Wednesday, March 30, 2011

New Chrysler Looks Good So Far

I am just finishing up a weeklong test of the 2011 Jeep Compass. Like its Chrysler Corporation brethren, it has been significantly improved this year. And the improvements, as far as I can tell, are real.

How do you judge a car? Consumer Reports supplies data on number of defects per 100 cars, but you only have one. It's how the car feels when you're sitting inside it and how it drives. In these two ways, the 2011 Compass is worlds better than the one I tested four years ago.

For one thing, the face is much more attractive. The hood, fenders and fascia resemble those of the new Grand Cherokee, which has been hailed by practically everyone as a milestone vehicle for the brand. It's like getting a nose job from the top surgeon in Beverly Hills.

Inside, the dashboard is not only better looking, but seems to be constructed of significantly upgraded materials. The plastic has a fine sheen to it. The doors are nicely padded. The trim looks great--especially on the steering wheel, which is elegantly presented and contains controls for the audio and trip computer, among other things. The seats are handsome and comfortable. The window control buttons feel nicely rounded. And--it's quiet in there.

Chrysler's Media website claims they've fixed the steering and suspension, and it must be true because the car's a joy to drive--a real surprise for me. Apparently they dialed in a higher spring rate, improved damping, and added rebounding springs, as well as beefing up the sway bar.

I got more than 20 miles per gallon, too, from the 2.4-liter four with continuously variable transmission.

At $26,000, with a bunch of extras, I was impressed. Next: Let's see what they did to the new Dodge Charger!

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