We Found Paradise in the Catskill Mountains Thanks to This Tough-As-Hell Jeep Compass

And by paradise we mean a 5-star boutique resort.

Photo: Jeep

Maxim HQ is smack dab in the middle of Times Square. While this provides plenty of opportunity to interact with grown men in Buzz Lightyear costumes, it’s not the best place to test out a car. And it’s an especially poor place to see what the all-new, super rugged Jeep Compass 4×4 is capable of.

That’s why, when handed the keys of a brand-new, “spitfire orange” 2017 model, we got the hell out of Dodge (or Jeep, I suppose?) and headed due north to the glorious Catskill Mountains. Our destination? The Emerson Resort and Spa, a 20-acre boutique property right in the heart of Hudson Valley’s skyscraper-free Ulster county—and just 20 minutes from the ultimate hippie destination, Woodstock. Yeah, man.

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Photo: Emerson Resort

The drive up in the compact crossover SUV was perfect—and not just due to the scenery and lack of pickpockets. First released in 2007, the Compass slots below the iconic Wrangler as Jeep’s entry-level model. Don’t think for a moment, however, that it feels anything close to cheap.

Totally new for the 2017 model year, the Compass resembles a miniature Grand Cherokee—which is a good thing. Gone is the frog-eyed fascia from the debut model, replaced with a handsome Cherokee-like grille. Its bulging fenders give the vehicle a powerful, aggressive stance, like it’s ready to participate in a grueling off-road race like the Baja 1000.

Photo: Jeep

The smooth New York State Thruway, however, is a far cry from Mexican dunes. (Thanks, Governor Cuomo!) No matter—the Compass is still fun as hell. Powered by Jeep’s 2.4-liter Tigershark four, it produces 180 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque, a slight improvement from the previous model. Mine is a 4×4 with a very intuitive nine-speed transmission (yes, nine) ensuring that I’m never jerking around in the wrong gear.

Inside, the Compass feels way nicer that any sub-$35K car should. (Yeah, it’s a steal.) Our test model had a massive 8.4-inch infotainment system complete with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Beats audio system, as well as soft leather seats and orange interior trim that matched the flashy paint job. It was the perfect space to transition from the nasty city to the ultra-luxe environs of the Emerson.

Photo: Emerson Resort

It’s little surprise that bold-face names like Keanu Reeves, Usher, and Bill and Hillary Clinton have made the sprawling resort, with both rustic-chic and thoroughly modern rooms, their temporary home. 

Besides its idyllic location, it has a full-service spa (including a couples massage room), access to a golf course, a farm-to-table restaurant with Catskill-themed menu items and cocktails, and—wait for it—the world’s largest kaleidoscope

This 60-foot giant features three massive 38-foot mirrors and provides a show that’s perfect for those who want the sensation of being high but don’t feel like journeying to nearby hippie-haven Woodstock.

Photo: Maxim

The Emerson was such a relaxing place to stay, in fact, I never quite motivated to hit any trails with the Compass. Instead of heading into the woods to see what the slick new Jeep could handle, I ended up three-cocktails deep passed out on a massage table with kaleidoscope images flashing in my eyes… while the 4×4 remained quietly parked outside.

Next time—promise!