3rd Oct 2018 6:00 am
It has fast become one of our team’s favourite SUVs.
It’s late. Very late. So late in fact, even the owls have gone to bed. And I’m dead tired. Page after page after page of our anniversary issue has drained me. I desperately need something to perk me up. The drive back home isn’t long, but I don’t want to be nodding off. So I thump the doors shut, fire up the big diesel and look for something appropriate to listen to.
This takes a while, due to the fussy touchscreen on the Jeep, but eventually I select Led Zep’s masterpiece ‘Stairway to Heaven’ on YouTube (via my phone). Sure I’ve heard it a gazillion times, but it’s been ages. It should sound as fresh and as brilliant as ever. And sure enough, all it takes to put a smile on my face are those first few bars – the medieval acoustic guitar, the dreamy flute and then the opening lines “there’s a lady who’s sure…”. My eyelids pop open.
SUSTAINED BOOST: Engine pulls hard all the way to the redline.
Volume wound up and wipers on intermittent, I set off slowly into the drizzle. I haven’t driven the Compass for a bit, but quickly remember why I like this SUV so much. Tough, robust and built to last, the stiff suspension means it rocks gently over some of the smaller bumps, but the feeling of solidity is just incredible.
This is also a car that delivers a lot of tactile pleasure to the driver; something sorely missing in many cars today. The heft, feel and feedback from the steering, the manner in which the cool-to-touch Ferrari ball-head gear lever just pops into the gear after a mere nudge, the responsive growl of the diesel, the positive turn in. . . . I could go on and on.
PERFECT BALANCE: Steering feel is excellent and it isn’t heavy either.
I decide to take the longer, but at times faster way home, and then because the roads are open, the pace picks up; the Compass rides the strong wave of torque quiet effortlessly. ‘Stairway’, coming over the speakers, is building in tempo too, the music opening out layer upon layer; the finger picking is giving way to soft chords.
It’s wet, the corners are tight, and the Jeep should feel sloppy and fat; but no. Traction is excellent, it doesn’t roll too much, and then when I tweak the wheel, the nose follows like an obedient puppy. What’s even nicer is the balance it has; open out the steering, squeeze the right pedal progressively and it just accelerates neatly out of corners. Cool.
UNDER PRESSURE: Brake pedal pressure is sometimes inconsistent.
Wish the wipers were better though and on a wet day like this, where visibility is down, I would have liked stronger lights too. Still, the Compass and me are clearly motoring now. And then the drums come in, and it starts to rain harder.
Elevated road done and dusted I start using more and more throttle. In fact, once on the straight and level, I begin to extract every ounce of power. And that’s the other thing I love about this diesel, it just keeps pulling and pulling – all the way to the 4,900rpm redline. And, as earlier, almost by magic, the music falls in step perfectly, the final guitar solo soaring, going higher and higher. Soon, almost before I know it, I’m turning into my parking… and the final bars of the song wring out… 7min 59sec. That was quick. That was uplifting. I quickly WhatsApp the link to Rahul and Gavin (who are still in office) for their drive back home.
I HEAR YOU: Engine is a bit noisy at high rpm.
What? You haven’t heard Stairway to Heaven? You haven’t driven a Jeep Compass?