We are humming along in the latest slab-side SUV to hit the market. To small cars crawling beside us, we can say ”humbug.” Humility is not a trait of the humongous.
No, we are not aboard a Hummer, though the 2006 Jeep Commander obviously wants to mimic that military-based, bulky cruiser that so many love or hate.
After all, in addition to the vehicle’s slab sides, there is the high, flat roof; the sharp, rectangular windows; the windshield that seems to rise flat ahead; and windshield pillars that look like they could support a roof-mounted gun turret.
Still, the Jeep has a far more legitimate claim to military aptitude than the Hummer. It is smaller and more practical than the Hummer H3, which was far more practical than the H2, which was a shrunken version of the H1, which was basically good for strutting wealth or muscle.
And 10 days spent driving the Commander shows that it is possible to be Hummer-like, yet more practical.
Here’s what it takes:
A 4.7-liter V-8 mated to a five-speed automatic transmission (V-6 and V-8 Hemi are also available), along with full-time all-wheel drive and traction and stability controls. Already, we can go where most owners will never venture.
Toss in an eight-way power driver’s seat, lumbar tuning for both front-seat passengers, a split 40/20/40 center row, and a 50/50 split rear bench, and you have an impressive cargo/people capacity that, again, will probably not be used most of the time. Many people commute alone in these big rigs.
The company is billing this as the biggest Jeep to prowl the planet, but it does not feel that large. I remember Grand Cherokees of a certain vintage that felt like a UPS truck.
This new model, to its credit, feels manageable, if that is possible in an upright box that weighs more than 2 tons.
Surprisingly quiet on the highway, it was a pleasure to take on long commutes. It was subtly fast and smooth in highway traffic, and did not tilt during highway lane changes. It handled more like a flat sedan than an SUV getting on and off entrance and exit ramps.
Inside, the most remarkable trait is the high roof. If you’re a long, tall Texas transplant, there’s room for you and 10 gallons of hat.
The first row of seating is ample; the second row, spacious. The third is best left to short trips for the short-legged. The lingering presence of a solid rear axle (which eats up under-floor space) helps to account for the lack of rear legroom.
Hand grips in the windshield pillars let you know Jeep is serious about letting its owners get into their vehicles quickly in rugged terrain, but also — for those of a certain age or stature — from the shopping center parking lot.
It’s a very nice ride at its base price of under $30,000, but that can climb faster than, well, a Jeep climbing a steep rise on the trails of Moab, Utah.
Our test model featured a $4,100 equipment package that included leather-trimmed upfront bucket seats, sun visors with illuminated mirrors, power sunroof, heated front seats, upgraded sound system, fog lights, and other goodies. The test model also came with a 4.7-liter V-8 ($1,340), rear air conditioning, and satellite radio. The $30,000 Jeep quickly became a $38,000 car.
That’s a not a vehicle you can buy for song. Even if you hum it.
Base price/as tested: $29,290/$37,510
Fuel economy: 15.4 m.p.g. in Globe testing
Annual fuel cost: $2,053 (at $2.432 per gallon, regular, 13,000 miles per year)
THE EARLY LINE
Jeep, with a military heritage and historic off-road pedigree, builds a vehicle to compete with a newcomer in the category
Drivetrain: All-wheel drive (rear-wheel drive available)
Seating: Seven occupants
Torque: 305 lb.-ft.
Overall length: 188.5 inches
Wheelbase: 109.5 inches
Height: 71.9 inches
Width: 89.0 inches
Curb weight: 4,581 pounds
Nice touch: The Allen-wrench nuts that fasten segments of the dash. Tres military.
Annoyance: Sun visors that, while they cover the front, are useless when you turn them for protection from side-window sun.
Watch for: Jeep emphasizing ”Trail-Rated” vehicles even as it targets people who will never take them on a trail.
Royal Ford can be reached at email@example.com.
© Copyright 2006 Globe Newspaper Company.