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
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
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
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
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.
Steve Schaefer © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
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Byline: Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo ©
is the largest Jeep of all
2006 Jeep Commander
2006 Jeep Commander
Jeep Internet Media
2006 - 11
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2006 Jeep Commander