We drove the Jeep Compass PHEV 4xe: plug-in hybrid now takes you beautifully everywhere…

Jeep is building on a very comprehensive drivetrain offering across its range, with increasing emphasis on (hybrid) E-power.

Jeep has always been a vehicle which has been near to nature, and this new 4xe range comes ever closer to its vocation. It represents an important step of the brand’s evolutionary process, which is oriented more than ever towards sustainability and electrification.

In these columns you could read already about our driving impressions of the Compass with the very smooth new four-cylinder 1.3-litre turbo petrol engine made at the FCA plant in Melfi, in the Italian region of Basilicata. Just read our report titled “We drove the new Compass “Made in Europe” with the brand new 1,3 litre petrol engine…” It is part of the new FCA Global Small Engine family, launched in mid-2018 on the Jeep Renegade.  As you can read in this post, we were very impressed. But there is an even more interesting version, which we test for you today: the 4xe, with an electric motor mated to a choice of either the 190 hp and 240 hp version of the 1.3-litre Global Small Engine. What’s more, both these 4xe versions are four-wheel drive only. Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Thorough development…

The 4xe range is important for the brand, so the greatest attention was given to its development.

The painstaking development process of the Compass 4xe culminated at the Arjeplog Proving Grounds in Swedish Lapland. Up to 3,800 kilometers of road tests were clocked up to reach Arjeplog from Turin and put the Jeep plug-in hybrid SUVs through their paces in all conditions that customers might need to tackle. Tests continued in the winter of 2019 in Arjeplog and during the long-awaited Jeep Winter event in Champoluc (Val d’Aosta, Italy), where the brand provided a glimpse on the operation of the 4xe system through a cross section of a Jeep Renegade on display. The beginning of 2020 welcomed the launch of the “First Edition”, the exclusive launch editions for both Jeep Renegade 4xe and Jeep Compass 4xe.

No secrets, even for a novice…

We must admit, the results are quite impressive. Right from the first meters, this PHEV shows its maturity. What’s more, it is not only thoroughly engineered, it is also eminently practical, and understandable even for the first time hybrid and 4WD driver for that matter. The driver can easily select one of the three buttons on the center console, i.e. “hybrid”, “electric” and “e-save.” This can be done at the start, but also whilst driving, one can select between the three modes. The modes are self-explaining actually, but we describe them for you here:

Hybrid is the default mode selected when the car is started. It is designed to manage and use the system in the most efficient way, optimizing power and minimizing fuel consumption. The internal combustion engine and electric motor work together according to the road type, with braking energy recovery phases.

Initially, the system favors electric driving (so the power is supplied by the electric motor). When the battery reaches the minimum charge level (called “SOC”, State Of Charge), the internal combustion engine is used for propulsion. Throughout the drive or trip, the system manages start-up and intervention through an optimization algorithm (Hybrid Control Processor – HCP) designed to maximize the system efficiency levels.

Electric is the mode that provides a full-electric average range of around 50 kilometers at zero emissions. It is designed to maximize the electric driving experience through a different calibration of the HCP optimization algorithm. The car drives in electric-only mode as long as there is sufficient charge in the battery. The system automatically switches to HYBRID mode when the battery is completely flat or when the driver uses kick-down. A top speed of up to 130 km/h can be reached. This is the ideal mode for traveling in city centers with traffic and emission restrictions.

E-SAVE , on the other hand, is the mode for maintaining battery charge or for charging it while driving using the internal combustion engine. E-SAVE mode supports two secondary modes, called Battery Save (passive E-SAVE) and Battery Charge (active E-SAVE), both of which can be activated on the Uconnect system screen.

Passive E-SAVE or Battery Save: maintains the state of charge of the battery through the predominant use of the internal combustion engine;

E-SAVE active or Battery Charge: charges the battery up to 80% through the operation of the internal combustion engine on which the combined front electric generator acts.

We tested of course all the modes, but to measure the overall efficiency of the E-drivetrain, we opted for quite an important part of our test for the E-SAVE active mode. While keeping the battery charged on longer trips, even recharging it indeed up to 75-80 %, we clocked an average consumption of 7,6 liters/100 km, which, for a full 4WD vehicle is very, very creditable indeed. It must be said that we drove this Compass with anticipation and respected the legal speed limits. In hybrid mode, with the E-motor also delivering some work, consumption evidently drops. In the combined cycle, the manufacturer quotes 2,1 l/100 km. CO2 emissions are very low with 47 – 49 g/km.

We were also very impressed, as in our previous test with the “normal” Compass, by the outstanding level of technical refinement of this drivetrain. The Compass we tested was equipped with the 130 HP version of the smooth 1,3 litre engine, plus the 60 hp produced by the electric motor, adding up to a total of 190 hp. In terms of torque, the electric motor produces 250 Nm, while the combustion engine delivers 270 Nm. Performance does not leave anything to be desired: 0 to 100 km/h costs 7,9 seconds and top speed is 183 km/h.

E-power…

The Compass has two electric motors, one of which is located on the front axle and coupled to the internal combustion engine that, in addition to working in synergy with the engine, can act as a high-voltage generator, as necessary.

The second one is located on the rear axle and features reduction gear and integrated differential (“e-axle”). It delivers 60 hp of power and 250 Nm of torque, generating traction and recovering energy while braking. The electric motor actually drives the rear wheels, the combustion engine the front wheels.

The 11.4 kWh, 400-volt lithium-ion battery pack uses cobalt-nickel manganese/graphite chemistry. It is located underneath the second-row of seats, where it is protected from outside elements. Enclosed in a steel casing, the pack is fitted with a dedicated heating and cooling circuit to keep the battery at its optimum temperature for best performance.

The 11.4 kWh battery pack allows the Renegade and Compass 4xe to travel an average range of 50 kilometers* in full-electric, zero-emission mode. The hybrid system also includes a power inverter (PIM) housed inside the battery pack, which is also protected from damage.

Regenerative braking and…e-Coasting!

The 4xe Compass is relaxing and smooth to drive in town, where you can enjoy the “zen” qualities of pure E-power, and the six-speed auto box is super smooth when you enjoy the pulling power qualities of the 1,3 litre engine. But there is more than just smooth progress. There is regenerative braking, which is always active regardless of the driving mode (internal combustion engine or electric motor) to maximize energy recovery when the throttle and brake pedals are released. But the Compass has more upon its sleeve. It also allows e-Coasting. This function is available when the gearlever is put in “D”.  By pressing the ‘e-Coasting’ button, the regenerative braking intensity can be activated according to two different levels, more or less intense.

A warning light on the instrument panel display indicates activation through two different colors: White (“Normal”) if the “Intense” function is selected but not active (accelerator pedal not released); Green, if the “Intense” function is selected and active (accelerator pedal released).

After the more intense function has been activated, the regenerative braking calibration is more explicit when coasting. This feature reduces the speed faster than standard regenerative braking and generates more electricity to be conveyed to the battery pack.

A dedicated message will appear on the instrument panel during the transition from the “Intense” to “Normal” function and vice versa.

The absolute king off-road…

The legendary offroad qualities of a Jeep are well known to all of us. With an electric motor with its instant massive torque driving the rear wheels independently from the front wheels, 4WD torque delivery can be even more gradual and fine-tuned, and this Compass (and Renegade) 4xe even outclasses in this respect the “classic” Jeeps. The Jeep driver has the usual choice between different off-road driving modes: Auto, Sport, Snow, Sand/Mud. Remarkable is also this “Sport” mode: This is a first on the Compass and Renegade, and uses both the electric motor and the internal combustion engine to deliver sporty driving performances. It tightens up the steering, sharpens the throttle response and adjusts the behavior of the transmission via higher upshifts for full power and torque delivery. Just great!

And then here is also Jeep Selec-Terrain traction control. It combines the dynamic modes to two different 4×4 traction modes, i.e. 4WD Lock and 4WD Low. In the 4WD Lock mode, the four-wheel drive is permanently engaged at speeds up to 15 km/h, keeping the rear electric motor (P4) constantly running to provide 4×4 traction at low speeds with a constant distribution of torque between the two axles (the distribution ratio varies depending on the selected Terrain mode). At speeds above 15 km/h, AWD becomes on-demand. Jeep thought here of everything: what if the battery charge is low? Well, the full functionality of the 4xe four-wheel drive is guaranteed by the ’Powerlooping‘ function when the battery charge level is low. This ensures that the front electric motor, which is mechanically connected to the internal combustion engine, continuously generates high-voltage current to power the rear electric motor and so maximum traction is delivered regardless of the state of charge of the battery.

4WD Low mode is used when the going gets really rough: like when you are tackling big rocks for example…

Versatile

The Compass is an eminently versatile 4WD vehicle. Smoothly at home in urban and open road traffic, and a master off-road: there is nothing this Compass cannot do. It’s hybrid system is quite practical and self-explaining to use, and the Compass is also the proverbial breeze to charge: either through the normal domestic socket using the supplied cable, or by connecting to the handy easyWallbox charger the evening before. Using the “E-Control” function, the driver can set the favorite start time and the battery charging time, for instance picking the most cost-effective electricity tariffs. He can also program charging from home using his smartphone.

Easy charging

FCA is developing solutions to fulfill every requirement, starting from charge points: the around 3,600 charging columns installed at dealerships across Europe and in plant parking lots are heading in this direction, as are the agreements with Enel X and ENGIE, leading players in the energy sector, to offer simple and immediate access to public and home charge points, like the easyWallbox.

Based on another partnership with Digital Charging Solutions (DCS), customers who choose the Jeep Renegade and Compass 4xe will have access to “My easy Charge”, a digital service providing access to the largest public charging network in the world, managed by DCS.

Via a dedicated app and a single card, this solution will offer access to more than 130,000 charging stations in 21 European countries. Finally, with ENGIE Eps and Terna, FCA e-Mobility has developed laboratories for innovative technologies, such as Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G), a system whereby an electric car interacts with the electricity network to return or store energy.

Conclusion

A very clever and eminently useful Plug In Hybrid, which is totally in tune with the times, has style, panache, roominess, sturdiness, smoothness, is economical and has legendary off-road qualities. Above all, it is a Jeep, the genuine article. What are you waiting for?

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s