It came out of nowhere.
I was driving a crappy rental car in the wilds of North Dakota when an ice storm started to blow snow across the highway, I started fishtailing, and then the heater went out in the rental. Not good. I arrived in the next town over and exchanged the rental for a Jeep Compass that made driving in that storm much easier.
One reason is that the Compass has intelligent traction control that monitors for tire slip at all times, adjusting for spin to keep you going straight down the road. Coincidentally, the very next week after that rental car experience, I did a full test of the 2023 Jeep Compass Latitude 4×4 and had a similar experience to the rental car (the second one, not the first one).
What’s really happening with the Compass? Only good things. In both tests, the 4×4 mode kept the car from slipping on the road. It’s an important lesson that now all crossovers are created equal, even when they both claim to monitor tire slip.
So, about that first rental. It’s one thing to have an intelligent traction control system and AWD in any car, but they do not all work the same. The first rental was not adjusting to tire slip by reducing power to that tire, and by making sure that you stay straight when the vehicle balances out the power ratio between all tires. Yes, they say it will do that. On the road in North Dakota, I can tell you that it did not work. You could feel a slight tire spin and the lack of adjustment, and you could see the lane markings as they careened in and out of view.
Technology can be like that. There’s the promise and the reality.
Back to the Compass — you can also feel when the traction control is working, and you can see the snow drifts that stay straight against the side of the vehicle. You can feel the stability and you can see it when you don’t start sliding around.
The Compass has a 4WD lock mode that essentially means you won’t lose traction just because there’s some ice on the road. It absolutely hugs the road.
This is more than just a safety issue. On that drive, I noticed how the Compass made me realize the 4WD mode meant I was able to go a little faster and drive out of the ice storm entirely, which saved time. Good technology is like that. When it works, and when you notice it’s actually helping how you drive, you can reach your destination faster.
In my case, it meant I made it to an event in plenty of time. With the first rental, I probably would have stayed in that city for the night, which would have cost more money. Tech can be enabling from a safety standpoint but also from a time and money standpoint.
The crazy realization after driving the Compass (twice!) was that this is a vehicle that lives up to the name — driving in a straight line, just like a real compass.