First Look: 2012 Jeep Compass True North

Jeep’s Compass isn’t exactly known as an ideal canvas for building a purpose-built off-road vehicle, but it seems Mopar -- Chrysler’s parts and accessories division -- thinks otherwise. In fact, the brand recently introduced a new Compass True North package that might further the Compass’ prowess off the beaten trail.

Unlike Mopar’s other dealer-installed vehicle kits, the True North isn’t split into a series of stages. Instead, this single package both addresses the CUV’s functionality and simultaneously dresses up its exterior.

Along with a stylish new front clip and a substantially upgraded interior, the overhauled Compass that debuted in 2011 introduced the optional Freedom Drive II package, which adds a low range, a one-inch taller ride height, skid plates, and tow hooks. Although those revisions were enough to finally earn the Compass a “Trail Rated” badge, Mopar’s kit takes things a step further. True North models gain a two-inch lift kit sourced from Rocky Road Suspensions, which consist of front and rear strut spacers, new rear upper control arms, upgraded swaybar extensions, and offset camber bolts. That revision not only increases ground clearance, but allows Mopar to fit black-finished 16-inch wheels, wrapped in more aggressive BF Goodrich All-Terrain rubber.

Some exterior revisions -- notably the blacked-out grille surround and the matte black roof -- are just for show, but many serve a function on severe trails. Mopar adds tubular rock rails, along with charcoal-hued fender flares and lower door cladding, and tubular front and rear brush guards. One interesting touch: rear fog lamps are cribbed from the European-spec Compass, and could provide additional visibility once the sun sets on the trail.

Revisions inside are a little less substantial. Mopar dresses things up with bright chrome door sill plates and pedal covers, but they’ll likely get rather dirty if the True North is actually being used to its full extent. To that end, Mopar also adds all-weather floor mats, a cargo tray, and washable neoprene seat covers. A pod atop the center stack houses pitch and roll inclinometers, while the stock audio system is replaced with a Kicker audio system, complete with a subwoofer. Although there’s some talk of ultimately making the Compass True North a regular, factory-built option package, it will initially launch as a dealer installed kit this fall. Pricing has yet to be announced, but buyers will certainly have to start with an all-wheel-drive Compass equipped with the Freedom Drive II package. Presently, the least expensive way to order such a vehicle is the Compass Sport. All-wheel-drive Sport models start at $21825, but since adding the Freedom Drive II package costs $550 and requires the optional $1100 continuously variable transmission, a True North-ready Compass Sport will sticker closer to $23,425.

Before factoring in the True North kit and its installation, that’s about $600 more than a base 2012 Wrangler Sport -- a less sophisticated model, perhaps, but one we think may resonate a little more with customers seriously interested in tackling the beaten trail.

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