Commander is more Jeep
By Sue Mead
SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Published January 13, 2006
Jeep's all-new, seven-seat 2006 Commander is undeniably more Jeep than
ever. In its traditional context the phrase "more Jeep than ever"
signifies an unparalleled off-road performance potential, exclusive to
the brand. Such is not the case here, however.
More Jeep, literally, means more sheet metal and more
passenger-carrying capacity than ever.
Those familiar with the Jeep lineup, especially its recent styling
progression, will recognize the Commander's facade as consistent with
the modern Jeep philosophy, but departing noticeably in key areas.
The 2005 Grand Cherokee underwent a design revolution that included
an increase in the body-to-glass ratio, new design of the hood/front
clip contour, a "chiseling" method applied to the rear hatch/taillights
and a flaring of the fenders.
Although sharing the Grand Cherokee's 109.5-inch wheelbase,
Commander's stance is not as aggressive, owing to ample glass, the
smaller scale of the fender bulges and the traditional flatly contoured
exchange among the grille, headlights and hood lip.
The historical design reference is to both the Willys-Overland
(1946-1962) and the Jeep Wagoneer (1963-1991). Observant pedestrians
will recognize the contemporary Liberty-inspired orientation of the
amber side markers alongside the front lamps.
Just below the Commander's grille and headlights, the new body
lines are worthy of note. Jeep has established a nice progression of
styling elements that, while remaining distinct from one another, also
contribute to a cohesive and convincing look.
Sharply defined outer blocks flank the lower bumper and house
perfectly sized fog lamps; vertical bumper guards keep a low profile by
emerging with subtlety; a horizontal center panel establishes the
outermost vertical plane; and a rearward-slanting air dam emphasizes
all of the mechanical capabilities inherent in the Jeep brand.
It's no surprise that DaimlerChrysler has enjoyed increased sales
and nearly endless praise for its recently introduced 5.7-liter Hemi
V-8 engine. Commander, luckily, arrives with this revered powerplant as
Starting close to $40,000, Limited models with the retro-labeled
eight-cylinder Hemi are motivated by 330 horsepower and an
asphalt-punishing 375 foot-pounds of torque. Additionally, 90 percent
of peak torque is available after just 2,400 revs, an attribute that
will enhance towing ability.
But, the Hemi V-8 isn't just about tire-burning power and
trailer-pulling performance. Its Multi-Displacement System deactivates
half of the cylinders during light acceleration and cruising, which,
according to Jeep, yields as much as a 20 percent increase in fuel
EPA estimates are 14 miles per gallon city and 19 highway.
Two other engines are available. A 4.7-liter V-8, with output at
235 horsepower and 305 foot-pounds of torque propels Limited models,
while a 3.7-liter V-6, rated at 210 horsepower and 235 foot-pounds fits
inside base Commanders starting at $27,985.
All engines are backed by a five-speed automatic.
The V-8s get a heavy-duty transmission, but both gearboxes include
Electronic Range Select, a system that allows drivers to manually
change gears by pivoting the shift selector right or left.
Although also offered in rear-drive (RWD) form, Commander is
available with three different 4WD systems.
Quadra-Trac I uses a single-speed transfer case that splits power
48/52 front to rear. Combined with the Brake Traction Control System
(BTCS), Quadra-Trac I offers competence in a variety of driving
situations. Quadra-Trac II brings an active transfer case and a variety
of sensors to deliver torque where traction is best. This system also
includes Throttle Anticipate, which senses quick pedal movement, and
BTCS to minimize slippage and maximize grip.
The most advanced system is Quadra-Drive II, which couples an
active transfer case with Electronic Limited Slip Differentials. These
advanced differentials respond instantly to a loss of traction, locking
the axles to provide better bite.
Models equipped with the 3.7-liter engine use the single-speed
transfer case as standard equipment and the two-speed unit optionally.
All V-8-powered Commanders come fitted with the dual-speed (4X4 Low,
Neutral, Full-time Active 4X4) gear box.
Additionally, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, rack-and-pinion
steering, independent front suspension, and a live rear axle provide
both refinement and robustness on the road.
DaimlerChrysler makes occupant protection a high priority, as
evidenced by the Commander's abundant safety features.
Standard side-curtain air bags, dual frontal air bags with Occupant
Classification, Electronic Stability Program, Electronic Roll
Mitigation, tire-pressure monitoring and Brake Assist all contribute to
preserving passenger safety.
Another uplevel feature, SmartBeam, adjusts headlight intensity
depending on ambient lighting and oncoming traffic to provide the best
and safest lighting situation.
Several technological features provide convenience, guidance and
entertainment. UConnect Bluetooth technology allows hands-free use of a
cellular phone, a navigation system includes a built-in MP3 player,
six-disc CD player and a 5.8-inch full-color display.
Sirius satellite radio connects occupants to more than 100
channels of commercial-free music and a rear-seat DVD entertainment
system keeps the attention of the little ones -- or adults -- using
wireless headsets, a wireless remote and center-console DVD mounting.
Simultaneous audio transferred via the vehicle's interior speakers
and the wireless headphones allows a "dual-zone" effect of sound, as
passengers are not committed to listening to only one device at a time.
All Commanders are Trail Rated, assuring that Jeep has paid
attention to traction, ground clearance, maneuverability, articulation
and water fording.