With fall around the corner, it’s the season for chukkas and cardigans. It’s also time for winery tours, Oktoberfests and maybe a trek to the pumpkin patch. All you need now is a rugged ride to take you there.
JEEP COMPASS LIMITED
Mpg: 23 city/30 highway
0-to-60 mph: 9.3 seconds
Maximum cargo space: 59.8 cu. ft.
For the compact Compass this year, Jeep ditched the dorky design and replaced it with a strapping exterior. Think of it as Cherokee-lite, with svelte side panels and a handsome windswept grill. While there are four trim levels, the top-of-the-line Compass Limited, available only in all-wheel drive, boasts larger wheels, chrome trim and a host of luxury features: heated front seats, heated steering wheel, dual-zone climate control and a stop-start engine function to help save gas. Safety options add brake assist, automatic high beams, lane-departure warning, collision alert and more. The modish cabin also echoes the Cherokee, from the chiseled dash to the easy-to-use infotainment system. Most impressive is the improved cornering, smooth suspension and refined off-road capability. Biggest downside: the sluggish engine. Though such anemic acceleration isn’t ideal, it’s hard to ignore just how much the Compass has stepped up its game.
Mpg: 17 city/23 highway
0-to-60 mph: 7.9 seconds
Maximum cargo space: 96.8 cu. ft.
While other automakers churn out ever-smaller crossovers, VW opted for a plus-sized ride and christened it after a burly Greek giant. The all-new Atlas lives up to its name, with three rows, seven-seats and almost twice the cargo capacity of a compact VW Tiguan. But is bigger really better? Yes, when it comes to the light feel, tight steering and solid braking. As with all VWs, there’s a simple but savvy cabin design. Options include rear sunshades, power liftgate, second-row captain’s chairs, all-wheel drive and the latest safety fare. But acceleration is a bit feeble in the four-cylinder and only marginally better in the V6. And the suspension feels rough over bumps, especially when the backend shimmies over large potholes. While road noise is fine in city driving, it’s somewhat loud on the freeway. Still, there’s an impressive array of standard gear, including cruise control, power mirrors, rearview camera and Bluetooth. And the full-size Atlas offers much more room yet costs a lot less than VW’s midsize Touareg crossover.
RANGE ROVER HSE
Mpg: 22 city/29 highway
0-to-60 mph: 7.3 seconds
Maximum cargo space: 71.7 cu. ft.
Compared with a Range Rover, driving other crossovers can feel like you’re slumming it. But then, this is a vehicle for the Abercrombie & Kent set. Order the SVAutobiography long-wheelbase version with a thrilling 550-hp V8 engine and 29-speaker Meridian stereo, and the sales price tops $200,000. Suddenly, a $93,000 HSE model seems downright affordable. This haute hauler comes with a 380-hp V6 turbo, which is plenty powerful. And the superb brakes and effortless steering make this hulking vehicle surprisingly nimble. While there’s plenty of passenger room, the cargo area is less than average for a full-size SUV. What isn’t average is the long list of glitz, including 18-way heated/ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, three-zone climate control, keyless entry, soft-closing doors, auto-dimming exterior mirrors, satellite navigation, 12-speaker stereo, 20-inch wheels and motion-sensitive tailgate. Safety features include hill-descent control, rearview camera, front/rear parking sensors, collision warning with brake assist, lane-departure warning and more. Most decadent features: adaptive air suspension, which lowers the vehicle for easier access, and a beverage cooler in the center console.