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2006 Jeep Commander Limited 4X4
Steve Kichen, 05.15.06, 12:30 AM ET
Forbes.com



Highs: Bold, brawny, look; Hemi V-8 engine; second-row two-panel skylight
Lows: Seating is tight in the second row and unlivable in the third; $44,000 is a lot just to make a visual statement; not enough room for a Pekingese behind the third-row seats

Overview

Give the team at DaimlerChrysler credit for parting ways with badge engineering.

Although the company based its new Jeep Commander on the mechanicals of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, which DaimlerChrysler overhauled for the 2005 model year, each of these sport utility vehicles has its own distinct look. The Commander resembles a modern, bulked-up Jeep Cherokee--the boxy-looking vehicle that helped launch the SUV craze in America in the 1980s. But the softer-looking Grand Cherokee does not stand out from the crowd of contemporary SUVs. The brawny Commander also gives DaimlerChrysler a vehicle to compete against General Motors' lineup of macho, edgy-looking Hummer models.

Beneath the sheet metal, there is not much difference between the Commander and the Jeep Grand Cherokee. With over four inches of additional height, the Commander is taller and bigger in appearance, but the two vehicles share the same 109.5-inch wheelbase. Meanwhile, the Commander is a bit less than 2 inches longer than its more rounded stablemate.

The big difference between the two vehicles is that the Commander has a third row of seats--a first for Jeep. That means this big boy can hold a maximum of seven occupants, compared with five for the Grand Cherokee. Both vehicles (except for the muscle-truck Grand Cherokee SRT-8) are what Chrysler calls "Trail Rated," which means they can handle formidable off-road terrain. The problem is that while keeping the Commander as "compact" as possible for the rough going, it makes too many compromises on interior packaging and space.

The Commander's bold profile is its greatest strength. But can that compensate for its weaknesses?


From The Driver's Seat

Our $44,370 tester was loaded with the powerful Hemi V-8 engine and overflowed with extras. There was a sunroof, dual second-row skylights, six-CD changer, Sirius satellite radio, power and heated front seats, rear entertainment system, rear park assist, power adjustable foot pedals, navigation system, Bluetooth hands-free cell phone connectivity, rain-sensitive windshield wipers, Chrysler's SmartBeam headlights (which automatically switch high beams on or off) and Quadra-Trac II full-time four-wheel drive.

Besides its cool looks, the best thing about the Commander is the 5.7-liter Hemi, with 330 horsepower and its unobtrusive displacement-on-demand feature, which helps conserve fuel. It also allows drivers who are so inclined to manually row through the five-speed automatic gearbox.
The Commander, however, is not exceptional at isolating occupants from road imperfections. Many other SUVs, including the Jeep Grand Cherokee, deliver a kinder, gentler ride when, say, traversing railroad tracks. And the steering has a bit too much play.

SUV shoppers--particularly Jeep loyalists--are also likely to be disappointed by the Commander's interior. The front seats fall short of state-of-the art in that they don't have enough side bolstering, while the power controls, located on the sides of the seats, are hard to access because of the tight space between the seats and doors. And why only manual lumbar controls on a $44,000 vehicle?

The second-row seats are elevated, as in a theater, but they are not comfortable, with the middle position being by far the worst. The Commander's high floor does not contribute to the comfort of second-row passengers, providing limited knee room for the unluckily placed individuals seated there, even with the front-row seats moved almost all the way forward. Both the second- and third-row seats fold flat, but this raises the load floor and cuts down on cargo space. Forget about useful storage with the third row of seats in the upright position. The family Pekingese might fit in the rear cargo area, but even he won't be happy.

Our tester came with what Jeep calls its khaki/graystone two-tone color scheme. In keeping with its tough-guy image, the car's interior is set up with trim that has a metallic finish and Allen-head bolts. The dash has four groups of ventilation openings, with stacked twin vents at each position. (To their credit, Jeep's interior designers didn't go as overboard on the macho look as GM's designers did with the Hummer H2.)



During daylight, the Commander's key readouts are white against a black and grey background. At night, gauges show up as a highly legible green against a black background. The Commander also gets high marks for storage, with several compartments, wells and bins for miscellaneous items.
Rear visibility isn't great when the third-row seats are in their upright position.

Commanders with the power sunroof get two fixed glass roof panels for second-row passengers. But the sun screens over these are quite flimsy; the one on our tester nearly ripped.

The Commander offers a second-row video entertainment system (a $1,200 option). And Jeep charges only $1,200 for its navigation system, compared with prices of $2,000 or more from many other automakers. But the navigation screen on the Commander is small, and the maps aren't nearly as well presented as they are on systems from automakers such as Honda Motor.


Should You Buy This Car?

Good looks can outweigh many other shortcomings, but we're not sure they tip the scales in this case.

Jeep is a decade late in offering an SUV with third-row seats, and while few SUVs have third-row accommodations fit for a king, the third row in the Commander could be in violation of the Geneva Convention. Even worse, in order to shoehorn that third row into the same basic metrics as the Grand Cherokee, the Commander makes serious compromises on second-row passenger space and comfort. The five-passenger Jeep Grand Cherokee is a far better package than the Commander--provided one won't need to transports more than five occupants.

If you want an SUV with a viable third-row and the sweet Hemi engine, check out the Durango from DaimlerChrysler's Dodge division. And coming soon to Chrysler dealerships is the Aspen, an SUV closely based on the Durango's mechanicals.

The Commander is not a great value, though with haggling and incentives, it is possible to get thousands of dollars knocked off the suggested retail price. Bloated inventories of this vehicle also work in the buyers' favor. Our loaded Commander had a sticker of over $44,000--just a few grand shy of the list price on a similarly equipped 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe. The 320-horsepower Tahoe delivers the same EPA city mileage as the Commander (15) but is good for two more miles per gallon on the highway (21), despite being a bigger, heavier (5,500 pounds versus 5,169 pounds) and more refined vehicle.

While crossover SUVs (those based on a passenger-car platform rather than a truck platform) cannot match the Hemi-equipped Commander's 7,200 pounds of towing capacity, they offer a better ride as well as better handling and fuel economy. Some models, such as the Honda Pilot and Toyota Motor Highlander, also offer third-row seating.

Specs

Manufacturer Contact: www.jeep.com
MSRP: $44,370 (including $695 destination charge)
Suspension Type: front: short-long-arm, independent; rear: five-link, solid-axle
Acceleration: zero to 60 mph in 8 seconds (estimated)
Engine Type: 5.7-liter V-8 Hemi
Horsepower: 330 hp @ 5,000 rpm
Torque: 375 foot-pounds @ 4,000 rpm
EPA Mileage: 15 mpg city/19 mpg highway
 

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Chevy Tahoe? Honda Pilot?? Toyota Highlander???
I always find it silly, if 'testers' compare apples with oranges.
If price is what they compare to, why not say that a Volvo station waggon beats all of the above? I loved Volvo's advertisement many years back: They showed a mansion with serveral Ferrari's parked in front of it. The butler appeared, bringing out the luggage and setting it next to the sports cars ... waiting for the chauffeur to come around with the Volvo station waggon.
For some, compromises will not do :)
 

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blah-blah-blah 15 mph whatever...
Here's what happened.
Some smart guy wanted to fit the undermounted full size wheel, third seat and gas tank all in one place and they would not fit. So what does this smart ass do? Leave the small 20.5 gallon Cherokee tank on a vehicle that is heavier and has the aerodynamics of a wall on this otherwise well thought thru and beatiful car. The result is a total abomination. Average mileage (not being reset for 2 months thus it is really average) - 11.7 mpg (4.7V8). Average range from full to empty on average 18 gallon fill - 200 to 220 miles. Creating a gasoline vehicle (a.k.a. "freedom machine") with 200 mile range is an intellectual insult and spit to the face of the driving public. This vehicle (mileage notwithstanding) must have had 27 gallon tank, similar to the Dodge Durango with the same engine. Just this alone defeats all the otherwise great engineering and convenience features this vehicle has.
Another direct result of packing 10 lbs of s..t into 5 lb bag... Since the backspace is raised, once you open the backdoor, all the stuff that's been jammed is flying out fast to the ground, apple juice and wine go first. Needless to say, fitting the back net was left out of to be engineered by the poor soul owning this thing. H
Here's what they had to do. Put a bigger gas tank and put the stupid tire in the back. Oh, well...'nuff said already.:mad:
 

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Oh, yea, this 3-seat thing about which everyone is so rave. Who are they trying to fool? Here's the straight dope:
The space there is enough to fit someone aged up to 3 years but since you have to put those guys in baby seats and they won't fit of course, consider the 3rd seat does not exist at all. No adult or even a teenager can possibly fit there.
 

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new jeep commander diesel

I get to pick up my new jeep commander on the 18th of july and i am looking forward to it i now own a cherokee sport which i have owned from new in 1996.
I live in the outback of western australia and my old jeep has never let me down jusy hope the new one performs as well.
 

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I'm envious of your Diesel Frank. If I send you a couple of case of beer and some money would you ship me one to the states, LOL?

That brings up another question..Could I buy a Diesel in Canada or Mexico then bring it into the states without costing an arm and leg? Anyone have a thought on that or inside to a US Diesel release beyond 2008/2009 maybe?
 

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I think they are comming out with a diesel Grand Cherokee in the U.S in late 2007. Why they didn't add a diesel commander to the U.S. market I have no idea
 

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hemi lover said:
I think they are comming out with a diesel Grand Cherokee in the U.S in late 2007. Why they didn't add a diesel commander to the U.S. market I have no idea
The US-spec diesel Commander will follow, just no date or official announcement.
 

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Im surprised that the diesel isnt in the usa already,I am getting the 6 cylinder mercedes diesel with a five speed auto also mercedes.
they say it gets 10.5 litres to the 100 kilometres which is very good for me as i live 1000 miles from where i am buying it, in the middle of a semi arid desert.
so once i get it ill let you all know how it performs in the outback on dirt roads, some of these roads can be very rough.:)
 

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the only problem i have here is because its so new they dont have a bull bar designed for it yet so i am putting on what we call shoo roos to hopefully scare away the kangaroos on the way home also not too sure about the standard wrangler tyres on it as i run cooper stt tyres on my cherokee.

A bull bar is standard equipment on 4wd's up here as we have lots of roos here and steers.
I am getting the 65th aniversary commander with the skylights and all.
What surprised me is that its made in gratz in austria.
will post some photos as soon as i get it and some of my area when i get it home.
it is costing me 63,500 australian dollars that including a second spare wheel full tank of diesel ,airfare down 12 months rego and stampduty plus 1600 dollars off because of a loyalty thing because i got my last jeep from the same dealer.

so heres hoping this one is as good or even better than the last.:)
 

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That's actually a pretty good price everything considered. Importation costs, Diesel uptick..not bad, not bad at all.
63,500.00 AUD
Australia Dollars = 47,532.00 USD
United States Dollars
 

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The desiel will be an option to the cherokee, commander, and the
4door wrangler. There is just no set date on when it will be comming out. Already mopar is using mercedes trans for the dodge desiel trucks. Which I think sucks. There's already problems with them.
 
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