The Jeep Commander is a blocky, tall, broad-shouldered SUV that looks like it was made from Legos, making it very different from the the wind-smoothed Grand Cherokee with which it shares engines and underpinnings.
When Jeep debuted the Commander as a 2006 model, design by T-square was acceptable. (Think the Hummer H1 with a runner's physique.) It's 2 inches longer than the Grand Cherokee, with room for seven against the Cherokee's five. Its tall stance makes the middle-row seats comfortable perches with a superlative view.
There are plenty of powertrain options. The base Sport model comes standard with the Chrysler SOHC 3.7-liter V-6, also used in the Dodge Dakota and Jeep Liberty, with a five-speed automatic -- there are no manual gearboxes in the Commander's world -- and standard rear drive. Even this base engine, rated at 210 horsepower and providing a mediocre 14 mpg city/18 mph highway (using the current measurement methods from the EPA), can be mated to full-time 4WD.
But Jeep also offered the corporate 4.7-liter V-8 rated at 235 horsepower (at the same mileage figures as the V-6) and granted the option of RWD or the more sophisticated Quadra-Trac II four-wheel-drive system with a two-speed transfer case. The 4.7 was standard on the Limited, but buyers could option up to Quadra-Drive II 4WD, featuring a two-speed transfer case but supplemented with a trio of electronic limited-slip devices (front, center, rear).
Starting with 2007, the new Overland trim level came with a Hemi, all 5.7 liters and 330 horses worth, at the cost of just 1 mpg city and highway. Overlands came with Quadra-Drive II and a five-speed automatic transmission.
In 2008, the Commander's 4.7-liter V-8 was given a 70-horsepower jump in power (to 305) but required premium fuel. The next year, the Hemi's power was upped to 357 horses with cylinder deactivation for improved fuel economy. The Hemi creates an entertaining ride and impressive acceleration for a big, tall box, but most buyers are happy enough with the 4.7-liter V-8, particularly the 305-horsepower version. For 2010, the Commander's last year, Jeep made no further changes.
Owners love the power of the Hemi and appreciate the Commander's ability to go pretty much anywhere off-road, but there are complaints, some of them strident. The third-row seat is too small for adults, and the vehicle lacks the interior cargo room its stretched exterior dimensions promise. Also, while the basic drivelines are proven, reliability reports are peppered with complaints of an unreliable, fussy, failure-prone electrical system that involves traction control, ABS, ignition, windows, instru-ments, and other subsystems that are, in the modern way, all inextricably linked to a network of computers. Several owners report being outright stranded by errant ones and zeroes in the Commander's electronic brain. It's ironic that an icon like Jeep, famous for its rugged simplicity, should now have a model whose check-first buying advice includes ensuring that all the electronics work and having the dealer hack into the computer for fault codes.
|2006-2010 Jeep Commander|
|Body type||Four-door SUV|
|Drivetrain||Front engine, RWD/4WD|
|Engines||3.7-liter, 210-horsepower SOHC V-6; 4.7-liter, 235-305-horsepower SOHC V-8; 5.7-liter, 330-357-horsepower OHV V-8|
|Brakes, f/r||Disc/disc, ABS|
|Price range, whilesale/retail (est)||$12,625/$16,890 (2006 Sport V-6); $29,200/$34,730 (2009 Overland Hemi V-8 4WD)|
|Recalls||Too many to list; see www.intellichoice.com|
|NHTSA frontal impact rating, driver/pass||Five stars/five stars|