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 with the Jeep Commander, which offers seating for either five or seven. Introduced in 2006, the Commander is the first Jeep product to have three rows of seats. Changes for 2007 include new options and a new trim level for the trail-rated SUV.
The 2007 model is sold in Sport, Limited and Overland variations. An optional power liftgate is new, along with five new colors and various other tweaks to the exterior and interior. The SUV comes with a standard rearview camera.
The Commander is built on the Grand Cherokee's 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 as the Grand Cherokee, including an independent front suspension and rack-and-pinion steering. 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 airbags in certain rollover and side-impact events. An Electronic Stability Program is standard. Available features include a tire pressure monitoring system, rear parking assistance, a DVD-based navigation system, SmartBeam headlights, rain-sensing wipers and Command-View skylights.
For 2007, Red Rock Crystal, Light Graystone, Steel Blue Metallic, Jeep Green Metallic and Mineral Gray Metallic are new color options. The Commander Sport features body-colored door handles, while Overland models add front tow hooks, platinum finish for the bodyside panels and front, a wire lattice grille and outside mirrors that match the body color. Other Overland trim pieces also get the platinum finish, with its 18-inch aluminum wheels being added to that list in January.
There's also a power liftgate for all Commander models that's standard on the Overland and optional on other trims.
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 sheet metal and vertical side glass give it a classic Jeep profile and a rugged, upright military look. Even the side mirrors are blocky and stout.
Inside, the Commander Sport has a diamond-plate console shifter bezel. The Overland adds leather to the center floor console, shifter knob, steering wheel and door grab handles. The lower center stack and center floor console bezels are trimmed in wood. Two-tone suede and leather seats round out the Overland's interior touches.
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, enhancing 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. There's also an optional rear-seat DVD entertainment system with a screen that folds down from the ceiling.
A stepped roof provides ample headroom for rear occupants. Innovative twin Command-View skylights over the second row of seats are standard on Limited and Overland models and optional on the Sport model.
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 airbags are optional. An electronic stability system, antilock brakes and all-speed traction control are standard.
Acceleration is adequate with the 3.7-liter V-6. The 4.7-liter V-8 provides improved passing power, and under light load situations it offers nearly as much oomph as the larger Hemi V-8. Brakes are mushy in all three models as one would expect in a SUV. Quick lane-change maneuvers elicit moderate body roll.
The Commander's interior offers a mix of high-quality controls and cheap plastic panels. Front and middle-row seats are large and comfortable, but the third row is tiny. With second- and third-row seats raised, there's a significant blind spot at five o'clock.