So far, only the Wrangler has been spared what we can only refer to as the emasculation of Jeep. But the rest of the product lineup, amounting to the cute wittle Liberty and soft cuddly Grand Cherokee until the 2006 Commander arrived, has been compromised by the demands of a public that wants to look like it can go anywhere at any time but usually only rolls into the Trader Joe’s parking lot a couple of times a week, and wants that ride nice and cushy. Adding insult to injury, next year the Jeep Compass debuts, the first vehicle to wear the signature seven-slot grille and round headlights with absolutely no hope of ever traveling California’s famed Rubicon Trail.
Basing the 2006 Jeep Commander on the Grand Cherokee platform has its drawbacks, and we cannot understand why, if the company wanted a seven-passenger SUV, DaimlerChrysler’s excellent Dodge Durango didn’t serve as the starting point. (DaimlerChrysler owns both Dodge and Jeep, as well as Chrysler and Mercedes-Benz.) A Grand Cherokee is not a large SUV. It’s not even a midsize SUV by our standards, since it doesn’t offer 75 cubic feet of maximum cargo volume. So attempting to stuff three rows of seating into the Commander, atop the Grand Cherokee’s solid rear axle no less, seems a mission as futile as teaching Paris Hilton grace, poise, elegance, and wit. If you’re wondering why the Commander looks like a FedEx Box on wheels, getting three rows of seats inside is one reason. The other is that many Jeep freaks miss the old Cherokee, which enjoyed a production run of almost two decades with very few updates.
If the 2006 Jeep Commander still sounds appealing, here’s what you need to know to pick the right model. Choose rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. Next, pick an engine. A weak and raucous 3.7-liter V6 makes just 210hp/235 lb.-ft., and though the EPA says you can get 16/20 mpg city/highway, you’ll be flooring this sucker everywhere you go to make up for the power deficit, which means you’ll be getting the same fuel economy as the V8 upgrade. The 4.7-liter V8, optional on the base Commander and standard on Limited models, is the best blend of economy and performance, making 235hp/305 lb.-ft. and rating 15/19 by the EPA. Or put the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 in your Limited for 330hp/375 lb.-ft. and a 14/18 fuel economy rating on 89-octane unleaded. If you get a 4WD model, you can choose one of three systems – light-duty automatic Quadra-Trac I, full-time active Quadra-Trac II with low-range gearing, or full-time active Quadra-Drive II with low-range and electronic limited-slip differentials.
Now you need to choose between standard and Limited trim levels. Every 2006 Jeep Commander includes a sturdy roof rack, power heated folding side mirrors, rear parking sensors, and 17-inch alloy wheels. Inside, the standard Commander is equipped with cloth seats for seven passengers, air conditioning, cruise control, a stereo with a CD player, and a power driver’s seat. Options include leather, a power sunroof, rear A/C, a rear DVD entertainment system, a navigation system, Boston Acoustics speakers, Bluetooth wireless communications, and other goodies. The Commander Limited gets chrome exterior trim, fake bolts for the exterior fender flares, rear exterior grab handles, fog lights, and intelligent headlamps. Limited interiors are decked out in leather, dual-zone automatic climate control, power adjustable pedals, a power sunroof with CommandView rear seat skylights, Boston Acoustics sound, and a one-year subscription to Sirius satellite radio. Limited models can be upgraded with chrome wheels, navigation, and a rear DVD entertainment system. Safety gear for all Commanders includes ABS with EBD and Brake Assist, stability control with electronic roll mitigation, a tire pressure monitor, and side curtain airbags that remain inflated for an extended period of time in a rollover accident.
Cracking wise on Jeep might be deserved, but the bottom line is that despite its faults, we liked the Commander’s interior design, we liked its thirsty 5.7-liter V8 engine, and we liked it more than the Grand Cherokee that donates the foundation. The third row of seats is no more laughable than what Subaru jams into a B9 Tribeca or Toyota crams into the new RAV4, and despite woozy suspension tuning and all-season tires best kept on pavement, the Commander can handle difficult off-roading situations better than most.
Still, with a loaded sticker price of nearly $43,000, an observed fuel economy of 13.4 mpg, a maximum cargo volume of just 68.9 cubic feet, and a marketing campaign that pits this small sport-ute against big guys like the redesigned Chevy Tahoe and newly updated Ford Expedition, our 2006 Jeep Commander Limited test vehicle didn’t strike us as much of a bargain. Consumers are asked to pay dearly for the privilege of owning this powerful, retro-styled Jeep – a premium too steep to justify given the compromises and the competition. If you insist on selecting the Commander, stick with the 4.7-liter V8, keep your fingers out of the cookie jar, and hunt for deals. Despite Jeep’s best intentions, the Commander’s not a sell-out, and dealers are eager for your business.
Quiet, smooth, comfortable – these are a few words that come to mind after driving the 2006 Jeep Commander. However, it does drive like an SUV. There is a top-heavy weight bias when cornering and the blocky design catches every wind gust, necessitating counter steer. Wind noise is virtually non-existent, though. The Hemi V8 engine pulls nicely and is smooth under acceleration, but watching the gas needle drop like it’s made of lead is disconcerting. The Commander’s biggest fault is outward visibility. Both the second- and third-row seats block the outward view and create horrible blind spots. Dropping the third row into the floor is a must if you want to use the rear glass, and it’s a good idea to lower the second-row if possible. Jeep does get kudos for how easy it is to drop the seats. You don’t need to remove the headrests; they automatically fold as part of the lowering process though they have to be manually raised after returning the seat to the upright position.
Christian Wardlaw’s 2006 Jeep Commander Driving Impressions:
Sure, the 2006 Jeep Commander’s 5.7-liter Hemi V8 is a gem, and it makes a wonderful sound when you turn it loose, but you really pay at the pump. The transmission is equally pleasing, the selector offering uncommon heft as it glides through its gears, and the AutoStick feature works nicely when needed. Acceleration is no problem – the Commander gets up and goes, pointing its prow skyward, though throttle tip-in can be somewhat abrupt. Hit the brakes and the Commander’s chin dives toward the pavement, the wimpy all-season front tires howling as the heavy Jeep’s weight shifts onto them in medium to hard stops. The brake pedal offers quick response and terrific feel on the road, but in the dirt the Commander’s ABS becomes a liability unless you shift into low-range and disengage it. During a light-duty 4WD excursion I bounced rather dramatically down what appeared to be a gently sloped hillside once the ABS cycled on, picking up speed all the way and smashing the undercarriage several times because the tires refused to dig in and grind the Commander to a stop. Good thing there wasn’t a cliff at the end of that trail.
One reason for my amateur-hour off-roading experience was the Commander’s pillow-soft suspension. This buggy demonstrates excessive squat, dive, and roll on pavement, and when you get into the dirt, all that suspension action continually engages the safety nannies – ABS, stability control, and roll mitigation. Plus, it’s very easy to bottom this thing out in the dips and ruts common to off-roading trails, so keep your speed down. Though Jeep says the Commander is “Trail Rated,” this rig is best on the road, where once you overcome your fear that you might roll it over, you find that the tires grip well in turns, and that the slow steering features linear response and decent feedback from the road.
The Commander shines when traveling in a straight line on blacktop, where it does a good impression of an isolation chamber unless you’ve got that Hemi roaring from behind the firewall. But if you hit a dip, or a series of dips, this Jeep floats and bobs and weaves like a 1975 Buick Estate Wagon. Off-road, the Commander is more capable than many vehicles in its class, but is too soft and comes with tires better suited to the parking lot at the mall. Visibility, as my colleagues have noted, is terrible with the third-row raised and just OK with that rearmost bench folded down.
Ultimately, the 2006 Jeep Commander is a compromise vehicle: woozy on the road, clumsy off of it, and commanding little more than another stop at the fuel pump.
Thom Blackett’s 2006 Jeep Commander Driving Impressions:
I’m starting to wonder if putting a Hemi engine into a 1981 Chevy Citation wouldn’t somehow transform that into an enjoyable drive. Our tester wore the all-important Hemi badge, meaning there was a 5.7-liter, 330-horsepower V8 under the hood with an impressive 375 lb.-ft. of torque. Though our Commander, a four-wheel-drive Limited model, tipped the scales at a hefty 5,000+ pounds, the Hemi and its accompanying five-speed automatic transmission did a fine job of moving this SUV with authority, even if there was some unnerving engine rap echoing off the highway barriers. Shifts were smooth for the most part, but hammering the throttle could result in sudden downshifts and a serious hit to the fuel supply. That’s after getting past the dead spot in the accelerator. The Jeep Commander also had a tendency to squat under moderate or heavy acceleration and dive under braking, while the ride on rough pavement was a bit unsettled and the steering noticeably vague. Add in a good dose of body roll, and its clear why large suvs are not known as athletic handlers.
To be sure, quick turns and tight corners are not the 2006 Commander’s forte, but cruising on smooth pavement was pleasant. There’s more wind noise than I’d like, though the engine is somewhat muted, and what does escape through is the sweet sound of a V8 (that rapping sound is only audible from outside or when the windows are open). Visibility is pretty pathetic, hampered by large second-row headrests, wide rear pillars, and a third-row bench that nearly obliterates the view out the back window.
If it sounds like the 2006 Jeep Commander is a heavy, sloppy handler that really only has a decent engine going for it, that’d be about right. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to take this monster off-road, but chances are the Trail Rated moniker lives up to the name. However, if you’re planning on squeezing folks into that miniscule third-row seat for any jouncing excursions, you may want to stuff a few barf bags back there, too.
Brian Chee’s 2006 Jeep Commander Driving Impressions
The only off-roading done during my brief stint in the 2006 Jeep Commander was mental – as in the constant temptation to jump the shoulder of the road and drive over the mountain range that stood in the way of getting home. That range put the car – and me – squarely in the daily hell called five o’clock traffic, and there it stayed, even though I could have done it, given the off-road capability offered in the Commander. Shoot, the only damage would have been a few scrapes courtesy of driving through barbed-wire fences.
Oh well. No guts, no glory, or so they say, and anyway, my cowardice (discretion?) actually presented an opportunity to test this vehicle in the way it will actually be used – on freeways and city streets, in traffic and in obedience of all (most) road laws. Face it: if you’re in the market for a three-row Jeep, you’re planning to blaze more asphalt than you are dirt roads or rock. As a result, the Commander must handle the daily driver challenges of boredom and a numb rump just as much as rock climbing. On that basis, the Commander is a fine vehicle, motivated by a superb 5.7-liter, V8 engine. There’s also a V6 trim offered, but please – if you’re buying a Commander with a V6 engine, leave the dealership and check yourself into therapy, and don’t come talking that fuel economy nonsense. Any fuel economy gained from the V6 engine is lost in the effort it will take for that powerplant to haul this heavy lump around town. Besides, the value of a vehicle like the Commander is in its power, size and off-road ability.
Okay. Now that the room is clear, let’s get back to business.
Controlled by a silky five-speed automatic, the Commander is a smooth operator that makes driving a pleasure. Flaws in the driving experience include wind noise and tug, though it’s actually pretty good given the steep front windshield and design of the greenhouse. There’s also poor visibility out the back, thanks to the third-row seat. Side visibility is good, though, thanks to the tall greenhouse. For a vehicle that weighs over 5,000 lbs, in fact, the Commander is surprising in its smooth operation, its braking ability and its cornering aplomb. Even after a long commuter’s slog, one exits the car feeling refreshed. That’s thanks to a suspension that flattens out rough road but doesn’t float, and an interior smartly made with comfortable seats and great forward sightlines.
The 2006 Jeep Commander offers exceptional driver and front passenger comfort. Front occupants get quality leather seating, generous head and shoulder room, and easy-to-use dials and gauges. The front seats are power adjustable but the lumbar settings have to be done manually. Adjustable pedals round out the comfort features for front passengers. That’s where occupant comfort ends though. The second- and third-row seats are tight on knee and legroom, and passengers relegated to sit in the third-row seat must be agile to gain access. Headroom in the third-row is surprisingly good, and the tiered seating makes seeing over the rows in front easier. This feature does make for a better view out but a more uncomfortable ride for those that are prone to motion sickness. The Commander’s seats fold easily and the cargo area is flat when the seats are folded down. The tailgate is heavy and the assist is high – I’m surprised an electric gate isn’t offered in this price range.
Christian Wardlaw’s Opinion of the 2006 Jeep Commander’s Comfort:
I didn’t find the 2006 Jeep Commander to be comfortable. After hours behind the wheel, the driver’s seat felt like a park bench, and my traveling companion complained that her chair was too hard and too low to the floor. She also griped that there was no assist handle on the passenger’s side. The center console lid serves as an armrest, but it was too low to be of use to me. I did not like holding the steering wheel after a few hours, and when getting in or out I wiped my pants legs on the muddy rocker panels. I did like the wide and soft upper door panel, a great place to rest your left arm on a long journey. That, Jeep got right.
After climbing into the back of the Commander, I wouldn’t want to be a passenger in this SUV. The second-row is rather hard to enter and exit due to the intrusive rear wheel well, and legroom is very tight. With the driver’s seat set for my 33-inch inseams, my legs were crushed into the soft seatbacks when sitting in the second row. To get comfortable, I had to splay my legs around the seatback. The good news is that the seat is tall, firm, and affords a terrific view out. Even the third-row seat gives a good view, as it sits taller than the first two rows but is still mounted very close to the floor. And though adults will eat their knees for this reason, there is surprisingly good leg space. Adults can bear the third-row for 15 minutes at a time – otherwise, kids only.
Loading cargo is not easy. The liftover height is waist high – on a person six-feet-tall. That’s like a damn pickup truck. One reason for this is because of the third-row seat and the raised storage box that sits behind it to make a flat load floor when the seat is folded. The good news is that both the third-row and the second-row quickly fold without needing to remove the headrests, and the second-row is a handy 40/20/40 split for maximum utility. Closing the tailgate is hard. The slot that serves as a close assist doesn’t offer enough grip, and the door is difficult to slam shut.
Thom Blackett’s Opinion of the 2006 Jeep Commander’s Comfort:
Comfort inside of the 2006 Jeep Commander largely depends on where you sit. The driver and front passenger are afforded large and inviting buckets with ample headrests, a center armrest that sits a little too low and far back for my five-foot-eight-inch frame, and padded door armrests and sills. The steering wheel tilts for added comfort, and the controls are all within easy reach of the driver and can be praised for their simplicity. Second-row passengers are treated nearly as well, but the center seat is a bit uncomfortable, so I’d keep it down to two outboard passengers for the long haul, each of whom also get their own huge headrest, great for the noggin but a killer in the visibility department. Third-row passengers are forced to pull some Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon action (crouching to get in, hidden once seated), as contorting is required to reach that rear bench. Should you be subjected to third-row duty, be prepared for bouts of claustrophobia, though there are a couple of cupholders and climate controls to keep your mind off your stifled circulation.
Brian Chee’s Opinion of the 2006 Jeep Commander’s Comfort:
This could be one of the most comfortable SUVs I’ve driven in recent memory – not counting the third-row seat, which would be a tight fit for a pre-schooler. Up front is where the big boys should roam, where room is plentiful and the seats are made for the Big American Bubba. Comfort, of course, is a subjective thing, and one must plant it inside and make up his, or her, own mind. For this derriere, however, the seats were comfortable and supportive, the lumbar sufficient and the number of seat movements adequate. Comfort is about more than the seats, however; there also needs to be room to wriggle about, without feeling as though one is confined inside a metal box. There’s also the relationship between man and machine to consider, as well as the driving perspective, and the Commander’s design does an admirable job of both. Front row passengers are given plenty of leg and shoulder room, and second row occupants will be satisfied with a comfortable seat and a stadium seating design. Perhaps best of all, the Commander’s commanding driving position, and well-executed cockpit design, makes driving a pleasure. It’s rare that you have to hunt for a control, and the 2007 Jeep Commander rarely feels too large to handle.
My overall impression of the 2006 Jeep Commander was one of quality. Nothing feels or looks cheap. Not even the plastic that makes up the dash. Based on my inspection, all the interior trim and panels fit snugly into place. The cabin’s woodgrain and chrome has a look and feel of quality, as do the leather seats. I even think the material chosen for the headliner looks great. Outside, the quality continues, though some trim pieces are questionable. The fender trim is thin plastic and though it fits nice when new, I’m sure in a couple years it would be loose and exhibit gaps. The front grille looks like a nice piece of chromed metal, but closer inspection reveals a plastic appliance. No noticeable rattles were apparent on my drive and wind noise was almost non-existent. The Commander’s doors and tailgate closed with a nice thud that imparted a solid build. Even the mechanisms that lower the third-row seat felt solid – with the exception of their plastic handles. I finished my drive with a much better impression of the Commander’s quality than I expected.
Christian Wardlaw’s Opinion of the 2006 Jeep Commander’s Quality:
Jeep nailed the quality category with the 2006 Commander. The interior materials appear to be the same as those in the Grand Cherokee, but without the shiny Armor-all finish that makes the JGC look so chintzy inside. Maybe it’s the shape of the Commander’s unique dashboard and vertical front glass. Chrome accents, door handles with a quality feel and heft, and a woven cloth headliner all contribute to an upscale feel. It’s too bad, then, that the fake wood looks so fake.
Interior build quality was average, though the Commander emitted no rattles or squeaks except when off-roading. Tightly assembled, but with several inconsistencies of fit throughout the interior, the most egregious build issues on the inside were ill-fitting screw plugs on the B-pillar trim and sloppy assembly of trim and materials at the intersection of the left rear D-pillar and the headliner. Exterior build quality was exceptionally good. I could only find minor driver’s door fit issues and tailgate gap variances, and while some shut-lines could be tighter, Jeep could stack the Commander up against any Honda or Toyota when it comes to exterior assembly quality.
Thom Blackett’s Opinion of the 2006 Jeep Commander’s Quality:
Jeeps are typically known for rugged durability rather than build precision, and our 2006 Jeep Commander Limited test truck was no exception. Gaps around the hood were on the wide side and the paint surface looked pitted, a problem commonly referred to as orange peel. The vertical chrome rails alongside the tailgate had flexible plastic shells, though the interior, dominated by hard plastic and alloy bolts, felt mostly secure. I did notice that the shifter handle, composed of pleather and plastic chrome, felt like it’d fall apart with the first 10,000 miles, though the leather-wrapped steering wheel felt good to the touch, as did the hides on the seats. If there’s one thing I’d definitely change, that would be the storage cubby over the glove box. Probably intended to keep items secure on bumpy trails, I get the stinking suspicion that some passenger will grab hold of the thin plastic cover in a moment of off-road thrashing and do some major tweaking. My suggestion? Either put a full cover on that storage compartment, replace the cubby with a sturdy grab handle, or drop the whole deal.
Brian Chee’s Opinion of the 2006 Jeep Commander’s Quality:
With a proven powertrain and a nicely executed interior, there are no glaring quality issues with the 2006 Jeep Commander. Based on a brief inspection, there are few build issues with our tester, either, and the chrome touches throughout the interior lent an upper class feel to the vehicle. Outside, the chromed seven-slot grille is especially nice, and, even if you don’t care for the boxy look, the exterior handles and slightly narrowed windows are well done. On the road, there were few rattles and squeaks, save for a bit too much wind noise coming off the front windshield area. Materials inside the cabin are of good quality, and controls have a nice heft. Plastics are nicely done, as well. Indeed, the Commander has a real “suburban” feel, to the point that it’s hard to imagine this vehicle in a mud bog.
The 2006 Jeep Commander’s design takes some getting used to. My first impression was that it’s awkward and dated. I understand it carries a retro theme but not enough of a modern twist went into the looks to make it appealing to me. Over time, I have grown to like it, especially the use of the fake bolts on the exterior as well as the dashboard. My only input on this particular design element would be to use the same rivet or bolt design throughout the interior and exterior. The rivets used for the dash should have made their way to the fender treatment, but in a bigger size. The Jeep Commander looks rugged and has a muscular look to it.
Christian Wardlaw’s Opinion of the 2006 Jeep Commander’s Design:
Except for the chrome D-pillar grab handles and the ugly lighting front and rear, I’m digging this Cherokee rip-off design. The Commander screams “Jeep” to me, and at night the round headlights and parking lamps have a strong brand flavor. I’m not crazy about the look of the headlights, and the taillights should be shorter with the reverse lights at the bottom. I also think the exposed rivets on the Limited model are over the top. Inside, I prefer the Commander’s dashboard design to what’s found in the Grand Cherokee. It’s a flat, no-nonsense design with a handy storage bin in front of the passenger. In fact, the Commander is handier than the JGC when it comes to storage bins and cubbies, and I like the Commander’s four-spoke steering wheel, round air vents, and faux industrial-ness of the exposed screws better than the Grand Cherokee.
Controls are logically laid out, the only complaint being that the navigation system and the stereo are integrated as a single unit without a touch screen. Setting your favorite radio stations is a hassle, but once that’s mastered it’s easy to cycle through them using Jeep’s ingenious rocker switch on the back of the steering wheel spoke. The navigation system is simple to program and operate, and the screen offers excellent resolution, but it’s still fussier than a touch-screen set-up. The Commander’s navigation system offers hard keys for canceling route guidance and altering map orientation, and you zoom the map by twisting the handy selector knob.
Thom Blackett’s Opinion of the 2006 Jeep Commander’s Design:
There was a saying that went around when I was younger, one that I think came from a movie. It went something like: “You ugly, you ugly, U-G-L-Y, your momma says you ugly!” I have no idea why that comes to mind when I look at the 2006 Jeep Commander, but it does. OK, maybe I do – this is one homely truck, from that flat face with droopy and emotionless eyes (headlights), that shiny schnoz (grille), its long and boxy body, and those odd rear exterior grab handles. Needless to say, I was dumbfounded when someone actually walked up to me and complemented our test truck’s good looks. Oh well, some people even found the Pontiac Aztek attractive.
Ah, but that’s just the exterior. The Commander’s interior is much better, with the hard and durable plastic imparting the tough Jeep image, and the fake wood and leather seats giving some cred to the Limited badge. Some may think the bolt heads are a bit much, myself included, but it all goes with that Trail Rated thing. Which brings me to my final point – this truck’s claim to fame is that it’s the only Trail Rated seven-passenger SUV. You know, because there was such an overwhelming demand. Vehicles that can haul the entire family tree are great, but I don’t think I’ll ever plan a trip along the Rubicon Trail with six of my friends and say “Hey, I’ll drive.”
Brian Chee’s Opinion of the 2006 Jeep Commander’s Design:
Those who like boxes will love the Jeep Commander. From front to rear, this Jeep looks like it was carved out of a piece of rock, a squared-off and straight-edged vehicle low on subtle design cues and high on smash-mouth car design. It is the vehicular equivalent of a block of ice. Inside, there’s quite a bit more sophistication going on than what’s on the outside, but the tough guy design carries through with tiny rivets placed strategically throughout the cabin. It’s a nice touch to a nice interior and a great cabin layout. In back, however, it’s a different story. The entry into the third-row is tight, and it’s hard to imagine anyone of size even making it to the back without some significant bodily contortions. On the plus side, however, the seats fold flat, making way for ample cargo space. The real troubles, however, start when you combine the Commander’s stadium seating with a third-row shoe-horned into the back. The result is cramped seats that create a significant visual obstruction. A heavy and tall manual liftgate – there was no power feature on our tester – is also a significant problem, unless you like jumping for the assist handle. It may actually be quite humorous, to watch short people jump, and then dangle, from the Commander’s back gate.
I am cautious about recommending Jeep products. I have friends and relatives that have owned them during the past several years and have had terrible luck with them. That’s not to say things haven’t changed, but those experiences have stuck with me and will take some time to overcome. For the most part I like the Jeep Commander’s design and ride, and feel it is a decent overall package. Would I buy it? Probably not. For the money there are other vehicles with better reputations for quality than Jeep, and since I don’t off-road, a trail-rated 4WD doesn’t appeal to me.
Christian Wardlaw’s Advice about the 2006 Jeep Commander:
The Jeep Commander I would buy does not exist. Give me a no-frills version for five passengers, equipped with the 4.7-liter V8, an off-road suspension and some real tires. That’s a truck I could use. This luxed-up seven-passenger model, at almost $43,000, doesn’t seem like a smart buy. It’s not big inside, it’s not confidence-inspiring off road, and it drives like a 40-year-old Buick on pavement. Yeah, that Hemi engine is terrific when the corporate gas card is paying the tab, but I’d hate to fill this tank every few days just to haul my family around when a minivan is roomier, less expensive, more fuel efficient, and better to drive. But that’s just me. I don’t need to man-up by driving an overweight, undersized SUV named “Commander.”
Thom Blackett’s Advice about the 2006 Jeep Commander:
Jeeps are usually amazing off-road vehicles. Seven-passenger cars, trucks, and SUVs are great for getting people to their destinations. But, unlike chocolate and peanut butter, these two don’t go together well. If you want room for seven and all-weather capability, think more along the lines of the redesigned Chevrolet Suburban or Toyota Sequoia. For rugged off-roading, consider a Jeep Grand Cherokee, a Jeep Wrangler, or one of many qualified trucks and SUVs, most of which are likely to be more attractive and will make more sense than the 2006 Jeep Commander. Please, forget the idea of hard-core four-wheeling with your extended family – they’ll surely thank you.
Brian Chee’s Advice about the 2006 Jeep Commander:
So you want a Jeep. Who cares why – you just want a Jeep, maybe so that people on your street will think that you’re a real off-roader. Trouble is, the spouse says you have to have three rows of seats, and the last time you checked, Jeep didn’t build a three-row transporter.
They do now.
Frankly, that’s bad news. Sure, the 2006 Commander is a fine SUV, with a great powertrain, an unquestioned off-road pedigree, a spot-on interior, and a no-compromise design – whether you like it or not. But the flaws are almost as significant as the strong points, starting with a hard-to-handle liftgate and a ridiculous third-row that’s hard to get to, swallows cargo space when raised and significantly obstructs rear visibility. Given the price, which is just north of $40,000, and the fact that few people who buy this vehicle will actually use the off-road capability like it should be used, there are better alternatives out there if you can just break away from that third-row obsession. Like, maybe, the ultra fun and sexy Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT-8.
Price of Test Vehicle: $42,895
Engine Size and Type: 5.7-liter V8
Engine Horsepower: 330 at 5,000 rpm
Engine Torque: 375 lb.-ft. at 4,000 rpm
Transmission: Five-speed automatic with AutoStick manual gear selection
Curb weight, lbs.: 5,169
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 14/18 mpg
Observed Fuel Economy: 13.4 mpg
Length: 188.5 inches
Width: 74.8 inches
Wheelbase: 109.5 inches
Height: 71.9 inches
Leg room (front/2nd row/3rd row): 41.7/36.1/28.9 inches
Head room (front/2nd row/3rd row): 42.1/40.3/35.7 inches
Max. Seating Capacity: Seven
Max. Cargo Volume: 68.9 cubic feet
Max. Payload: 1,620 pounds
Max. Towing Capacity: 7,200 pounds
Min. Ground Clearance: 9.9 inches
Competitors: Chevrolet TrailBlazer EXT, Chrysler Aspen, Dodge Durango, Ford Explorer, GMC Envoy XL, Isuzu Ascender, Mercury Mountaineer, Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota 4Runner, Toyota Sequoia
Photos courtesy of Ron Perry and DaimlerChrysler