For all you crazy kids out there, “gone west” is an old expression denoting someone’s disappearance -- or death. Fair to assume it arose back when there was a real western frontier to escape into rather than the scrub behind some BJ’s Wholesale loading dock. Frederick Jackson Turner liked the saying -- and Kerouac bandied it about -- but lately it's gone west itself. Still, old expressions don't really die, they just show up in old movies. Thus, "went west" joins such cinematic chestnuts as Natty Bumppo's recalling the time “since Hector was a pup” in The Last of the Mohicans, and some beatnik’s bongo-backed adviso to “split the scene” in the demimonde thriller, Stakeout on Dope Street.
|Into the setting sun: The 2013 Compass|
Or nearly so, anyway.
|Thelma and Louise go off-road|
These experiments in soccer-mom marketing haven't gone well. The Liberty, which was to make the 2000 Cherokee last of that noble line’s Mohicans, will soon find the Cherokee on the warpath to replace it. And despite the tea-party resonance of its name, watch for the Patriot to ultimately go the way of Occupy Wall Street. Last, the Compass may now be looking at only another year of production -- although some take the changes made to its 2014 model as indications that Chrysler intends to keep it around awhile longer.
Still, there’s that 2013 Compass under the sycamore. Badged at the trim-level of a mid-range Latitude, the $26,500 test car comes with the 2.4-liter four standard on all four-wheel-drive Compasses, and the continuously-variable transmission that now harmonizes their relationship, but won't be offered on 2014 models. Additional features include standard multi-stage airbags, full power accessories, electronic stability control, air-conditioning and heated front seats; while all-terrain tires, Uconnect devices and a SiriusXM Satellite radio constitute some optional equipment.
Despite efforts to provide the 2013 Compass with a traditional Jeep's air, we found the two-box nothing much to look at. Worse, the committee-design inherent in its hulking, squared-off wheel wells and upswept D-pillars made the thing look like it's been getting by on testosterone shots. With that in mind, it might be a good thing that the Honda CR-Vs, Toyota RAV4s and Subaru Foresters making up the Compass' competition sport elements of the bizarre Japanese aesthetic a couple of us privately term "nipizoidal."
There -- I've published it.
There -- I've published it.
|Interior, 2013 Compass|
Despite the lack of power and refinement reported to be inherent in the Compass’ 172-horsepower engine, we got down to and over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge’s roller coaster hump without anything untoward in the way of vehicular clamor and wheeze. While the Compass is based on the oft-maligned Dodge Caliber platform, it benefits from the latter's car-borne composure. Thus, our journey past the sprawl plaguing this part of the peninsula was nicely addressed by the Jeep's staunch -- if otherwise unremarkable -- braking, handling and response.
Still sun-struck under graying skies, bright fields of Canada geese accompanied our travels, their grasses aglow against the dark stands of loblolly pine marking their borders. It was amid these that the power-sapping effect of Compass’ continuously-variable tranny were felt. Yet more brawn-drain occurred as a result of the crossover’s light-duty 4WD, which is best suited to the mildly adverse conditions of places like these where the landscape’s too gentrified to condescend to bust an axle. It must be pointed out that the Jeep offers buyers an optional off-road package that includes a low-range mode for the CVT, hill ascent/descent assist and a host of other all-terrain equipment.
Our route took us past broad farms picturesquely appointed with matchbox houses. The Old Avenger Pilot was full of local lore: the town of St. Michael's "fooled" the British in 1813; that's the Choptank on the right, the bay on the left; there's the slip where we'd put in the Pink Lady back when we had her; they used to raise that drawbridge to quell "the coloreds" during race riots; there are Sitka deer in these woods.
On a finger of land between Choptank and bay, Tilghman's sky and fields grew sere -- the former swept by eagles as they scanned the latter for prey. While quaint, the island had a ghostly feel -- as if remote in time as well as distance; and its locals, descendants of those who'd fooled the Brits two centuries before, somehow found the arrival of a Jeep Compass into their midst unworthy of another turnout. Thus, quiet reigned as the OAP and I visited the skipjack Rebecca T. Ruark bobbing in the afternoon chop. One of her kind’s last Mohicans, she too will soon retire -- only with her storied name and heritage intact.