Large Wagons

Jeep’s Commander was the brand’s first venture into the three-row-seating wagon market, sharing its powertrain, suspension and running gear with the Grand Cherokee, but with much softer damping. It’s no longer in production.

Jeep CommanderThe wheelbase was identical to the then Grand Cherokee’s and space for the third-row seating came with a mere 37mm extension in rear body length, so there was no cargo space when the Commander was set up as a seven-seater.

If the Commander’s designers had taken 300mm out of the unprecedented depth of the dashboard there would have been additional interior space.

The Commander powertrains were straight out of the Grand Cherokee book: Jeep 4.7-litre and 5.7-litre petrol V8s, and the Mercedes-Benz three-litre, aluminium V6, common-rail turbo-intercooled diesel. The V8s drove through a Chrysler 5-45RFE five-speed auto box and the diesel was hooked up to a ‘Benz W5A580 five-speed.

Two 4WD systems were available: Jeep’s QuadraTrac II and QuadraDrive II. QuadraTrac provided automatic torque transfer to the axle with the most traction and QuadraDrive added across-axle, electronically-controlled, limited slip differentials. QuadraTrac II was the standard transfer system behind the 4.7-litre V8, but the diesel engine and all Limited versions scored QuadraDrive II.

The Commander came with high levels of stock equipment in standard and Limited versions. The active safety list was impressive: electronic stability program; electronic roll mitigation (ERM); brake assist; ABS; all-speed traction control; a tyre pressure monitor and warning signal; and rain-sensitive wipers.

The interior fitout was also impressive: a three row heater-air conditioning system; power adjustable seats (eight-way driver, four-way passenger); power door locks and windows;  powered, heated mirrors; an AM/FM/CD, six-speaker sound system; overhead console; an electronic vehicle information centre; a 40/20/40 split-folding rear seat with folding outboard head restraints; a Sentry Key® engine immobiliser and remote keyless entry; multi-stage driver and front passenger air bags; and front and rear full-length side-curtain air bags.

The Limited model picked up Jeep’s seat and mirror memory system; a leather-wrapped steering wheel; leather interior trim; rain-sensing automatic wipers; a premium sound system; ParkSense front and rear park assist; heated driver and front passenger seats; a chrome-plated grille and bodyside mouldings; fake wood trim; infrared dual-zone climate control; and auto-dimming rear view and driver-side exterior mirrors.

On and off-road

Given that its suspension came from the 2007 Grand Cherokee - the best-handling Jeep ever at that time - the Commander should have had fine on-road manners and it did: on smooth surfaces. But the Commander’s suspension was found wanting once the box on wheels strayed from boulevardes.

The shock absorbers should last the life of the vehicle, because they didn’t appear to do anything. There was no discernible bump control and the rebound damping was also largely ineffective. On rough surfaces the new big Jeep was a wayward beast. Fortunately, it was fitted with an excellent stability control system and that kept it out of the shrubbery on corrugated, winding dirt roads. The ABS system was also very effective on loose surfaces.

While the driver was struggling to keep the Commander aligned with the road there were the additional distractions of drumming bodywork and excessive road feed-back through the steering.

The plus sides of the Commander’s on-road performance were the brilliant ’Benz V6 diesel and five-speed auto that combined to give class-leading diesel urge and smoothness.

Jeep CommanderThis Jeep looked unbalanced for bush driving, with a nose-down attitude that didn’t match its high-set rear end. Ground clearance up-front was about what you got with a passenger car, while the rear  was traditional Jeep.

Compromising the front end even further was a vertical spoiler clipped to the under-bumper chin panel.

It looked like a snowplough and that’s how it behaved, shovelling gravel and stones in front of it, while those that escaped the ‘blade’ clattered under the low-set wishbones and the steel bash-plate.

Without that substantial bash-plate we’d probably have holed an oil reservoir. The ground-scraping front end ruined the Commander’s considerable off-road potential, forcing the driver to avoid obstacles that nearly every 4WD on the market could pass over. It was a frustrating experience.

The Jeep was much more at home on soft sand, where the ground clearance and suspension compromises didn’t matter so much. With its stability control switched off and that beautiful engine howling away it was in its element.

Previous Models

No previous models.

Bush Modifications

Not really applicable, we feel.

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