Sunday Drive by Hormazd Sorabjee: The talents of the Trailhawk
There are SUVs and there are Jeeps. And then there are ‘Trail Rated’ Jeeps. It’s a badge of honour given to those Jeeps with exceptional off-road capabilities and the Trailhawk version of the Jeep Compass, that’s just been launched, belongs to this elite breed.
To see if the Trailhawk has earned its ‘Trail Rated’ emblem, which sits discreetly on the side of the car, I spent an afternoon in a secluded pocket of the Western Ghats around 30km from Lonavla, clambering up muddy slopes, slithering down mountain sides, crawling over rocky river beds and fording small streams. In this terrain, the Trailhawk felt as comfortable as a mountain goat and I was shocked by how easily it traipsed across the obstacle-strewn off-road course without even breaking a sweat.
Underpinning the rugged Trailhawk are tough 4x4 mechanicals, which include a ‘low range’ gearbox to pull you out of sticky situations and a dedicated ‘Rock’ mode, which lets you tackle well, rocks.
What’s interesting is that at a time when manufacturers are ditching 4x4 systems in their SUVs, Jeep has given us the ultimate off-roader. But why launch a hard core off-roader when only 10 per cent of Trailhawk customers at the most, will dirty their wheels?
It’s more to do with the brand than anything else. Let’s not forget the heritage of Jeep, which is rooted in World War II where it started life as ‘General Purpose’ or GP vehicle (from which the name Jeep was derived) and played a pivotal role in the Allied victory. And it’s this indestructible go-anywhere image, born on a battle field, that is an intrinsic part of the 80-year-old brand’s DNA, which the American car maker wants to flaunt.
Besides, with not many serious 4x4s in this category, the Trailhawk is the de facto choice in the Rs 25-30 lakh price bracket for off-roading enthusiasts.
Hits and misses
The Trailhawk doesn’t look much different from the regular Compass except for a slightly higher stance (for better ground clearance), beefier all-terrain tyres and a matt black patch on the bonnet, which helps to cut glare on inclines.
The interior of the Trailhawk is pretty much the same as the standard Compass except for the all-black cabin theme. Splashes of red, a signature Trailhawk colour, add some colour to the cabin and details like the red double-stitching on the seats, steering and door pads, and red accents around the instrument cluster, gear lever and speakers, look great. Cabin quality is very good, like in the regular Compass, and the generous use of soft touch plastics gives an upmarket feel.
However, interior space isn’t the most generous and the rear seat in particular falls short of the space you expect in a Rs 25 lakh plus car.
Though the Trailhawk is the most expensive Compass variant, it misses out on certain features like a powered driver’s seat, and auto headlights and wipers, available in the Limited Plus variant, one down in the Compass range. You also have to pay extra for the panoramic sunroof, which is standard on the Limited Plus.
That said, the Trailhawk gets some extra equipment like Bi-Xenon headlights, keyless go, cruise control and for the first time, on-board navigation. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay also debut on the Trailhawk as does a 7.0-inch multi-information display and engine start/stop.
Out and about
However, for majority of Trailhawk customers, the big news is not the enhanced 4x4 abilities but the long awaited 9-speed automatic gearbox that is finally available with the Compass’ diesel engine. The auto transmission with its smooth and imperceptible gearshifts makes the Compass far more user-friendly and convenient to drive, especially in traffic.
The 2.0 litre diesel engine too has been upgraded to meet the more stringent ‘BS6’ emission regulations before they come into effect on April 1, 2020. In the process, Jeep has also made the engine significantly quieter and smoother for a better drive. The suspension has been modified as well to give the Compass a plusher ride. All these changes come together to make the Compass an extremely versatile SUV, which on the one hand will make light work of dense, potholed city roads and if you’re up for it, will let you explore the country in a way you never thought possible.
Priced upwards of Rs 25 lakh, the Trailhawk may seem expensive for its size, but no other SUV has the same swath of talents.
Hormazd Sorabjee is one of the most senior and much loved auto journalists in India, and is editor of Autocar India
Sunday Drive appears every fortnight
From HT Brunch, June 16, 2019
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