For nearly 65 years the Jeep brand has created sport-utility vehicles that have combined the fresh with the familiar, bringing together what is new in Jeep design and engineering with what is well-known about legendary Jeep capability. Taking that proud tradition to another level in the 2006 model year is the first-ever Jeep Commander.
By Kevin “Crash” Corrigan
The Jeep brand has been around for over 60 years now and has successfully produced some vehicles that can truly be called industry Icons. Just look at their soft top model which evolved from a military vehicle through to the CJ, the YJ and on to the TJ. Although the years changed numerous mechanical specifications, the basic shape remained instantly recognizable. Is it because the company truly understands what their customers want?
If that is the case, why has it taken Jeep so long to bring out a seven passenger SUV? Was the company sleeping on the job or were they simply waiting for the perfect platform? Maybe the Commander is just that. Let’s take a closer look.
On first looks, there is no mistaking it for any other brands offering. If the familiar 7-slotted grille doesn’t instantly give it away, then the fact that it looks strangely like the old 1980’s Jeep Cherokee certainly would. Now don’t get me wrong, that’s not a bad thing. I happen to believe that the 80’s Cherokee was one the best Jeep designs ever. The fact that you still see them in large numbers on the roads today is a true testimony to their popularity.
I like the shape of the Commander; it has a nice boxy look to it and was almost certainly inspired in part by the design of the Hummer H2/H3. Again, not a bad thing as it oozes ruggedness and typically a square box can carry a lot of items. They did however follow the Hummer idea a little too far on one or two areas of this vehicle.
The dummy bolts that appear to hold on the fender arches are exactly that. If you look closely, the inside of the bolts are round, not Allen key or any kind of fastener shape, I guess they’re just for show!. On true military vehicles like the HumVee or the Land Rover Defender this bolt-on look serves a purpose. On civilian SUV’s like the H2/H3 and now the Commander, it’s a bit like sticking a Ferrari badge on a Fiero…it may look cool, but it’s still a Fiero mate!
That said, Jeep managed to restrain themselves a little more than GM and, all in all, the Commander does have a rather pleasing look to it. The kids might not get quite as excited about it as the Hummer, but then again it doesn’t totally scream built with Meccano!
My test model was their LTD edition which boasted a stylish and extremely comfortable leather interior. The dashboard suits the vehicle and the controls seemed well thought out. The seat layout was, for the most part, well designed, although it has to be said that you do appear to lose a little second row leg room in order to accommodate the rear seats. These are quite large and take up considerable space even when folded into the floor although, because of the vehicles raised roof, there is still reasonable cargo space available when the rear seats are not in use. If however you do need them, your luggage might have to go up on the roof as there is precious little room behind the back row.
The ride and drive of the Commander is impressive. Being based on the Grand Cherokee it has a solid yet comfortable approach to road holding. My test unit carried the 5.7L Hemi unit which, to say has an abundance of power, is putting it mildly. The Hemi is a great engine but it does have a strange effect on the driver, you tend to feel the force and use the power. This, in turn, has a startling effect on the fuel gauge which rapidly drops towards the E with every stomp on the pedal. Now this might shock those of you who know me but I’m going to say it anyway. “I think that the Hemi is a little OTT for this truck”. Does anyone really need all that power in a SUV like this?
All in all, I think that the Commander is basically a good vehicle. There are a few things that I would have done differently if I had been on the design team but, then again, they might not like the wallpaper in my family room. What it all boils down to this, will it do the job that it was built for? The answer is yes. Will it appeal to the SUV buying public? I think that the answer will also be yes. But of course the big question is…would I buy one?
You know, I think I would. It would have to be one of the smaller engines rather than the Hemi. If available, I’d order one as a 5 passenger as I’d prefer a bit more space and I don’t have that many kids anyway. But yes, I would buy one and be happy in the knowledge that I was driving around in what will probably become another Icon of the Jeep world.
What is fresh about the 2006 Jeep Commander are its all-new rugged design, an unprecedented menu of safety and security features, and such Jeep vehicle “firsts” as three rows of seats and CommandView TM skylights.
At the same time, Commander stays true to Jeep heritage with classic Jeep design cues, including its seven-slot grille and round headlamps. Commander maintains the go-anywhere, do-anything capability that is the foundation of every Jeep SUV by using the same under-the-skin components as the award-winning Jeep Grand Cherokee . That includes a choice of three full-time four-wheel-drive systems; three engines, including the 5.7-liter HEMI® V-8; two transfer cases; two five-speed automatic transmissions; and standard independent front suspension, along with rack and pinion steering. And, of course, Commander is Trail Rated®.
“The past is the inspiration for our future,” said Jeff Bell, Vice President – Jeep, Chrysler Group. “The Jeep Commander succeeds because it blends the Jeep brand’s unrivaled heritage with 21st Century technology.”
Six-plus decades of Jeep history gave Commander designers an unrivaled heritage from which to draw. Key sources of inspiration were the Willys Station Wagons (1946 to 1962), the Jeep Wagoneer (1963 to 1991) and, most of all, the Jeep Cherokee (1984 to 2001).
Consequently, the 2006 Commander is immediately recognizable as an authentic Jeep because of its classic Jeep design elements — seven-slot grille, trapezoidal wheel openings, round headlamps, flat surfaces, plus a steep windshield, backlite and rear end. The result is a rugged, constructed appearance that says, “Jeep.”
Commander is the first Jeep vehicle with three rows of seats. Firm and broad-shouldered, the seats are positioned theater-style: the second row is higher than the first, the third row is higher than the second. Additional head room is created by literally raising the roof. It is 3.15 inches higher, beginning over the second row, producing a stepped effect. The second row seats split 40-20-40; the third row, 50-50. The middle and rear rows fold forward to create a flat load floor for maximum utility. Behind the third row is a storage bin, located in the load floor. Underneath it are provisions for storing the jack and tools. The bin’s top panel is removable and reversible. The carpeted side is level with the third row of seats. The opposite side is molded-in plastic with a diamond plate texture. It’s for storing the gear that active lifestyles demand.
Located in the roof above the second row are CommandView skylights. These dual skylights of tinted glass are packaged with the power sun roof that is positioned above the front passengers. Standard on Commander Limited, the package expands the vehicle’s sense of interior roominess. The CommandView skylights also have roller shades that can be used to block out light when desired. An optional rear seat DVD player is located between the skylights.
An attractive new roof rack rail has three integrated tie-downs on each side. On Commander Limited, assist handles extend from the roof rail down the back of the D-pillars, adding to the rugged, utilitarian appearance of the vehicle. The assist handles are black with chrome inserts in the grip area. On top of the rear bumper is a diamond plate texture step pad. The pad’s non-skid surface is helpful when stepping on the rear bumper to gain access to the roof of the vehicle. Reinforcing the constructed look on the Limited model are decorative bolts that appear to attach the classic Jeep trapezoidal wheel flares
to the body.
The two-tone color scheme on Commander’s instrument panel and interior trim exemplify the vehicle’s attention to interior detail. The upper instrument panel is new. Character is provided by 16 Allen head bolts. A new “JEEP” medallion dominates the center of the steering wheel and the new shift knob. The four gauges in the instrument cluster are simple and purposeful.
The result is Commander’s Jeep heritage exterior design, complemented by a modern interior of
well-conceived amenities and features.
Quadra-Trac I utilizes the NV140 single-speed transfer case to provide convenient full-time four-wheel drive with no transfer case lever to shift. The Brake Traction Control System (BTCS) anticipates and prevents wheel slip for optimum traction during a wide range of conditions.
Quadra-Trac II incorporates the NV245 transfer case that provides full-time active four-wheel drive, and BTCS. When wheel slippage is detected, up to 100 percent of the available 375 lb.-ft. of torque is instantly routed to the axle with the most traction. The NV245 also includes electronic shift with a true low-range gear and neutral for towing Commander behind another vehicle.
Quadra-Drive II is one of the most advanced four-wheel-drive transfer case systems available, providing Jeep Commander best-in-class tractive capability. Electronic Limited Slip Differentials (ELSD) — front/center/rear—offer customers the ultimate in off-road capability.
Three engines are available with Jeep Commander. It is the only SUV in its class to offer two V-8 engines.
3.7-Liter SOHC V-6
The 3.7-liter engine provides the 2006 Jeep Commander with a powerful standard engine that is efficient, durable and smooth. It produces 210 horsepower (157 kW) at 5,200 rpm and 235 lb.-ft. (319 N•m) at 4,000 rpm. Improvements have smoothed the engine at idle. To ensure quiet operation, the engine has a thick-wall composite manifold, and also benefits from structural improvements to the air box and resonator.
4.7-Liter SOHC V-8
The 4.7-liter engine produces 235 horsepower (172 kW) at 4,500 rpm and 305 lb.-ft. (393 N•m) of torque at 3,600 rpm. Dual knock sensors were added to provide improved engine calibration for both fuel economy and power output. The engine has improved noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) characteristics, realized through the use of composite valve covers, structural improvements to the air box and resonator and improved dampening of the heat shields.
5.7-Liter HEMI V-8
The 5.7-liter HEMI with the Multi-Displacement System (MDS) gives Commander best-in-class performance. MDS imperceptibly deactivates half the cylinders of the 5.7-liter HEMI during cruising and light acceleration to increase fuel economy by up to 20 percent, depending on driving conditions. A sophisticated Electronic Throttle Control (ETC) system tailors throttle response to pedal movement based on operating conditions, and maintains a more consistent vehicle speed on rolling grades when cruise control is active than with the former mechanical throttle control system. The HEMI produces 330 horsepower (246 kW) @ 5,000 rpm and 375 lb.-ft. (508 N•m) @ 4,000 rpm.
Suspension Steering Systems and Transmissions
The short- and long-arm independent front suspension on Commander provides the driver with a greater sense of precision and control, more precise steering, and reduces vehicle weight and head toss, all without compromising Commander’s stalwart off-road performance. The five-link rear suspension geometry, including a track bar, also improves lateral stiffness to match that of the front suspension for optimum handling.
Electronic Stability Program (ESP), which is standard, aids the driver in maintaining vehicle directional stability in severe driving maneuvers on any type of surface. It works by using signals from sensors throughout the vehicle that then determine the appropriate brake and throttle adjustments for directional stability.
Commander’s rack and pinion steering imparts more precise steering to the driver, providing quick response during all types of driving maneuvers.
Available with the 3.7-liter V-6 engine is the W5A580, a five-speed automatic transmission that provides smooth shifts and optimum fuel economy. The 4.7-liter V-8 and 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 employ a second five-speed automatic transmission, the 545RFE. It has been refined for higher-quality shifts while giving Commander class-leading towing capacity of 7,200 lbs., equal to that of the Grand Cherokee. Both transmissions feature Electronic Range Select (ERS) driver interactive shift control. The shifter provides fully automated shifting when in the “drive” position. Or the driver can manually select each gear by simply moving the shifter left and right from the “drive” position. This gives the driver control to precisely match any on-road or off-road driving requirement.
An off-road group is available on Commander that includes a stamped-steel transfer case skid plate that mounts to the transmission crossmember and a fuel tank skid plate that provides off-road protection to the transfer case.
The 2006 Jeep Commander is available in two models, both with a 20.5 gallon fuel tank.
Standard on Commander are body color fender flares, front fascia, grille, and rear fascia; side roof rails; bodyside molding with “Commander” inlayed; flipper glass on the liftgate; rear window defroster and wiper; power, fold-away mirrors that are heated; Goodyear black sidewall all-season tires; 17-inch cast-aluminum wheels; full-size matching wheel spare; cloth low-back bucket seats; power eight-way driver seat; air conditioning; AM/FM stereo with compact disc player and six speakers; speed control; and tire pressure monitor. The standard powertrain is the 3.7-liter V-6 engine with the W5A580 automatic, five-speed transmission. Optional is the 4.7-liter V-8 engine, mated to the 545RFE transmission. The Quadra-Trac II four-wheel drive system incorporates the NV245 transfer case.
Options include SIRIUS Satellite Radio, UConnect™ hands-free communication, rear air conditioning with heater, leather seats, navigation system, power sun roof with CommandView skylights, six Boston Acoustic speakers, rear seat DVD system, and a popular equipment group that includes heated front seats, power adjustable pedals, adjustable roof rail crossbars and Goodyear OWL all-season tires.
2006 Commander Limited
Standard on Limited are chrome grille, front fascia, bodyside molding and roof rail crossbars; premium fender flares; rear exterior assist handles; fog lamps; rain-sensitive windshield wipers; adjustable roof rail crossbars; Smart Beam™ Intelligent Headlamp System; a “Limited” badge; Goodyear black sidewall all-season tires; 17-inch cast-aluminum wheels; leather-trimmed bucket seats with memory; heated front seats; power eight-way driver seats and four-way power passenger seats; air conditioning with dual-zone automatic temperature control; leather-wrapped steering wheel; premium door trim panel; power-adjustable pedals; power sun roof with CommandView skylights; AM/FM stereo with six-disc in-dash CD with MP3 capability; six Boston Acoustics speakers; SIRIUS Satellite Radio with a one-year free subscription; security alarm; tire pressure monitor with display, rear HVAC, and universal garage door opener.
The standard engine on Commander Limited is the 4.7-liter V-8. The 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 is optional. Quadra-Drive II is standard with the HEMI. Electronic Limited Slip Differentials are standard on 4x4 Commanders with the 5.7-liter engine.
Other optional equipment features include 17-inch chrome-clad wheels, six CD/full map GPS display with navigation radio, rear seat DVD, engine block heater, Goodyear OWL all-season tires, and three leather seat color combinations, Saddle Brown, Light Graystone and Dark Khaki.
Exterior colors available for the 2006 Jeep Commander are Black Clear Coat, Bright Silver Metallic Clear Coat, Deep Beryl Green Pearl Coat, Inferno Red Tinted Pearl Coat, Light Khaki Pearl Coat, Dark Khaki Pearl Coat, Midnight Blue Pearl Coat and Stone White Clear Coat.
The 2006 Jeep Commander will be produced at the Jefferson North Assembly Plant (JNAP) in Detroit, starting in the third quarter of 2005. The Jeep Grand Cherokee is currently assembled at JNAP.
Jeep Trail Rated
The Jeep Trail Rated badge communicates that the vehicle has been designed to perform in a variety of challenging off-road conditions identified by five key consumer-oriented performance categories: Traction, Ground Clearance, Maneuverability, Articulation and Water Fording.
Jeep Trail Rated is an industry-leading methodology established by the Nevada Automotive Test Center (NATC) and Jeep Engineering to objectively measure and consistently predict off-road performance for all Jeep vehicles today and into the future. Through a combination of natural and controlled field tests, as well as computer-simulated environments, Jeep Trail Rated provides a repeatable and consistent measurement of off-road performance for Jeep vehicles. Only Jeep vehicles are Trail Rated.