Despite its popularity and reputation among sport utility vehicle fans, one element has been lacking in the Jeep Grand Cherokee: a third-row seat. That deficiency has been addressed in the new 2006 Jeep Commander, which offers seating for either five or seven occupants. The Commander is the first Jeep product to use three rows of seats.
Revealed at the 2005 New York Auto Show, the Commander is built on the Grand Cherokee's basic platform and shares the same wheelbase. Designers looked to 1940s Willys utility vehicles and later Jeep Wagoneers for guidance, and inspiration also came from the company's Cherokee SUV, which was replaced by the Liberty in 2002.
Commanders get the same four-wheel-drive systems, suspension and powertrains � including an independent front suspension and rack-and-pinion steering � as the Grand Cherokee. Buyers can choose a 3.7-liter V-6, a 4.7-liter V-8 or a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 with the Multi Displacement System. Three full-time four-wheel-drive systems are offered: Quadra-Trac I, Quadra-Trac II and Quadra-Drive II. Two transfer cases are offered.
The Commander is the first Chrysler Group vehicle with electronic roll mitigation, which deploys the optional side curtain-type airbags in certain rollover and side-impact events. An Electronic Stability Program is standard. Available features include a tire-pressure monitor, rear parking assistance, a DVD-based navigation system, SmartBeam headlights, rain-sensing wipers and Command-View skylights.
The Commander is 2 inches longer and 4 inches taller than the Grand Cherokee; they share the same 109.5-inch wheelbase. The Commander features an upright windshield and rear window. Its angular sheetmetal and vertical side glass give it a classic Jeep profile and a rugged, upright military look. Even the side mirrors are blocky and stout.
The SUV holds up to five or seven occupants on two or three rows of seats. Each row is slightly higher than the one ahead of it, and this distinctive stadium-style seating enhances forward visibility for rear occupants. The second- and third-row seats fold forward to create a flat load floor. Four round gauges populate the instrument cluster, which is surrounded by a two-tone dashboard.
A stepped roof provides ample headroom for rear occupants. Innovative twin Command-View skylights over the second row of seats come with the optional front sunroof.
Under the Hood
Three engines are available. The 3.7-liter V-6 develops an estimated 210 horsepower, versus an estimated 235 hp for the 4.7-liter V-8. The 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 makes an estimated 330 hp. All models use a five-speed-automatic transmission.
Side curtain-type airbags are optional. The Electronic Stability Program, antilock brakes and all-speed traction control are standard.