2006 Jeep Commander V6
2006 Jeep Commander V6. Click image to enlarge


Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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Now the largest Jeep you can buy, the seven-passenger Jeep Commander is bigger than the mid-sized Jeep Grand Cherokee, but it’s not as big as full-size SUVs like the Ford Expedition and Chevy Tahoe, or even the Ford Explorer and Dodge Durango. However, it’s certainly a lot bigger than the old Jeep Cherokee (see photo), last produced in 2001. The Commander and Cherokee may look similar, but when you put them side by side, you realize just how much bigger the Commander is.

In fact, the Commander’s angular lines and squared off nose and tail make it look bigger than it really is. Though not overtly brutish like the Hummer H2, the Commander does have a, well, commanding presence – especially when viewed in your rear-view mirror. The upright grille and angular headlamp covers are certainly imposing. The Commander’s angular cabin shape does have some practical advantages though: its upright sides and tall roof with raised rear section create more headroom and hiproom for passengers. As well, its large upright side windows and rear window contribute to improved visibility for the driver, and the squared-off shape of the cargo area creates more cargo room too, although like most big SUVs, the Commander’s rear cargo floor is very high to accommodate the rear axle, resulting in a high loading height.

Pricing and standard equipment

The base Commander V6 model starts at $38,980 plus Freight and A/C tax, according to Jeep Canada’s Web site. However, my test vehicle had a base window sticker of $40,995 plus Freight and tax, leading me to conclude that the Commander’s base price has come down in the past few months.

2006 Jeep Commander V6
2006 Jeep Commander V6. Click image to enlarge

Under the hood, the base Commander has a standard 210-hp 3.7-litre SOHC V6, five-speed automatic transmission with manual shifting mode, and Jeep’s ‘Quadra-Trac 1’ full-time four-wheel drive system. As well it includes standard 17-inch M+S tires and alloy wheels, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and Brake Assist, electronic stability control and rollover sensors, and remote keyless door unlocking. Inside are standard front, side and curtain airbags, three rows of seats (two front buckets/three-person second row 40/20/40 split bench/two-person third row split bench), sturdy fabric seat coverings, power driver’s seat, air conditioning, power windows, power heated mirrors, AM/FM/CD stereo with six speakers, cruise control, rear liftglass, and rear wiper and washer.

2006 Jeep Commander V6
2006 Jeep Commander V6
2006 Jeep Commander V6
2006 Jeep Commander V6. Click image to enlarge

The Commander Limited model starts at $51,195, and offers a standard 235-hp 4.7-litre V8 engine with the Quadra-Trac II 4WD system (which adds a Low Range differential lock). The Limited can be upgraded to the 330-hp 5.7-litre V8 with the Quadra-Drive II 4WD system which adds front and rear electronic limited slip differentials. The Limited also includes a chrome grille instead of a body-coloured one, premium fender flares, heated leather seats with memory, leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, power-adjustable pedals, power sunroof with skylights, six-CD/MP3 changer, alarm, tire pressure monitor with display, rear air conditioning and universal garage door opener.

Optional features available include a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, satellite radio, UConnect hands-free communication, chrome wheels and a navigation system.

On the V6 model, an optional trailer-tow package ($415) provides a 3500 lb (1587 kg) towing capacity. Another optional trailer-tow package (Group 4) increases towing capacity to 6500 lbs (2948 kg) but you’ll need to upgrade to the 4.7-litre V8 engine, a heavy-duty 5-speed automatic transmission, a different rear axle ratio, and the Quadra Trac 2 4WD system for an extra $1,240. The 5.7-litre V8 offers a towing capacity of up to (7200 lbs) 3265 kg.

Also available is an ‘Off-Road’ Package that includes roof racks, carriers and roof basket, two hooks, tubular front grille guard, tail lamp guards, and lower ‘rock’ rails.

Our test vehicle included the 6-disc/MP3 player ($455), and grey alloy wheels ($95). With Freight and A/C tax, our V6 Commander came to $42,695.

2006 Jeep Commander V6
2006 Jeep Commander V6
2006 Jeep Commander V6
2006 Jeep Commander V6
2006 Jeep Commander V6. Click image to enlarge



Interior impressions

The Commander’s three rows of seats are stepped, each row higher than the next for improved visibility. The roof above the second row is raised to allow adequate headroom for rear passengers. In fact, there is more-than-adequate headroom and legroom in the second row for adults however, I found the seatbacks stiff. The second row 40/20/40 split bench is very versatile. Fold down the middle seat and you have a kind of table/armrest between the rear passengers. As an example of its versatility, one or two second-row passengers can be seated while cargo is carried on the flat seatback(s) beside them.

To get into the third row seat, the right-side second row seat folds and flips forwards allowing third row passengers to crawl through. The two third row seats have adequate headroom due to a raised rear roof (+80 mm), but I found the seat cushions and seatbacks stiff, and the high floor forces the occupant’s’ knees up in the air in a rather uncomfortable position. But at least there are rear head restraints and three-point seatbelts and a rear heating/air conditioning control is available. Small kids will probably like it back there but adults won’t.

In all likelihood, most Commander owners will keep the split third row seatbacks folded flat to increase cargo space behind the second row seats – up to 1028 litres (36.3 cu. ft.). With the third row seats up, there is only a narrow space behind them amounting to 212 litres (7.5 cu. ft.).

2006 Jeep Commander V6
2006 Jeep Commander V6. Click image to enlarge

The Commander’s driving position is elevated with good visibility and the front seats are quite comfortable. Both have manual lumbar adjustment, and driver’s seat has power height adjustment.

Though the instrument panel is nicely finished, it has a deliberately rugged look. Six-sided socket screws appear to hold the upright dash in place, stainless steel-like trim surrounds the heater controls, and the khaki hue of the interior has a decidedly military appearance. A warmer two-tone dash with wood trim is available on the upscale Commander Limited model.

2006 Jeep Commander V6
2006 Jeep Commander V6
2006 Jeep Commander V6. Click image to enlarge


Driving impressions

As I mentioned, the driver sits up high and forward visibility is very good, although the upright windshield seems far away from the driver. The almost-flat hood enables the driver to see the front edge of the hood which helps to judge distances when parking or turning a sharp corner, such as when trying to find a parking spot in a parkade or a mall parking lot. I found that visibility to the side when changing lanes is obstructed by the right-rear head restraint. When reversing, the Commander’s standard rear parking sensor system is very useful. A series of green and red light lights and a high-pitched chime alert the driver to the proximity of objects behind the vehicle when backing up – a good safety feature in a tall, bulky vehicle like this.

The standard V6 engine is adequate for commuting duties, but buyers who wish to tow recreational trailers may want to opt for either of the V8 engines. Towing capacity with the V6 is limited to 3500 lbs while the 4.7-litre V8 can handle up to 6500 lbs and the 5.7-litre V8 motor can tow up to 7200 lbs (properly equipped). Still, the V6 is a smooth, quiet powerplant with better fuel economy than the V8s: city 14.8 L/100 km (19 mpg Imp), highway 10.9 L/100 Km (26 mpg Imp). At freeway speeds, the V6 engine does only 1800 rpm at 100 km/h and 2300 rpm at 120 km/h. And despite the Commanders’s bulky styling, there is very little wind noise in the cabin at freeway speeds, and the Commander’s ride is very comfortable.

2006 Jeep Commander V6
2006 Jeep Commander V6
2006 Jeep Commander V6
2006 Jeep Commander V6
2006 Jeep Commander V6
2006 Jeep Commander V6
2006 Jeep Commander V6. Click image to enlarge

During my week with the Commander, I found the five-speed automatic transmission consistently smooth although I experienced a slight delay in kickdown from 50 km/h to 80 km/h. The automatic transmission also includes a manual mode that is activated by tapping the floor lever to the left to change down gears and to the right to change up gears. And the shift lever is position on the left side of the centre console, closer to driver.

The Commander comes standard with Jeep’s Quadra-Trac 1 full-time four-wheel drive system. It’s completely automatic and doesn’t need to be engaged by the driver. The 4WD transfer case operates with an open-centre differential that splits engine torque 48% front/52% rear. As well, an electronically controlled clutch varies torque distribution to the front or rear wheels as needed. To increase traction even more, a system called Brake Traction Control combines ABS and traction control to prevent any wheel from slipping while accelerating on slippery surfaces. This allows engine torque to be sent to the other wheels with traction. On a previous occasion while driving a Grand Cherokee with this system on a slippery, loose dirt road, I found that it is quite effective and works well without any input from the driver, other than gentle but constant acceleration. However, Quadra Trac 1 does not offer a Low Range gear or differential lock for negotiating very steep inclines or declines. This is available on the optional Quadra Trac 2 and Quadra Drive II systems.

The Commander has Jeep’s ‘Trail-Rated’ designation, meaning that it meets Jeep’s tough off-road driving standards for articulation, manoeuvrability, traction, ground clearance and water fording. However, my guess is that the most owners will be using their Commanders as family wagons rather than off-road vehicles.

It’s obvious from the many standard safety features that safety was given a high priority with the Commander. As I mentioned front side and curtain airbags (for all three rows) are standard as is stability control and a rollover sensor, tire pressure monitor, and rear parking sensor. And in recent frontal crash tests conducted by the U.S. government, the Commander received five stars for driver and front passenger while the Commander’s Rollover rating is three stars. Side crash tests have not been conducted yet. See the links below for more details.


Verdict

The V6-powered seven-passenger Jeep Commander combines rugged looks with a comfortable ride, seating flexibility, and above-average safety features, but buyers wishing to tow a trailer may want to upgrade to either of the optional V8 engines.


Pricing


Specifications

  • Click here for complete specifications


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Crash test results


Manufacturer’s web site

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