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2006 Jeep Commander

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San Francisco: The big news at Jeep this year is the largest Jeep of all, the brand new Commander. Loaded with traditional design cues and Trail Rated offroad virtues, it offers something no Jeep has provided before, a third row seat.

Not only can you place seven passengers in the Commander, but they will have a great view of the road. Between the handsome roof rack frames the top is pushed up by just over three inches, so, with stadium seating, rear passengers aren’t stuck staring at a headrest. As I drove the Commander, I could feel my family looming over me.

If you carry all those folks, there’s very little room for luggage behind the last row, but Jeep has installed some nice hooks for grocery bags, which should just fit (sideways).

The Commander is just a couple of inches longer than the Grand Cherokee, formerly the largest Jeep available, and it shares the Grand Cherokee’s 109.5-inch wheelbase. But, it is nearly five inches wider, which creates a feeling of vastness. If you are lucky enough to have the optional Electronic Infotainment package ($1,200), those rear passengers will feel like they’re in a theatre.

The Commander offers three engines, none of them small. The standard engine is a 3.7-liter V6, which is good for 210 horsepower. You can order the 4.7-liter V8 as an option if you want to gain 25 horsepower and, more importantly, 70 additional lb.-ft. of torque. The Commander Limited model gets this V8 as its standard powerplant. On the Limited, you can order Chrysler’s riotously popular HEMI V8, which bumps power up to 330 horsepower and 375 lb.-ft. of torque.

The HEMI features the Multi-Displacement System (MDS), which deactivates one bank of cylinders when they’re not needed, for example, when cruising on a level freeway. The deactivation and reactivation process is not apparent to the driver, certainly not to this one. Despite the MDS and posted fuel economy figures of 15 City, 19 Highway, I averaged 12.8 mpg. At least the HEMI drinks 89-octane middle grade gas.

My test unit was a Commander Limited in Bright Silver Metallic Clearcoat. In person, it is formidable, with tall, flat side panels, a seven-slot grille, straight upright tail, and slits for windows. Jeep is quick to point out its heritage of boxy offroading wagons, from the Willys Station Wagons of 1946-1962, to the Wagoneer that picked up in 1963 and ran all the way to 1991, to the beloved Cherokee (1984-2001). Nothing says Jeep like square and purposeful.

There is something comforting about the rugged styling and feel of the Commander. The fenders and the flat black dash panel both wear exposed Allen bolts for a mechanical touch. The thick, chunky door panels help you feel extra secure inside. The upright windshield is another Jeep tradition. The macho steering wheel goes right along with the theme.

Despite these tough design elements, the Commander is a very comfortable place to sit, and a quiet place to ride. The ride is softly damped. The mighty HEMI is tuned to motivate, not to irritate. You press the accelerator and are simply gone, with hardly a ripple in the placid calm of the interior. My car had optional Saddle Brown leather seats that were plush and had a friendly retro quality.

If you want the looks without the offroading prowess, you can select two-wheel-drive. Otherwise, there are three different types of four-wheel drive available. Quadra-Trac I is the simplest, and works completely automatically, with no levers or adjustments to make. A transfer case splits torque 48 percent front, 52 percent rear. The Brake Traction Control System senses tire slippage and modulates the brakes to send torque to wheels with better traction.

Vehicles with the 4.7-liter V8 engine get Quadra-Trac II, which uses sensors to determine which tires are slipping and then sends torque to the wheels that aren’t. Quadra-Trac II uses an electronic shift mechanism with a low range.

The top level Jeep 4x4 system is Quadra-Drive II. It adds electronic limited slip differentials and a sophisticated transfer case, which varies the torque from slip to lock at each axle instantly. This gives the maximum traction possible, while still being usable on dry roads.

The Commander offers some little extras you won’t find on every car. The CommandView skylights over the second row seats give a more open feeling. The wipers are rain sensitive. When you put the car in reverse, the

ParkSense system beeps if you approach anything or anybody. The SmartBeam headlamps dim automatically as you drive. Obviously, whoever named the new features has a fondness for intercaps.

Like other Jeep products, there’s a wide range of prices to reflect model, equipment, and option differences. My Limited model, with the HEMI engine, a navigation system, the entertainment system, a trailer tow group, and the Off-Road group, came to $43,700. You can buy the new 65th Anniversary model with two-wheel-drive and no options starting at $27,985.  By Steve Schaefer   © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

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Byline:  Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo © AutoWire.Net
Column Name: 
 Commander is the largest Jeep of all
 The 2006 Jeep Commander
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 The 2006 Jeep Commander
Photo Credits:  
Jeep Internet Media
Series #:   2006 - 11

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