Preparing to shoot a few segments of Big Jon in 5 for BEER2WHISKEY in our upstairs studio at Barley's Taproom in downtown Greenville. That's owner Josh Beebe preparing for his closeup.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

From San Antonio to Comfort in the Redesigned 2017 Jeep Compass

I'm not the kind of guy who raves about this or that hotel. I stay in a lot of hotels, spas and resorts all over the place. Most of them are truly high-end properties that excel in pampering their guests. Generally, carmakers take very good care of us when hosting a media event. I'm not jaded by any stretch of the imagination. I still appreciate the level of service and comfort of the beds in a Four Seasons or Ritz Carlton, but long ago I ceased being dazzled by them.

So, it's something when I'm sufficiently impressed with a hotel to say so. In this instance, the lodging is San Antonio's Hotel Emma. In the past year I've stayed at Emma with Infiniti, Kia and, most recently, Jeep. To say I really like this property doesn't even come close to describing my enthusiasm for it. Located on the far north end of San Antonio's famed River Walk, it occupies the former home of the Pearl Brewery in the trendy Pearl District. Built in the 1800s, many elements of this historic structure have been preserved and integrated into the hotel. Everywhere you turn, history is staring you in the face.

Beyond the physical structure and its elements, service is topnotch, the bar remarkably well stocked and the rooms exceedingly comfortable. Although not part of the hotel, at one end of the building is the Southerleigh Restaurant, which is actually an upscale craft-brew pub. Hotel Emma is about as close to flirting with heaven as I want to get right now.

On this latest trip to experience the redesigned 2017 Jeep Compass, I was fortunate enough to spend a little time with the hotel's general manager Bill Petrella shooting a couple of just3things segments. A congenial host, he keeps all the balls in the air for this smooth-running operation. In less than 20 minutes, he delivered j3t segments on the River Walk and the Pearl District. Nailed it!

I arrived early on day 1, leaving me plenty of time to shoot the video I needed around the hotel. Dinner that evening was in the hotel followed by a visit to the Sternewirth 1883 for some small-batch bourbon and a few laughs. There was plenty of both.

The next morning we received the 411 on the Compass in a presentation lasting about an hour. Then we paired up, mounted up and headed off to sample this compact crossover in action. Our drive route took us out into Texas Hill Country where we eventually wound up at the Flat Rock Ranch near Comfort, Texas for lunch. Here Jeep had set up an off-road driving loop where we could really put Compass to the test.

Among the redesigned Compass takeaways is that this is a much improved vehicle. My driving partner and I judged its acceleration somewhat sluggish when trying to pass slower traffic. This may well be more of an issue with the 9-speed automatic transmission than with the 180-horsepower 2.4-liter Tigershark 4-cylinder engine. We found the powertrain much more spirited in the 4X2 Compass with a 6-speed automatic transmission that we drove back to the hotel that afternoon. Otherwise, there are no big buts in describing the updated Compass, whether discussing handling, ride quality, fit and finish, or amenities.

The reason for the 9-speed automatic (4X2 editions come standard with a manual 6-speed), of course, is fuel economy. Here the 4X4 Compass turns in more than credible numbers for its segment: Best in class, says Jeep. In the 4X4 with 9-speed auto tranny, the government estimates 22 mpg in the city/30 highway/25 combined. This is about the same as the significantly lighter 4X2 versions whether equipped with the 6-speed manual or automatic transmission.

Offroad, Compass is all Jeep. Offering Selec-Terrain, the system includes modes for snow, sand/mud, rock, as well as an automatic setting. The Compass Trailhawk also offers 4-Lo for really serious offroad crawling.

Boasting more than 70 safety systems, Compass also offers a wide range of tech features anchored by FCA's 8.4 Uconnect systems interface with an 8.4 in. touchscreen. Nicely crafted, the interior is comfy and surprisingly quiet. Pricing begins at $20,995 for the Sport 4X2. Loading up a Limited 4X4 with all the bells and whistles will top you out at around $34,700.

For dinner that evening Jeep walked us around the building to the front entrance of Southerleigh. The food was terrific, as were the craft beers brewed on site. After dinner it was back to Sternewirth 1883 for a nightcap. I confess, I have enjoyed Garrison Brothers Bourbon from time to time. Crafted just west of Austin in Hye, Texas, this is a sippin' bourbon of the first order. I almost always order a tumbler full when I can find it. 

I must admit, however, I had never paid much attention to its bottle before settling onto a bar stool that night in San Antonio. I think it's a work of art. I decided at that moment I needed a bottle for my liquor cabinet at home. Because I had a 4:30 a.m. shuttle to the airport the next morning, there wasn't anything I could do about it at the time. But acquiring a bottle was high on my priority list for my next Texas visit.

To be continued in next week's Clanging Bell wrap-up of the media event for the all-new 2018 Toyota C-HR in Austin.

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