Haven't driven an 8 speed, which is only available on the new 2014 model.
I just bought a 2013 3.6L. I did it intentionally since the 5 speed transmission has been around a lot longer, and also because I don't like the '14 redesign. Some time after they introduced the '11 WK2, they redesigned the Compass to look similar. Now, for '14, the WK2 has been redesigned to look more like the Compass. I remember seeing both models at the Detroit auto show, and doing a double take because what I thought was the WK2 was actually a Compass.
I came from a late model AWD Cadillac to this Jeep. The Cadillac averaged 19mpg with 89 octane. The Jeep averages mid-18 with 87 octane. I commute about 25 miles one-way on 2-lane roads in Oakland County (about 25 traffic lights) with a 5mi run on I-75.
Overall the ride quality / comfort / stereo / etc...everything about this Jeep is so much better than the Cadillac ever was.