The Commander’s sharp-cornered design only hints at the solid capabilities and modern features contained in this hulking Jeep. Naturally, with the name Jeep emblazoned on the hood, the Commander is Trail Rated, which means that it meets the same minimum off-roading capabilities as any other Jeep equipped with four-wheel drive. Short overhangs emphasize this Jeep’s excellent hill-climbing capability, and if you replace its all-season tires, the Commander can easily claw its way to that favorite backwoods fishing hole.
But with the Commander, performance is defined by more than just off-road capability. A big 5.7-liter Hemi V8 is the top choice of three engine variants, offering quick acceleration on paved surfaces. And in this, the largest of Jeeps, performance on the road is just as important as its prowess on dirt trails. In fact, power, traction, and ruggedness are virtues that the 2006 Jeep Commander exudes from each of its distinct corners.
Two trim levels, three engines and three different four-wheel drive systems offer consumers a wide variety of ways to equip a 2006 Jeep Commander, which comes only as a seven-passenger SUV that is constructed on the smaller Jeep Grand Cherokee’s frame and mechanicals.
Jeep starts out with the base Commander, which includes standard features such as 50/50 split third-row seating, Electronic Stability Control (ESP), 17-inch cast aluminum wheels, an eight-way power driver’s seat, CD player, cruise control and a tire pressure monitoring system.
Moving up to the 2006 Jeep Commander Limited grants access to the powerful 5.7-liter Hemi V8 engine while adding luxury touches like a chrome grille, fog lamps, rain-sensitive windshield wipers, leather-trimmed seats with memory feature, dual-zone climate control, power adjustable foot pedals, and a power sunroof with CommandView skylights.
The 2006 Jeep Commander comes with a standard 3.7-liter V6 engine that is merely adequate given the SUV’s size and passenger capacity while delivering a barely perceptible increase in fuel economy of one mile-per-gallon in city driving over the optional 4.7-liter V8 engine that provides good power and torque. But, we think the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 is a must for this vehicle for two reasons. First, we love the power and torque this engine offers and two, with this large vehicle you need the big V8 for hauling and towing, not to mention powering your way through those off-road conditions you might find in the woods. But let’s face it – no matter which motor you choose, fuel economy is an oxymoron with the Commander.
Nuts and Bolts
Essentially the engine that has proved itself in other Jeep models, the standard 235-horsepower 3.7-liter V6 has its work cut out for it, despite 305 lb.-ft. of torque that peaks at 4,000 rpm, because the 2006 Commander is heavier than its siblings at 4,783 pounds. It delivers when expectations are low, but for our money one of the V8 engines is a better choice. The 4.7-liter V8 is fine and drives well, and for most it may be the perfect engine thanks to its 235 horsepower and 305 lb.-ft. of torque.
But it’s the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 that gets our blood going. With 330 horsepower and 375 lb.-ft. of torque it is the best performer – except when it comes to conserving fuel. With this engine, we were able to climb steep gravel hills as well as climb over rocks and logs in our path with no trouble. Helping to mitigate the Hemi’s fuel consumption issue, Multi-Displacement System (MDS) technology smoothly deactivates half the engine’s cylinders to increase fuel economy on the highway by as much as 20 percent, according to Jeep. As a result, a Hemi-powered Commander rates 14 mpg city and 18 mpg highway.
Every 2006 Jeep Commander is equipped with a five-speed automatic, but the V6 gets its own transmission with different gearing. The five-speed unit paired with the V8 engines includes Electronic Range Select (ERS) manual-mode shifting giving the driver complete control.
Three unique four-wheel-drive systems are available on the 2006 Jeep Commander. Quadra-Trac I is a full-time all-wheel-drive system with no transfer case to shift, making it light-duty equipment best suited to on-road driving.
Quadra-Trac II is the system for advanced traction in both on-road and off-road driving conditions. In its full-time setting it offers 4WD for any condition and is particularly aimed at driving on hard surfaces. A dual-speed transfer case facilitates true low-range gearing that gives you the ability to crawl through the toughest of conditions. Quadra-Trac II also provides a neutral setting for easy towing behind another vehicle.
Quadra-Drive II is the most advanced 4WD system of the group and offers the most complete configurations and the toughest performance if you plan on going into the wilds. Quadra-Drive II offers the best traction in all conditions thanks to Electronic Limited Slip Differentials (ELSD) at the front, center and rear which takes the Commander’s traction to new levels.
The 2006 Jeep Commander’s suspension is comprised of a short- and long-arm independent setup in front with a multi-link solid rear axle equipped with a track bar. Power rack-and-pinion steering guides standard P245/65R17 Goodyear Fortera tires, while four-wheel-disc antilock brakes bring the Commander to a stop.
Electronic Stability Control (ESP) is standard equipment on all 2006 Jeep Commanders, a good idea since this is a tall SUV with a relatively short wheelbase, creating a high center of gravity.
According to Jeff Bell, Vice President Jeep, Chrysler Group, the 2006 Jeep Commander’s exterior design was inspired by the vehicles comprising Jeep’s heritage. The Jeep wagons of the 1940s and 1950s, the Wagoneer of the 1960s, and even the recently retired 1980s Cherokee have influenced the Commander’s design. As if the Commander’s basic profile isn’t distinct enough, Jeep’s signature seven-slot grille and round headlamps (set within a square housing) dominate the front end. Also culled from Jeep’s lineage are the trapezoidal wheel arches and flat surfaced sides. Even the name comes from a racy two-door runabout sold in the late 60s and early 70s.
The 2006 Commander is the first Jeep to offer three-row seating, although the third row is more a place for young children than grown adults thanks to the confining space. The point here is to have a third-row seat for those folks who feel they need the extra capacity. When the neighbor’s kids stay home, fold the third-seat down to create 36.4 cubic feet of storage behind the second-row bench. Fold all the seats and the Commander features a disappointing 68.9 cubic feet of maximum cargo space, besting the Grand Cherokee by just 1.5 cubes.
One trend among many manufacturers is to lend an open-air feeling to modern vehicles. For the 2006 Commander, Jeep has gone with dual CommandView fixed skylights which are packaged in tandem with a power sunroof above the front seats. Combined with the large side windows, these tinted skylights add a feeling of openness and are equipped with shades that can be rolled out to offer shade, blocking light if needed. As for switches and controls, the Commander is an ergonomic delight. All the gauges are easy to read and the controls are simple to use and identify.
We tried several versions of the 2006 Jeep Commander during a one-day drive that included a variety of driving conditions, and came away from our drive favorably impressed with the V8 drivetrains. The standard 3.7-liter V6 offers just adequate responsiveness, but helps buyers who need the Commander’s space and want its design but not necessarily bigger, costlier cubic inches that require additional fuel.
Obviously, the 4.7-liter V8 is a better choice if towing and hauling are in your future. But we would probably opt for the 5.7-liter V8 – and not just to be able to tell some observer that, yeah, it’s got a Hemi. Rather, the biggest engine transforms the Commander thanks to its gobs of power.
During our highway and city driving we noticed little noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) finding its way into the cabin. Given the tall greenhouse, you might expect lots of wind noise inside the Commander, but the cabin remained impressively quiet.
The Commander’s suspension successfully smoothes out harsh roads, yet offers real off-road prowess whether you are climbing over rocks or traveling a rough trail into the backwoods. Not only is the ride quality quite good, but handling is also impressive on the road and off.
Seating is comfortable as long as you’re not relegated to that cramped third-row seat, and all of the Commander’s switchgear is located in the right places. The gauges are easy to view and convey plenty of information so the driver can keep tabs on what is going on with the mechanical bits under the hood.
Rear visibility is a bit obscured by third-row seat headrests that sit high, but to help combat this situation the Commander is equipped with a reversing proximity warning system that alerts the driver if a person or object is behind the vehicle.
Overall, the 2006 Jeep Commander is a capable on-road or off-road SUV that offers plenty of interior room and amenities, meaning that it should command a high-place on your consideration list of seven-passenger SUVs. It is comfortable and makes traveling with a gaggle of passengers pleasant. Well, as pleasant as traveling can be with a bunch of family, friends or kids.
With fuel prices at near record highs, why is Jeep debuting a large, seven-seat SUV? When plans for the 2006 Jeep Commander were approved, the average price for a gallon of gas was half what it is today. Automakers need at least two years to get from paper to production, and usually longer. If you can’t swallow what are sure to be staggering fuel bills to power the Commander, we’d recommend a Honda CR-V. Or, horrors, a regular old car.
Why isn’t the third-row seat big enough for adults? Dodge didn’t want to share the Durango’s full-sized frame and Jeep wanted to retain the maneuverability and Trail Rated four-wheeling capability that comes with a shorter-wheelbase vehicle, so the 2006 Jeep Commander is based on the Grand Cherokee’s frame and underpinnings. If you’ve ever been inside a Grand Cherokee, you know that there’s barely enough room for a back seat let alone two more spots for the kiddies.
I need the space and love the Commander’s look. Should I go with the V6 engine?
According to the EPA, the 2006 Jeep Commander’s V6 gets barely better fuel economy than the decent 4.7-liter V8. And everyone knows the EPA data is bunk. What’s going to happen to Commander V6 owners is this. They’ll get frustrated by the lack of power and floor the accelerator everywhere they drive to make up for lackluster performance. That wide-open throttle is gonna suck down the fuel at an alarming rate. Stick with the V8 and a light foot.
Test Vehicle: 2006 Jeep Commander Limited 4WD
Base Price of Test Vehicle: $40,495 (including $695 destination charge)
Engine Size and Type: 5.7-liter V8
Engine Horsepower: 330 at 5,000 rpm
Engine Torque: 375 at 4,000 rpm
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Curb weight, lbs.: 5,169
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 15/20 estimated mpg
Length: 188.5 in.
Width: 74.8 in.
Wheelbase: 109.5 in.
Height: 71.9 in.
Legroom: front – 41.7 in.; second row – 36.1 in.; third row – 28.9 in.
Head room: front – 42.1 in.; second row – 40.3 in.; third row – 35.7 in.
Max. Seating Capacity: Seven
Max. Cargo Volume: 68.9 cu. ft.
Max. Towing Capacity: 7,200 pounds
Max. Payload Capacity: 1,620 pounds
Min. Ground Clearance: 8.6 in.
Angle of Approach: 34 degrees
Angle of Departure: 27 degrees
Breakover Angle: 20 degrees
Competitors: Acura MDX, Chevrolet TrailBlazer EXT, Chrysler Pacifica, Dodge Durango, Ford Explorer, GMC Envoy XL, Honda Pilot, Isuzu Ascender, Land Rover LR3, Mercury Mountaineer, Mitsubishi Montero, Nissan Pathfinder, Subaru B9 Tribeca, Toyota Highlander, Toyota Sequoia
Photos courtesy of DaimlerChrysler