Review and photos by Lesley Wimbush

Build and price a 2006 Jeep Commander

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2006 Jeep Commander 5.7 Limited Edition
Alberta’s Kananaskis Mountains, with winding washboard roads and rugged vertical trails, provided a varied, and picturesque testing of the Jeep Commander’s stability systems. Click image to enlarge

My first impression of the new Jeep Commander was that somewhere in the woodpile, there had to be a Gelaendewagen. But no, the newest offering from one of the most recognized brands on the planet wasn’t influenced by Mercedes’ cube-shaped G-class uber-ute, despite close familial ties.

According to Mike Accaviti, Chrysler’s VP of marketing, the Commander’s tall, boxy outline is actually a nod to its Jeep Wagoneer heritage. There’s a lot of brand loyalty in Jeep’s following, and it is hoped that the Commander will re-kindle a nearly-thirty-year love affair Wagoneer fans had from 1963-1991 with the boxy trademark vehicle. Like its ancestor, the new Jeep is square and rugged with a scale-anything attitude. But its most significant feature is that it offers seven-passenger seating, a feature lacking in the Grand Cherokee – and one that answers a need in the expanding sport utility segment.

While still maintaining the distinctive Jeep features of the Grand Cherokee, the Commander is a markedly larger and taller vehicle – the largest Jeep on the market. The wheelbase is the same length as the Grand Cherokee, but it’s an inch and a half wider, the body is two inches longer and four inches taller. It presents an outline with sharper corners though, with vertical lines and an upright, ‘planar’ windshield – a modern interpretation of the heritage Jeep.

With its “trapezoidal” wheel openings, familiar vertical slatted chrome grille and trademark round headlights (although overlapping and contained within rectangular integrated housing), the look is unmistakably Jeep. As if to accentuate its toughness, the squared fenders are studded with chrome bolts, which are repeated on the dash and steering wheel.

2006 Jeep Commander 5.7 Limited Edition
Click image to enlarge

A higher beltline and taller windows create a more upright greenhouse. Add to that, a roof that is stepped up by three inches, and you’ve got an interior that’s more open and roomier than ever before. Chrome roof racks hide the stepped roofline, creating an illusion of a straight line – which the eye follows to matching side hand rails on the upright rear of the vehicle.

That extra height allows staggered, ‘stadium’ seating – so that every passenger has a great view, including those in the third row. Indeed, Jeep is aiming the Commander at adventurous families, who love the outdoors and want to see as much of it as they can. Adding to the airiness is a large sunroof, and an additional skylight (dubbed the ‘Command-view”) over the second row of seats.

2006 Jeep Commander 5.7 Limited Edition
Click image to enlarge

I’ve had ample time to get to know this seven-seater Jeep in variety of scenarios. During September’s press launch, we travelled washboard roads and rugged trails with Alberta’s soaring Kananaskis mountains, a glorious backdrop. Last month, a week long test-drive let me experience the Commander as a daily driver – comfortably darting through Toronto’s congested traffic, sailing the 401, negotiating the narrow streets of my older neighbourhood, loading up with groceries – and of course – manoeuvring through the Tim Horton’s drive-through. And, for no reason other than it was there…a vertical trek up the face of our tallest local ski hill.

More recently, as part of the SUV evaluation team during the Car of the Year Testfest, I piloted the Commander on a rough and rugged off-road course, clambering over large rocks, through thick brush, over logs and through thick mucky bog. It shone in a field that included the new Range Rover – a vehicle stickered at nearly double the cost of a loaded Commander.

2006 Jeep Commander 5.7 Limited Edition
Click image to enlarge

In each case, the test vehicle was a top-of-the-line, Hemi-powered Limited Edition, equipped with the formidable Quadra-Drive II. This is Jeep’s most capable off-road system, using front, centre and rear electronic limited-slip differentials to divy up the torque (375 lbs of it), and decide how big a share each wheel needs in any given situation. The Commander is also available with Quadra-Trac I, similar to AWD, and Quadra-Trac II, which uses a two-speed transfer case.

There’s a choice of three engines: the 3.7 litre 210 hp V6, and two V8 offerings & the 235 hp 4.7 litre- and the powerful Hemi with an output of 330 horsepower, available when you want it. The Hemi features the Multi Displacement System (MDS), which depending on the throttle input, seamlessly shuts down combustion in four of the eight cylinders. In these days of skyrocketing gas prices, MDS makes a large vehicle with a powerful engine more attractive economically. Basically, with MDS, it’s up to you how deep you dig into your pockets at the pump.

2006 Jeep Commander 5.7 Limited Edition
Photo: G. Yoxon. Click image to enlarge

There are two transmission choices – a five-speed Mercedes-built unit is matched to the V6, and both V8s come with a refined version of the 545 RFE. Both feature Electronic Range Select, and function as an automatic when in the Drive position, or as a clutchless manual when the lever is shifted from left to right.

Cushioned by a short and long arm coil spring front and a live axle link-coil rear suspension, the Commander rode comfortably over all surfaces, although the rear was a bit skittish on gravel, and descending steep bumpy off-road inclines resulted in quite some lateral toss.

Tight on- and off-ramps were handled with ease without too much body roll, and steering was comfortably predictable – not sports-car light, but not pickup-truck leaden either.

2006 Jeep Commander 5.7 Limited Edition
Photo: G. Yoxon. Click image to enlarge

Loaded with safety features in both trim levels, the Commander is a technological showcase of sophisticated stability systems, including the Mercedes-developed ESP (Electronic Stability Control), Advanced frontal multi-stage air bags with an Occupant Classification System (OCS), Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS), All-Speed Traction Control System (TCS), Electronic Roll Mitigation, Tire Pressure Monitoring system … just to name a few.

Maximum towing capacity is a class-leading 7200 pounds in the Hemi-powered models.

Optional safety and security features include Extended Up-Time Side Curtain Air Bags for all three rows (which stay active longer during a rollover), Navigation System, Security Alarm, SmartBeam Headlamps and UconnectT Hands-Free Communication.

Thanks to extra insulation and laminated glass, the Commander is almost eerily quiet, with hardly any wind or road noise. Bumps and pavement irregularities are damped and absorbed, providing a solid and extremely comfortable ride.

2006 Jeep Commander 5.7 Limited Edition
Commander Limited’s interior features power leather seats, navigation
system, adjustable pedals, dual climate control and hands-free
communications system. Click image to enlarge

Inside, there’s rich attention to detail and it’s apparent that a lot of thought went into making the driver and passengers feel comfortable. My long-term test vehicle came with cushy, 7-way power leather seats in a rich saddle brown, but they’re also available in cloth. The seats are heated too, and there’s dual climate control. The kids will appreciate that the 3rd row also has its own climate control.

Being the driver, I didn’t have opportunity to use the third row seats on the road, but to me they looked as though they’d be a tight fit for anyone other than very small children. I promptly folded them flat
since I found they obscured rear view vision. This was accomplished with almost laughable ease – a simple lift of a lever and they flopped
forward, presenting a flat surface.

2006 Jeep Commander 5.7 Limited Edition
With second and third row seats folded flat, there’s a cavernous space to swallow an abundance of cargo. Click image to enlarge

No fiddling with headrests, no locking and securing, and with the second row folded down too, there was a cavernous space to accomodate large amounts of cargo. The seats easily spring back up into place by tugging on strap located on the backs.

The Commander Limited comes with the same excellent Boston Acoustics sound system found in the Dodge Magnum and Charger and the Chrysler 300C. Those with children will really appreciate the respite that the optional DVD entertainment system with cordless headphones and remote provides.

Build and price a 2006 Jeep Commander

Technical Data: 2006 Jeep Commander 5.7 Limited Edition

Base price $40,995
Base price (Limited Edition) $51,195
Options $720 (17-inch aluminum chrome wheels ($480); Off Road Group II ($240) w/Skid Plate Group and Tow Hooks)
Freight $1,050
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $53,065 Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives
Type 4-door, 7-passenger midsize SUV
Layout Front engine/four-wheel-drive
Engine 5.7-litre V8, OHV, 16 valves
Horsepower 330 @ 5000 rpm
Torque 375 @ 4000 rpm
Transmission 5-speed automatic
Tires P245/65R17 Goodyear Fortera
Curb weight 2361 kg (5169 lbs)
Wheelbase 2781 mm (109.5 in.)
Length 4787 mm (188.5 in.)
Width 1900 mm (74.8 in.)
Height 1826 mm (71.9 in.)
Ground clearance 504 mm (9.9 in.)
Towing capacity 3265 kg (7200 lbs
Payload capacity 560 kg (1230 lbs)
Cargo capacity 212 litres (7.5 cu. ft.)(all seats up)
Fuel consumption N/A
Fuel type Regular unleaded
Warranty 3 yrs/ 60,000 km
Powertrain warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km
Assembly location Detroit, Michigan

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