep Compass and all its trim types. Overall, Edmunds users rate the 2011 Compass 3.7 on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. Edmunds consumer reviews allow users to sift through aggregated consumer reviews to understand what other drivers are saying about any vehicle in our database. Detailed rating breakdowns (including performance, comfort, value, interior, exterior design, build quality, and reliability) are available as well to provide shoppers with a comprehensive understanding of why customers like the 2011 Compass.
Review I bought my 2011 jeep Compass 2 months ago. I absolutely love this Jeep. I was looking for an SUV to pull my Jet Ski, and pulls it effertlessly, and after looking at many SUV's in this catagory, the jeep Compass offered the most for the money. Other SUV's were thousands more. The redesign looks awesome. The inside is also very nice. I got the 2.4 L engine with the CVT, and the engine noise is not what reviews say, it is not noisy. The CVT is smooth. This vehicle does have enough power and is great on gas. (27 mpg) highway city is (21). It is fun to drive also. The Cargo area is good also. This is not a sports car or a truck, with that having been said, I love this new 2011 Jepp Compass.
Edmunds Value Edmunds has deep data on over 6 million new, used, and certified pre-owned vehicles, including rich, trim-level features and specs information like: MSRP, average price paid, warranty information (basic, drivetrain, and maintenance), features (upholstery, bluetooth, navigation, heated seating, cooled seating, cruise control, parking assistance, keyless ignition, satellite radio, folding rears seats ,run flat tires, wheel type, tire size, wheel tire, sunroof, etc.), vehicle specifications (engine cylinder count, drivetrain, engine power, engine torque, engine displacement, transmission), fuel economy (city, highway, combined, fuel capacity, range), vehicle dimensions (length, width, seating capacity, cargo space), car safety, true cost to own. Edmunds also provides tools to allow shopper to compare vehicles to similar models of their choosing by warranty, interior features, exterior features, specifications, fuel economy, vehicle dimensions, consumer rating, edmunds rating, and color
Available Jeep Compass 2011 Submodel Types: SUV
Available Trims: Latitude, Sport, Limited, All New Latitude, Trailhawk, All New Sport, All New Trailhawk, All New Limited, Base, High Altitude Edition, Sport Fleet, High Altitude, Sport SE, Altitude Edition, 75th Anniversary
Exterior Colors: Granite Crystal Metallic Clear Coat, Billet Silver Metallic Clear Coat, Black Clear Coat, Diamond Black Crystal Pearl Coat, Bright White Clear Coat, Deep Cherry Red Crystal Pearl Coat, Redline Pearl Coat, White Clear Coat, True Blue Pearl Coat, Laser Blue Pearl Coat, Jazz Blue Pearl Coat, Olive Green Pearl Coat, White Clear Coat/Black Clear Coat, Granite Crystal Metallic Clear Coat/Black Clear Coat, Spitfire Orange Clear Coat, Redline Pearl Coat/Black Clear Coat, Rhino Clear Coat/Black Clear Coat, Maximum Steel Metallic Clearcoat, Spitfire Orange Clear Coat/Black Clear Coat, Bright Silver Metallic Clearcoat, Mineral Gray Metallic Clearcoat, Laser Blue Pearl Coat/Black Clear Coat, Billet Silver Metallic Clear Coat/Black Clear Coat, Deep Cherry Red Crystal Pearlcoat, Brilliant Black Crystal Pearlcoat, Black Clearcoat, Maximum Steel Metallic Clear Coat, Jazz Blue Pearl Coat/Black Clear Coat, Bright White Clearcoat, Inferno Red Crystal Pearlcoat, Pearl White Tri-Coat/Black Clear Coat, Bright Silver Metallic Clear Coat, Mineral Gray Metallic Clear Coat, Olive Green Pearl Coat/Black Clear Coat, True Blue Pearlcoat, Rugged Brown Pearl Coat, Steel Blue Metallic Clearcoat, Light Khaki Metallic Clearcoat, Stone White Clearcoat, Light Sandstone Metallic Clearcoat, Marine Blue Pearlcoat, Natural Green Pearlcoat , Blackberry Pearlcoat, Eco Green Pearl Coat, Mojave Sand Clear Coat, Rescue Green Metallic Clearcoat, Winter Chill Pearl Coat, Black Forest Green Pearl Coat, Deep Water Blue Pearlcoat, Jeep Green Metallic Clearcoat, Sunburst Orange Pearlcoat
Interior Colors: Dark Slate Gray premium cloth, Dark Slate Gray vinyl/cloth, Black vinyl/cloth, Black cloth, Black/Ruby Red premium leather/cloth, Black leather, Dark Slate Gray leather, Black/Ski Grey vinyl/cloth, Dark Slate Gray cloth, Black/Ski Grey leather, Pastel Slate Gray cloth, Dark Slate Gray/Light Pebble Beige vinyl/cloth, Dark Slate Gray/Light Pebble Beige premium cloth, Black/Ruby Red leather, Dark Slate Gray/Light Pebble Beige leather, Pastel Pebble Beige cloth, Dark Slate Gray premium leather, Black/Sandstorm cloth, Dark Slate Gray/Light Pebble Beige cloth, Dark Slate Gray/Saddle Tan leather
Popular Features: Aux Audio Inputs, Fold Flat Rear Seats, Rear Bench Seats, Stability Control, Tire Pressure Warning, Audio and cruise controls on steering wheel, Bluetooth, USB Inputs, AWD/4WD, Remote Start, Heated seats, Trip Computer, Back-up camera, Post-collision safety system, Auto Climate Control, Power Driver Seat, Apple Carplay/Android Auto, Multi-Zone Climate Control, Parking sensors, Sunroof/Moonroof, Alarm, Navigation, Upgraded Engine, Leather Seats, Blind Spot Monitoring, Power Liftgate/Trunk, Upgraded Stereo, Lane Departure Warning, Upgraded Headlights, Automatic Emergency Braking, Pre-collision safety system, Towing Hitch