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Being the end of my five-year tenure at GulfWeekly, I needed something special to sign off what has been an
incredible journey for me both professionally and personally.
If you ask me for the highlights of my time, the various media trips and motoring experiences will be high up there. What luck, then, that the fine folk at FCA Middle East flew me out one last time to the beautiful Lake Garda in Italy to put the 2019 Jeep Compass, Cherokee and Grand Cherokee through their paces.
It would be cheeky of me to admit that the best part of the trip was almost the business class flight. I mean, a full length bed, an on-board social lounge and incredible service … it took a special driving experience to top it.
We landed at Milan airport after a hearty sleep, where the vehicles were waiting for us to be driven on the motorway for a couple of hours. I decided to start off with the Compass and it did little to quell my excitement.
Powering across tarmac and twisting through hills, the 2.4-litre petrol engine delivered 180BHP of pure bliss.
For the off-road look, the Compass Trailhawk trim features 17-inch off-road wheels, a red rear tow-hook and comes equipped with Trailhawk’s Selec-Terrain that includes Selec-Speed Control with Hill-descent Control.
If you are one of those who can’t drive without connecting your phone, the Compass comes with the latest generation of Uconnect compatible with Apple Car Play and Android Auto.
After arriving at the quaint hotel in Desenzano del Garda, a small market town on the banks of the giant lake, I took a quick stroll round to soak in the views and enjoy some fresh spring air after the searing heat of Bahrain, before we were transported to a nearby castle for a press conference.
We learned a bit more about FCA’s plans for the Middle East region and their plans for hybrid and electric vehicles whilst sales information was fed to us in a series of slides and graphs.
Indeed, the second day was the one we were all waiting for. This started early in the morning (a phrase that gives me shudders … but I coped!) and we drove high up above sea level in the Italian hills to a beautiful chalet next to a marble mine.
Apparently, this ‘agriturismo’ is a popular holiday or day visit destination for Italians, being a house in the countryside which serves food alongside peace and quiet.
The revving engines of a trail of Jeeps certainly weren’t peaceful … but it was a beautiful experience nonetheless.
Each of these vehicles had a complex off-road track to drive on, with mud, hills, stones, rocks and sharp bends for us to navigate.
I took both the Cherokee and the Grand Cherokee out on this trip, but it was the latter which really stole the show.
It is one of the most awarded SUVs in the world, which is no surprise to anyone who has got behind the wheel of one. It gives you the best of both worlds; powerful on-road performance and safe, manoeuvrable comfort off it.
After a period of rainfall in Italy, the muddy course that was prepared for us was already deep and sludgy. Add some heavy vehicles drifting through and it soon became a mud bath which unfortunately claimed some of the drivers.
Not me, though! My Grand Cherokee did me proud and found enough bite in the sludge to get through unscathed with its wide variety of gear and traction options.
After a few steep descents and cutting a path through the quarry – including an unexpected stop so that some miners could detonate explosives – it was time to test the vehicle’s responsiveness across rocks and steep ascents.
Safe to say it passed with flying colours. In fact, you’d barely know there were hills at all as the traction and safety features kept the car secure and at a stop.
After tearing through the course at least three times (it was so much fun … so why stop?) it was back to the airport and that lovely plane again.
As my first trip to Europe after a bunch of press jaunts around the Middle East, it left me with a bittersweet feeling that whilst this chapter is closing, I will always cherish its memories.
l Scan the QR code below to watch Kristian’s experience review on YouTube. Behbehani Brothers has launched five new and refreshed models in the last 18 months as part of a FCA Middle East product offensive such as the Jeep Compass, Jeep Wrangler, Jeep Cherokee, Chrysler Pacifica and the Ram 1500. For more details, call Behbehani Brothers on 17459955.
l MotoringWeekly: Page 20