The 2006 Commander is our modern-day Wagoneer. It's square, rugged, and has the go-anywhere attitude of the prior Jeep model, which existed from 1963 to 1991. That isn't a bad vehicle to emulate: Those who bought Wagoneers and Grand Wagoneers loved them, and fans sought their big, boxy look, wood paneling, and four-wheel-drive capability. They were bigger than station wagons and were sport/utilities before the category existed.

Changing tastes caused the full-size Jeep to disappear, and the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee became Jeep's big sellers. But the Grand Cherokee didn't offer seven-passenger seating, and it didn't have the tall, square look--the trademark for Jeeps past. While rumors of a new Ram-based Grand Wagoneer flew fast and furious, DaimlerChrysler went in another direction--it designed a new SUV, based on the new Grand Cherokee platform, and called it the Commander.

While the new vehicle has the same wheelbase as the Grand Cherokee, Jeep did some serious repackaging to give it room for three rows of seats. Because the sides, front, and rear are much more vertical than those of the Grand Cherokee, and the body is two inches longer, the Commander's interior is roomier. The new vehicle is wider by nearly five inches and taller by more than four, which translates to increased headroom in the first and second rows, more legroom in the second row (despite that added third row), and increased cargo volume. The 40/20/40-split reclining second row is situated higher than the front row, and the 50/50 third row is higher than the second in a stadium-seating setup that folds flat when hauling cargo's a higher priority. The roof is a stepped design that ensures headroom in every row.

Interior amenities include Command-View skylights (fixed glass panels above the second row) and optional power sunroof and DVD player. There's also additional storage in the form of an L-shaped bin in the floor behind the third row. The Commander comes standard with cloth seats, the V-6 engine, and body-color grille; the Limited receives leather, a choice of V-8s, chrome grille, and handles on the D-pillar that run from the roof rails down.

Like the Grand Cherokee, the Commander offers three engines: the 3.7-liter V-6, 4.7-liter V-8, or 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, backed by a choice of two automatic transmissions. The W5A580 five-speed is paired with the six, and the 545RFE multispeed auto controls the V-8s. Power output is 210, 235, and 330 horsepower, respectively. Its short- and long-arm coil-spring front and live-axle link-coil rear suspension are the same as in the Grand, as are the four-wheel-drive systems. However, unlike the Grand Cherokee, you can get the Commander with the 3.7-liter and Quadra-Trac II, which uses the NV245 two-speed transfer case. Quadra-Trac I, which is closer to all-wheel drive, is standard with the six on the Commander. Quadra-Trac II, and Quadra-Drive II (Jeep's most capable system) are available with either eight-cylinder engine. Quadra-Drive II uses front, center, and rear Electronic Limited-Slip Differentials, which replace the hydraulic-pump Vari-Lok differentials of the past. Ground clearance is about a half-inch better than the Grand Cherokee's, but the Grand's approach and departure angles are slightly better. Maximum towing capacity in the Commander is 7200 pounds with the Hemi, and top payload is 1620 when equipped with the six.

The big, boxy, seven-passenger Commander is the largest Jeep on the market. It bears the look inspired by the Willys Wagon, (Grand) Wagoneer, and Cherokee, and has versatility, power, and attitude--it's this generation's Wagoneer, with a good dose of technology in a mid- to full-size package. But where will it fall in the lineup? Depends on pricing. As of press time, the Commander's MSRP hadn't yet been finalized, but its base price could start a bit higher than the Grand's and top out lower than that more luxurious SUV.


What About That Wagoneer?
Even though it may look bigger than any of today's Jeeps, the Wagoneer's wheelbase is almost an inch shorter than the Grand Cherokee/Commander's, its overall length was shorter by five inches than the Commander's, and it was lower and narrower than either new vehicle.

Its 360-cubic-inch V-8 was good for 155 horsepower and was backed by a three-speed automatic. Compare that with the Commander's 210-horsepower V-6, 230-horse, 4.7-liter V-8, or 330-horsepower, 5.7-liter V-8, all of which use five-speed automatics.

Performance on the V-8-equipped Wagoneer wasn't spectacular: 0-to-60 mph in 12.3 seconds. While we don't have performance numbers for the Commander, the Hemi V-8 Grand Cherokee reaches 60 mph in 6.9 seconds.

There were rumors of a new Grand Wagoneer to be built on the Dodge Ram platform, but those discussions haven't borne fruit. However, we should note, because Jeep called the new vehicle the Commander, both the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer names are still available.

*Wagoneer specifications based on 1979 model, as tested in Motor Trend, April 1979

2006 Jeep Commander Specifications
General
Location of final assembly Detroit, Michigan
Body style Four-door SUV
EPA size class Multipurpose vehicle
Drivetrain layout Front engine, 2WD/4WD
Airbags Dual front (std), sides (opt)
Powertrain
Std engine 90o V-6, cast-iron block, alum heads
Bore x stroke, in 3.66 x 3.57
Displacement, ci/L 226/3.7
Compression ratio 9.7:1
Valve gear SOHC, 2 valves/cyl
SAE horsepower, hp @ rpm 210 @ 5200
SAE torque, lb-ft @ rpm 235 @ 4000
Opt engine 90o V-8, cast-iron block, alum heads
Bore x stroke, in 3.66 x 3.41
Displacement, ci/L 287/4.7
Compression ratio 9.0:1
Valve gear SOHC, 2 valves/cyl
SAE horsepower, hp @ rpm 235 @ 4500
SAE torque, lb-ft @ rpm 305 @ 3600
Opt engine 90o V-8, cast-iron block, alum heads
Bore x stroke, in 3.92 x 3.58
Displacement, ci/L 345/5.7
Compression ratio 9.6:1
Valve gear OHV, 2 valves/cyl
SAE horsepower, hp @ rpm 330 @ 5000
SAE torque, lb-ft @ rpm 375 @ 4000
Std transmission W5A580 5-speed auto
1st 3.59:1
2nd 2.19:1
3rd 1.41:1
4th 1.00:1
5th 0.83:1
Reverse 3.61:1
Axle ratio 3.07:1/3.55:1
Final-drive ratio 2.55:1/2.95:1
Opt transmission 545RFE multispeed auto
1st 3.00:1
2nd 1.67:1 upshift, 1.50:1 kickdown
3rd 1.00:1
4th 0.75:1
5th 0.67:1
Reverse 3.00:1
Axle ratio 3.73:1
Final-drive ratio 2.50:1
Transfer-case models NV140, NV245
Low-range ratio 2.72:1
Crawl ratio
(1st x axle
gears x low range)
30.4
Recommended fuel Regular unleaded (3.7, 4.7), midgrade unleaded (5.7)
Dimensions/Capacities
Wheelbase, in 109.5
Length, in 188.5
Width, in 89.0
Height, in 71.9
Track, f/r, in 62.6/62.6
Headroom, 1/2/3, in 42.1/40.2/35.7
Legroom, 1/2/3, in 41.7/36.1/28.9
Shoulder room, 1/2/3, in 59.0/58.5/50.4
Min ground clearance, in 8.6
Approach/departure angle, deg 34/27
Min curb weight, lb 4581
Max payload capacity, lb 1620
Max GVWR, lb 6100
Max GCWR, lb 13,300
Max towing capacity, lb 7200
Fuel capacity, gal 20.5
Chassis
Suspension, f/r Independent SLA, coil springs, upper and lower control arms/live axle, link coil w/track bar
Steering type Power rack and pinion
Ratio 17.4:1 on center, 15.5:1 at full lock
Turns, lock to lock 3.1
Brakes, f/r 12.9-in disc/12.6-in disc, 4WABS
Wheels 17x7.5-in cast aluminum
Tires 245/65R17 Goodyear Fortera all-season
Load/speed rating105S
Price
Base price $27,000 (est)
On sale Fall 2005
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