Let's Get It Over With
There are worse new Jeeps out there than the Commander. No, really. But who could blame Jeep for wanting to get a little piece of the action? After all, why should GM and Ford (hmm ... and Toyota, Nissan, and so on) be the only ones that were cashing in on a segment of the market dedicated to soccer moms and carpooling (and, according to Jeep's marketing campaign, hip-hoppers)? Enter the '06 Commander. Or don't.
The devolution of the Jeep brand began when the Liberty was introduced and continued with the Commander in late 2005. It had three rows of seating, the ground clearance of a stiletto, and a standing ovation from Parents magazine, which named it a "best car for families." Ouch. So much for off-road-machine heritage. If that wasn't bad enough, Jeep's rush to meet market demand for fullsize, passenger-packed SUVs coincided with market demand for compact cars. Thanks, oil crisis! And no matter how often Jeep repeats the words, it still doesn't appeal to people who had a Cherokee. Think we're being a little harsh? Hey, we may pick on the Liberty, but at least there are owners taking the durn thing four-wheeling. We haven't seen Commanders hitting the trails en masse, and we aren't aware of a single Commander-only, off-road club.
The Model/The Body
Designers said they took inspiration from the Willys station wagon, the Wagoneer, and the Cherokee. Or as they claimed, "It looks familiar and new." That's right, it's the Kenny Rogers of Jeeps. It debuted in base and Limited formats; for at-a-glance distinctions, look no further than the grilles. The base got a body-colored one, while the Limited's was chrome. For the '07 model year, base has been renamed Sport and a fancy Overland has been added. The Overland features chrome on the outside, wood, leather, and suede inside as well as a liftgate badge. The Sport ended up with color-matched door handles and a diamond-plate shifter. While the standard wheels are 17x7.5-inchers, the Overland will have optional 18s in late 2007. But standard for all? Round headlights! Sort of.
The unibody Commander comes in both two- and four-wheel drive in any model. Its wheelbase is 109.5 inches (like the Grand Cherokee's), and it has an overall length of 188.5 inches. Folding both the third and second rows of seating creates 68.9 cubic feet of space. But if you're planning a very Brady road trip, know that with all seats upright there's only 7.5 cubic feet of cargo space. That's about a 90 percent reduction, so some will be leaving their suitcases of fresh underpants in the driveway. And that third row isn't even removable, optional, or comfortable.