By Scott Corlett
These days, the mantra from headquarters in Stuttgart seems to be this: A Daimler of every size and sort, a Daimler in every garage. And word has reached the company’s Detroit outpost. Jeep lacked a model with third-row seating, a feature presently so in vogue with families who seek to avoid the scarlet M of minivan ownership. The designers at Jeep answered with the creation of the Commander—a large, boxy SUV that recalls the glory days of the Grand Wagoneer.
Recently, we spent a week in the 2006 Jeep Commander Limited. During a break in San Francisco’s spring rains, we hopped in the Commander to head up to Napa Valley. In the Golden State, the hills are gold with dried vegetation eight months of the year, but during winter and early spring, the local countryside is more verdant than the dells of Wisconsin. As we drove through the Castro en route to the Golden Gate Bridge and the valleys beyond, we got plenty of looks. We would like to think that the Commander’s occupants drew the glances; however, we suppose that the Commander’s size and strong styling cues—such as the optional, D-pillar-mounted grab handles—were what actually caught people’s attention.
Despite its additional row of seating, the Commander is only two inches longer than the Jeep Grand Cherokee. The engineers at Jeep accomplished this feat by incorporating a near-vertical rear end—little of the usual slope or curve to the liftgate glass. This design touch not only provides the necessary interior space, but it also underscores the Commander’s powerful stance and Wagoneer influence. The second and third rows of seating are both elevated. Thankfully on our jaunt north, no one over the age of eight was assigned to steerage or our ears still would ring from the complaints. Only limber, short-legged children will sit comfortably on the third-row seats, which are mere inches off the floor. If the little ones do ride in the way-back, you will have no difficulty hearing them ask, “When will we be there?” since road and wind noise are well dampened in the Commander.
Like its Jeep siblings, the Commander is fully off-road capable—three different four-wheel-drive systems are offered. The Commander’s general on-road handling is good, if not exactly class leading. But where the Commander really excels is on the highway, where the tight suspension smoothes all but the worst roadway imperfections. In fact, at a base price of $28,235 (our loaded test car stickered for $42,895), the Commander is a great vehicle for couples who like to throw the dogs in the back and the bikes on top and then head for the mountains or shore while having ability to carry a few extra warm bodies on occasion.
The Commander’s silky-smooth, five-speed automatic transmission can be mated to any of three engine offerings. Of course, the 330-hp, 5.7-liter Hemi is the engine of choice, since its EPA-estimated fuel economy in the mid-teens is only marginally worse than that of the 235-hp, 4.7-liter V-8. But, with the price of gasoline again over $3 per gallon, the 210-hp, 3.7-liter V-6 starts to look better. As we cruised among the lush, green hills and passed many gawking Grand Cherokee drivers, we realized that the Jeep Commander definitely lives up to its name.
Jeep is a gay-friendly company.
Read other Jeep reviews by Gaywheels.com’s writers