23 February 2007

Point of departure

Compass is Jeep's softest model yet

Jeep Compass

Strange things are afoot. McDonalds sells salad, Clarkson is growing biofuel... and Jeep has released a front-wheel-drive model.

Well, sort of. The Compass, which goes on sale in the UK in May, is Jeep's softest SUV yet.

It comes equipped with what Jeep is calling Freedom Drive - a four-wheel-drive system that directs power through the front wheels for 90 per cent of the time, only switching to all-wheel drive when things get really slippery.

Remarkably similar to the Intelligent Four-Wheel-Drive system on the new Vauxhall Antara, Freedom Drive promises hatchback-like handling and better economy.

Indeed, Jeep reckons that the Compass will return 43mpg - a heady statistic for the brawny American firm.

The Compass shares a platform with the upcoming Jeep Patriot, and is available with a VW-sourced 2.0-litre six-speed manual diesel engine or 2.4-litre petrol unit with a five-speed manual or auto 'box.

Prices start at £17,990.

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