Beauty and death. Those words reverberated through my brain as I traversed the desert east of L.A., humming along at high double-digit speeds in the all-new, reborn Jeep Compass Latitude. 

The first-generation Compass, introduced a decade ago, was Jeep’s initial entry-level crossover. Unfortunately, the “crossing over” got lost in translation. 

Not so with this reincarnated compact SUV, which I got to know intimately on a recent three-day road trip with an eclectic group—including Cult guitarist Billy Duffy—brought together by L.A. tour company EagleRider. 

The motorvator for all this enjoyment is a 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder with ample power for most any condition. From a standstill, the Compass jumped like a scalded coyote. 

Trekking up a famously steep grade on Interstate 15, the six-speed automatic honed in on fourth or fifth. Of course, the price one pays for quiet, high-mpg cruising is a tranny that has to downshift a couple of gears for passing mode, so plan ahead. 

The Compass is a small crossover, yet it has more cargo space than the larger Cherokee, with plenty of room for two up front and a tight-knit trio in back. Speaking of tight, the cabin’s free of wind or road noise at all speeds. 

The Compass showed excellent high-speed stability and was impervious to crosswinds that nearly blew one of our chase vehicles off the road. The ride’s comfortable at both low speeds and high: bumps, road cracks—no problem. And with the Compass’ rigid structure, Jeep even built a 4WD version with the off-road prowess of the aforementioned coyote. 

For options, order the power driver’s seat—not once did I dismount feeling “rode hard and put away wet.” And the Compass’ tech—U Connect, CarPlay—integrated so seamlessly with my iPhone, by trip’s end I was calling it my four-wheel iPad. I also got a Garmin Dash Cam 55, which tracked our every move. 

Leaving Oatman, AZ, an authentic Wild West mining town on old Route 66, I played sports car on a road as twisty as a desert rattler—and this SUV had the bite to match, cornering smoothly, handling switchbacks and 180s, even on a road riddled with sand and fallen rocks. Yup, this Compass is “the Latitude with attitude.”