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When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

A white 2024 Jeep Compass Trailhawk splashing through water while off-roading.

How Off-Road Capable Is the Jeep Compass Trailhawk?

If you’re looking for off-road prowess at your local Jeep dealer, you’re probably going to gravitate toward the iconic Wrangler right off the bat, and we don’t blame you. The rugged Wrangler has its reputation for a reason: it’s capable of some serious off-roading at any trim level, and you can remove the doors and roof to let the wind blow not just in your hair but all around you to heighten the excitement of your adventure. Next to that, the Compass and its more traditional compact SUV look might seem like it’s not as capable. While even the lowest trim level is a rugged off-road machine compared to, say, a Honda CR-V, it has the potential not to meet the needs of Jeep drivers looking for something that can truly go anywhere.

But what about that top-tier trim? Can the Compass Trailhawk live up to its name and handle the kind of action thrill-seekers are looking for from a Jeep? If so, it’d be a solid deal, with a starting price that’s only a few thousand more than the base trim on the Wrangler, despite being the most expensive option for the Compass. So, let’s dig in and see whether the 2024 Compass Trailhawk is a great deal for the frugal off-road enthusiast or not.

The Turbocharged 2.0L Engine

If you were looking at a 2022 Compass, you’d be rightfully disappointed by a peek under the hood. The 2.4L inline-four delivered a maximum of 177 hp and 172 lb-ft of torque, and it didn’t reach peak torque until you hit 3,900 RPM, which may be fine for blasting through open areas at high speeds but is less-than-ideal when you need traction while navigating twisty trails, where driving too fast is a recipe for crashing into a tree. For the 2023 model year and beyond, the Compass was fitted with a turbocharged 2.0L inline-four that can churn out 200 hp and 221 lb-ft of torque, with peak torque arriving at 1,750 RPM. It lets you tow up to 2,000 lbs, which is nothing to sneeze at in the subcompact SUV segment, and lets you bring extra equipment down to your campsite so you don’t have to cram everything into the interior.

This extra power comes in handy on the trail, as does the engine’s increased efficiency. The new engine is rated at a combined 27 MPG, while the old one was rated at 25 MPG. That means you don’t have to haul out as many gas cans for extended drives away from civilization. Like all trims of the Compass, the Trailhawk sports this new and improved engine and comes standard with a 4×4 drivetrain for maximum traction on uneven surfaces.

Overhead view of the black interior of a 2024 Jeep Compass at a Jeep dealer.

Design and Equipment

From the wheels up, the Compass Trailhawk is designed with off-roading in mind. It has an extra inch of ground clearance compared to other Compass trims, so it can glide over obstacles on the ground that would scrape against the underbelly of a Compass Sport or Latitude. It also comes equipped with high-strength steel skid plates, so anything that’s still tall enough to reach its underbody won’t be able to mess with vital components. While the suspension on lower trims of the Compass focuses on delivering comfort on the road, the Trailhawk gets an off-road-tuned suspension designed to give you a smooth ride on rocky trails.

The body isn’t the only thing with a high position; the air intakes are also placed up high to allow the Compass to safely ford water (up to a certain depth, at least). Several components are also sealed against water for this purpose. If someone tries to tackle an area that’s above their skill level and gets stuck, there are bright red tow hooks (easy to see even if they’re spattered with mud) on the front and back to help recovery along.

Falken WILDPEAK All-Terrain Tires

Even the best off-roader will struggle on the trail with the wrong set of tires. While all of the lower trims of the Compass come standard with all-season tires, the Trailhawk comes with a set of all-terrain tires, plus a full-size spare in case of emergencies. New for the 2024 model year, those tires are now Falken WILDPEAK tires, which are designed to handle not just off-road terrain and pavement but also wet ground and severe snow, with three peak mountain snowflake symbols on the sidewall markings letting you know they mean business.

Tech Features

Every 2024 Compass has a Selec-Terrain Traction Management System onboard. When the driver switches between the different modes (Auto, Snow, and Sand/Mud) the system shifts a number of settings across the vehicle, including engine performance, torque distribution, and shift patterns, to provide the highest level of control in that particular environment. The Trailhawk adds a Rock mode to this feature, providing the traction necessary to crawl over boulders and tackle mountain trails. Speaking of mountains, the Trailhawk is also the only trim to feature Hill Descent Control, which monitors speed, braking, and throttle when you’re going down a steep slope, automatically adjusting the braking to keep things smooth until you reach the bottom.

Okay, style might not have a lot to do with actual off-roading prowess, but it does give the Trailhawk a healthy dose of coolness that achieves two things: impressing fellow adventurers out on the trails and letting people in your day-to-day life know what an adrenaline junkie you are in your spare time. In addition to practical elements like the red tow hooks and all-terrain tires that give the Trailhawk a sporty appearance, the front face also gets a black mold-in-color grille with neutral gray rings and a standard black decal on the hood with a bright red accent that is sure to get noticed. You can also opt for a two-tone paint job with a black roof, matching the grille, the mirrors, and the window moldings. If those abstract touches aren’t enough of a giveaway, the combination of both Trailhawk and Trail-Rated badges is sure to do the trick.

Overhead view of a grey 2024 Jeep Compass Trailhawk parked in the woods.

The Compass Is Pointed in the Right Direction

While the Compass may not look quite as utilitarian as the Wrangler, looks aren’t everything. The Compass Trailhawk is loaded with useful off-road features and is designed to deliver traction, articulation, and maneuverability in a wide range of scenarios. Its smaller size can come in handy in situations where you need to be nimble, but it’s not so small that it can’t roll over rocky paths and ford water when need be. While the Compass has been known for its off-road capability for years now, new tech and a new engine make the 2024 model better than what’s come before and more adept at exploring not just the OHV equivalent of bunny slopes but the truly tricky places that experienced off-roaders want to be able to access.

Off-roading is integral to Jeep’s reputation, so it makes sense that they wouldn’t stick their “Trail Rated” badge on just any model. The Compass may not have all of the useful features of the Wrangler, but it can hold its own and is improving year after year. Between its reasonable price and its array of quality equipment, the Compass Trailhawk makes off-roading more accessible to the masses, so everyone can enjoy the thrill of adventure and the beauty of the great outdoors.

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