Kris Rotter didn’t have to travel far to join us for the 2018 Jp Dirt ’N Drive Presented by Jeep. He and his 2006 Jeep XK Commander reside in the Phoenix, Arizona, area where we began our three-day off-road journey to Moab, Utah, for the 2018 Easter Jeep Safari week. The event was designed to offer plenty of challenging obstacles for those looking for something to test their modified vehicles on, but it allowed owners with stock or near-stock Jeeps to have the adventure of a lifetime as well.
The Commander was in that near-stock category, but it never stopped Kris from having a good time hanging out with us and 100 or more other Jeepers. Per factory specs, the 5.7L Hemi V-8 under the Commander’s hood cranks out 330 hp and 370 lb-ft of torque—plenty of go-power to move it along the trail or down the highway. A 545RFE five-speed automatic transmission multiplies and delivers to the NV245-based Quadra-Drive II transfer case.
Although the Hemi 5.7L was an option on the ’06 Commander, standard with that engine was the Quadra-Drive II system. It carries what Kris calls the “magic” Eaton EGerodisc electronically controlled limited-slip-diffentials in the front and rear, and another traction control system in the transfer case. They provide fully variable torque up to full lock, and the system is computer-controlled and auto-activated for as long as the system decides is necessary, usually for a few seconds at a time, and then it releases and checks again for wheel slip. As Kris says, “spin, rinse, and repeat.”
A 4-inch Superlift suspension system that incorporates Bilstein 5100 shock absorbers makes a huge difference on rocky or rutted trails. Hung from the Superlift kit is a front Mercedes C200 IFS (8-inch) and Chrysler 8.25-inch rear axle, and both are filled with 3.73 gears. Tom Wood’s custom driveshafts replaced factory spinners; the new, wider front ’shaft required a low-profile zerk and some extra clearance. Putting that power to the ground is the job of 295/70R17 Toyo Open Country R/T tires wrapped around 17x8.5-inch MB Chaos 5 wheels with a -19mm offset and 4-inch backspacing.
A Superlift front skidplate augments the factory steel transfer case and fuel tank skids, helping to protect vital organs underneath the Commander. A few other minor modifications here and there include trimmed front flares, a custom low-profile roof rack to allow parking garage access, and an onboard air system assembled from a hodgepodge of Harbor Freight parts. Kris has kept his Commander pretty simple, because it works well, and he has been pleasantly surprised at the XK’s ability to master rugged terrain. We like it too.
Hard FactsVehicle: 2006 Jeep Commander (XK)
Engine: 5.7L Hemi V-8
Transmission: 545RFE five-speed automatic
Transfer Case: NV245 Quadra-Drive II (2.72 low range)
Suspension: Superlift 4-inch coil suspension system with Bilstein 5100 shocks
Axles: Mercedes L200 8-inch front axle, Chrysler 8.25-inch rear axle, 3.73 Gerodisc differentials
Wheels: 17x8.5-inch MB Chaos 5
Tires: 295/70R17 Toyo Open Country R/T