2010 Jeep Commander

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2006 Jeep Commander

This 2006 review is representative of model years 2006 to 2010.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

Jeep finally offers a third-row seat with its new, retro-style Commander.
Pros:
  • Utilitarian
  • Comfortable
  • Rugged
Cons:
  • Third-row seat mostly for kids
  • Boxy styling
  • So-so fuel economy

Families who fear a minivan would give them a "domesticated" image shop for sport-utility vehicles with a third-row seat. Surprisingly, considering Jeep's long production of utility vehicles, its 2006 Commander is the first Jeep to have such a seat.

In recent years, a third-row seat has been increasingly wanted by many SUV buyers. Jeep has lost sales because many of its competitors provide such a seat.

Jeep didn't want to put a third seat in its flagship Grand Cherokee SUV because it found that many owners and potential buyers of that vehicle didn't want a third seat. Moreover, Jeep felt such a seat would hurt styling of the Grand Cherokee, which has smoother, more rounded lines than the boxy Commander.

Based on Another Jeep Model
The midsize 7-passenger Commander is based on the platform of the Grand Cherokee, which seats five. They have the same 109.5-inch wheelbase, but the Commander is two inches longer and slightly wider and taller.

The first Jeep became famous as a tough World War II go-anywhere military vehicle, but Jeep has been making civilian vehicles for longer than most might guess. The first civilian versions of that wartime Jeep were too crude for general use. But Jeep, which was then made by the defunct Willys-Overland auto company, began producing a long-lived 4-wheel station wagon in 1946.

Retro Look
The Commander has a Jeep retro look with items found on the 1946 Jeep wagon. They include a slotted grille, round headlights, trapezoidal wheel openings and boxy shape with a steep windshield and rear end.

But so what? Coca-Cola hasn't changed the shape of its glass bottle, which seemingly has been around forever, and Porsche hasn't changed the basic shape of its iconic 911 sports car, which was introduced in Europe in 1963.

The Commander has a very upright rear window to provide enough space for two extra passengers, and that helps give it a boxy look. Not that most Jeeps haven't had such a look. Even the old Jeep Grand Wagoneer, which was truly grand in the 1960s and 1970s, was boxy. So was the 1984-2001 Jeep Cherokee, which Jeep says also inspired the Commander.

After Willys-Overland, Jeep's ownership went to American Motors, Chrysler and finally, DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler group. Despite all those ownership changes, Jeep has retained traditional styling elements since that 1946 wagon, which Jeep calls one of the "key sources of inspiration" for the Commander.

Third Seat for Kids
The Commander's third seat is best suited to kids—not to normal-size adults except on very short trips. Access to the third row seat is gotten by flipping the second-row seat forward. That's no problem, but reaching the third seat area is a cumbersome process even for nimble adults.

Moreover, the third seat partially obstructs rear vision when its headrests are in place. And it leaves little room for cargo when in its upright position. On the other hand, its seatbacks easily fold forward with the second-row seatbacks to provide a flat-floor cargo area.

Airy Interior
Occupants sit high and there's an unusually good view of surroundings because the second- and third-row seats are positioned theater-style, with the second row higher than the first and the third row higher than the second.

A power front sunroof and dual tinted glass skylights with sunshades are offered in the roof above the second seat row to expand the sense of interior roominess.

Cashing In
The Chrysler group wants to cash in more on the legendary Jeep nameplate by expanding the Jeep line, which also contains the Liberty and Wrangler. The compact 2007 Jeep Compass and Patriot arrive in 2006 to further expand the line.

The $27,290-$38,205 Commander is offered in base and upscale Limited trim levels. It comes with rear- or 4-wheel drive and retains Jeep's off-road prowess.

HEMI V8 Offered
There's a 3.7-liter 210-horspower V6, which needs more punch for freeway/highway use, and a 4.7-liter 235-horsepower V8 standard in the Limited and a $1,340 option for the base version. There also is a neck-snapping 5.7-liter 330-horsepower HEMI V8, which is a $1,495 option only for the Limited 4-wheel-drive version.

Each V8 has its own 4-wheel-drive system with low-range gearing for rugged off-road use, but such gearing isn't available for the Commander V6.

No Fuel Miser
The HEMI provides exceptional acceleration and has a cylinder deactivation feature during leisurely driving for better fuel economy. But the Commander weighs nearly 5,000 pounds and thus is no fuel miser with any of its engines—although it's easy to maneuver and garage.

The V6 provides the best estimated fuel economy: 16 mpg in the city and 20 on highways. The 4.7 V8 delivers 15 and 19, while the HEMI figures are 14 and 18, despite the cylinder shutdown feature.

The engines work with a responsive 5-speed automatic transmission with manual shift capability.

Good Roadability
The solid-feeling Commander has hefty power steering, a firm-but-supple ride, decent handling and strong brakes. It's impressively quiet, comfortable and composed during fast highway cruising, although it's essentially a big box.

Large outside door handles and openings, nicely shaped interior door handles and grab bars on windshield posts make it easier to get in and out of the moderately high Commander's functional interior. Front seats are supportive, and sound system and climate controls are lit at night to facilitate their use. However, second-row leg room for a tall passenger behind a driver is just adequate.

The hatch is large, but a rather high cargo floor requires extra muscle when loading or unloading heavy items onto the wide, flat cargo floor, which is roomy but not especially deep.

Comfort and Convenience
Even the base Commander version is nicely equipped with comfort and convenience features, including air conditioning, cruise control, an AM/FM/CD, a power driver seat, a tilt wheel and power windows, mirrors and locks with remote keyless entry.

The Limited offers a plusher interior with leather upholstery and adds a power sunroof, power front passenger seat, heated front seats, rear air conditioning, power adjustable pedals, upgraded sound system and Sirius satellite radio.

Lots of Safety Features
The Commander is said to have more safety and security features than any previous Chrysler group vehicle. They include anti-lock disc brakes, front-seat side airbags, side-curtain airbags, traction control and an anti-skid system with a "roll mitigation" system that detects an impending tip and uses the anti-skid system to reduce chances of a rollover.

The rear-obstacle detection system will come in handy because a driver can't see what's directly behind the Commander when backing up.

There are plenty of options, including a $1,200 DVD entertainment system and $820 chrome wheels for the Limited.

Many folks won't buy a house unless it has central air conditioning, and many won't consider an SUV without a third-row seat. Well, such a seat is finally offered by Jeep, and it helps make the Commander appealing.

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BB03 - 8/1/2014 3:47:06 PM