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Jeep Compass Points Portland to Pacific City, Via Tillamook

VehicleVoice and AutoPacific correspondents have been fortunate enough to experience some spectacular scenery over the years, driving new vehicles in locations we might never find on our own, and our opportunity with the Jeep Compass was no exception as we explored the Tillamook State Forest in Oregon and drove on the beach alongside the Pacific Ocean. Stephanie Brinley was on the first wave of this event and George Peterson was on the final leg. Comments from both are included.


We can’t forget the first night’s entertainment for later media waves. Attending our first AAA baseball game in years – the Portland Beavers and the Tucson Sidewinders (Tucson won 7-4) at PGE Park a short walk from The Hotel DeLuxe, our hosts from Jeep brought out the requisite hamburgers, hotdogs, potato salad and beer. Nice ambiance for the journalists and the 500 fans in attendance.
After our rooftop morning presentation, Jeep’s drive route took us from the hotel, through the Tillamook with its breathtaking views, to Pacific City, where we lunched at Pelican Pub & Brewery and enjoyed a view of Haystack Rock, one of the largest sea stacks on the Pacific Coast. The solitary monolith, the third largest in the world, is 235 feet tall. This area of Oregon is also home to the Sand Lake Dunes, where you’ll find a park that welcomes ATV riders and Jeeps. After lunch, it was off to the dunes.

The route allowed us to experience the Compass in driving conditions from the city to expressways to rural two-lane switchbacks to two-track dirt roads to the sand dunes, with some construction thrown in for good measure. As active-lifestyle oriented Jeep drivers search out unusual terrain for fun, rather than bearing it as an obstacle, it was particularly appropriate to experience the Compass on such a varied drive route. Read on for our driving impressions, or check our New Model Introduction section for an overview of the Compass.

Overall Package
The Compass offered a comfortable ride, though road noise was excessive. Exceptional on rough pavement, the noise never quieted to a level we expected. Conversation between front seats and the spacious second row passengers was a bit difficult at cruising speed because of excessive road noise over certain road surfaces. Steering was light and predictable, with all-around disc brakes offering adequate performance. The ABS and ESP systems, calibrated specifically for the Compass, were unobtrusive on road and helpful over the rough two-track road.


Seats were comfortable front and back, with room for long-legged rear passengers carved out of the seatbacks and lower portions of the front seats and assisted by reclining rear seat backs. We aren’t talking Mega Cab room, but enough for most rear-seated adults to be comfortable around town. There are lots of cubbies and storage bins and we immediately made use of the open bin above the glove box, finding that the most useful spot. It’s deep enough to keep stuff in during spirited driving, unlike the uncovered, dips many manufacturers carve into dashboards and call cubby space. The center console’s flip-up pocket is handy for iPods and cell phones, in theory. In practice, it doesn’t bring the item forward enough for a driver to glance down at the screen of the iPod or cell phone that the slot conveniently holds. (Yes, we also know an iPod is a driver distraction and the driver should turn over its operation to a passenger when actually driving.) Additionally, when an iPod is deployed, it effectively occupies the space where the driver/passenger elbow would rest on the console box.

Seats were comfortable all day and the leather was of reasonable quality, but the dashboard plastic was rough, hard, and sounded hollow (Jeep management admitted this was an area they would have liked spend a few more dollars on – instrument panel look and feel). All competitors on hand offered a softer feel to the instrument panel and dashboard. Another point of irritation are the interior door handles. These are made of the same plastic for all trim levels and the thin, curved shape is not complimentary to a Jeep. You expect an SUV door handle to have some heft, and the Compass handle disappoints.
Manual Versus CVT
Kudos to Jeep for making the manual available for Sport and Limited, 4×2 or 4×4, leaving buyers to choose more creature comforts without backing themselves into the CVT. Here Stephanie’s assessment diverges from George’s. She writes, “Our manual-transmission-equipped Compass provided a more spirited and involving drive than did the CVT, AutoStick or not. The clutch was light and predictable and it was easy to find a comfortable seating position. With the CVT, there was notable lag between shifts and it shifted for us about 5700 rpm (redline is 6000 rpm) when in the AutoStick mode. Left in drive, the CVT is a nice enough unit, as we found on the last leg of mostly highway driving.” George has evolved into an auto transmission type of guy (given Southern California freeways) and finds the CVT more of the set-it and forget-it experience he has come to expect. At least he did not stall the Compass manual in any embarrassing places.
Though Jeep will promote the CVT and its fuel-efficiency gains (six to eight percent) versus a conventional automatic more aggressively, the manual 4×4 gets the best estimated mpg ratings in the lineup, at 25 city/29 highway. The CVT on the 4×4 Compass is estimated to deliver 23/26 instead.

Hooray, Sand Dunes!
When I first heard we were driving on sand dunes, I was excited to get there. Afterward, I almost wondered what the fuss was about. The Compass tackled the sand with ease, as any Jeep should, with the 4WD lock engaged. The examples we had on the dunes were equipped with the CVT, which meant that the flat acceleration noted above could make one wonder if one is really getting enough oomph to make it over the sand ridge, but we were up and over with not a wheel wrong. Between the ability of the Compass and the directions of the guide seated to my right, there wasn’t much challenge to the drive.
All of which speaks well for the Compass in terms of finding a spot next to more capable Jeeps; there’s room for Jeep owners to challenge their vehicles and feel tough, even if Compass can’t tackle the same boulder-strewn mountain hills the Wrangler could.

Picking Nits
There are two huge inconsistencies in the interior of the Compass. This will be perceived as nit picking, but demonstrate lamentable concessions to cost cutters. Compass has a rubber cargo load floor mat with a “diamond plate” pattern on it. This is great for throwing dirty or wet things into the rear compartment. The seatbacks, however, are carpeted. This means that when the second row seat backs are folded forward and the front passenger seat back is folded forward, soft surfaces are up and there is a hard-soft-soft transition through the vehicle. The fact that there is a flat load surface front to rear is great, but it would have been greater if the diamond plate plastic had been continued throughout. Maybe this is an opportunity for the aftermarket.
The second blown opportunity is the Music Gate, or whatever they call it. This is an optional speaker system that flips down from the open liftgate… for tailgate parties, you know. Unfortunately, the Music Gate comes across cheaper than a Wal Mart boom box. In days when the Apple iPod is setting the design standard and Jeep observes that they have selected instrument panel appliques to showcase high tech electronics, they failed to carry over the idea to the Music Gate. Cheap. Cheap. Cheap. Or maybe they just didn’t think of it.
Drive Review developed by George Peterson and Stephanie Brinley


  • francoise leblanc| May 30, 2007 at 6:23 am

    would like to know when the the compass 2008’s will be in the dealers show room?

  • Azureeast| June 21, 2006 at 6:34 pm

    Thank you for your review.The generaly negative reviews of this vehicle will certainly keep me and many others from buying it.Thank you for the heads up and I am sorry that this car was foisted on you.
    I hope the next car/vehicle you review is worthy of purchase

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