Before we dive in, let us address the elephant in the room and that is the fact that most of the 'SUVs' that we buy are nothing but hatchbacks on stilts. Most of the compact SUVs or even the bigger ones are not available with 4X4 or, in harsher words, when the going gets tough these SUVs prefer to take the exit.
The reason for this is that 4x4s have less demand and most customers do not engage in any kind of serious off-roading to justify the price tag.
Well, no more is this going to be the case.
Off-roading has grown into more than a hobby and has mushroomed into something big in India, with clubs and off-road events coming up. Plus, more and more people are shunning the malls for road trips, which only cements the need for an SUV that can go anywhere and take you everywhere.
Thus, the Compass Trailhawk is very much the need of the hour as it is an (relatively) affordable luxury SUV that can also roll up its sleeves and handle the rough stuff with utter nonchalance. In essence, it is Jeep Compass on testosterone.
What you get is this: a lockable 4x4, an extra ‘rock’ mode, chunky all terrain off-road tyres, increased ground clearance of 205 mm and even redesigned bumpers for better approach and departure angles for serious off-roading.
Along with all this, Jeep has also thrown in a new 9-speed automatic gearbox and the Trailhawk gets a new BS6 compliant 2.0 diesel which can run on BS4 diesel. As you can see, this is not a simple update, but an altogether new car.
In the real world, all this off-road hardware and the new engine/gearbox makes the Compass a more compelling SUV. It embraces its Jeep roots more and becomes more desirable because of that. Throw whatever at it and the Compass Trailhawk gulps it down and asks for more. Steep inclines, massive rocks and high levels of water are dispatched with simply a mere twitch of your right foot and a some steering lock. The car does the rest.
The reshaped bumpers mean that you can tackle sharper and really uneven surfaces with ease plus the extra ‘rock’ mode, 4x4 low-range and the Hill Descent Control make you look like an off-road pro as you take it through places you would normally never dare to. The suspension- a Compass USP from the start, gets even better and ploughs through nasty surfaces.
So, yes, the Compass Trailhawk is easily the best off-roader you can buy below the Rs 30 lakh mark simply because it is not a one trick pony. The new diesel is quieter, the 9-speed auto does its job very well (though no paddle shifts is a sore point for a car at this price point) and is smooth for every day use while it is also decked up with all the creature comforts including a massive panoramic sunroof, 8.4 inch touchscreen, 6 airbags, electronic parking brake etc.
While the expected price of Rs 25 lakh might sound steep considering the base Compass is Rs 16 lakh, the fact is that the Trailhawk feels like a different car from the standard Compass. Yes it may lack some features that you would expect from an SUV at this price but it does fulfil the goal it was made for. The tougher looks (red detailing with black contrasts, new alloys and even tow-hooks!) plus the astonishing off-road ability coupled with its new-found better driving manners make this a brilliant buy.
If you are buying a new mid-size luxury SUV with a real off-road edge, wait for this to arrive next month.