Orlando Sentinel's view

The 2007 Jeep Commander’s interior is roomy, handsome and well-designed. The SUV’s 3rd-row seat is fine for kids but marginal for adults.

It does not seem that long ago that Jeep had only three models — the Wrangler, Grand Cherokee and Liberty.

In fact, it wasn’t that long ago. Just 2005. Now, we have the Wrangler, Grand Cherokee and Liberty, plus the Compass, Patriot and Commander. And really, the four-door Wrangler Unlimited is different enough from the regular Wrangler that it could almost be considered the seventh model.

Some would argue that Jeep has gone from having too few models to too many. But that’s Jeep’s problem — and the problem of Jeep dealers trying to move them off the lot.

One of those not moving too quickly is the Commander. Currently there’s a $3,500 rebate on the 2007 model.

This is the second model year for the Commander. Back in 2006, Jeep had nothing in its lineup bigger than the Grand Cherokee. The company was convinced it was losing sales to competitors who made SUVs with three rows of seats. So Jeep introduced the Commander, with styling that resembles the old Cherokee.

Changes for 2007 are modest, and that’s fine, because Jeep got the Commander pretty much right the first time around. Big, but not Chevrolet Suburban big, the Commander is about 2 inches longer and 4 inches taller than the Grand Cherokee, which shares a platform with the Commander.

Still, that’s enough room for that third-row seat, which really is the whole point of the Commander. That third row is fine for kids, pretty marginal for adults. Otherwise, no complaints about the Commander interior: It’s roomy, handsome and thoughtfully designed.

Three engines are offered: The smallest is a 3.7-liter, 210-horsepower V-6, and the largest is a 5.7-liter, 330-horsepower Hemi V-8. The middle engine, a 4.7-liter, 235-horsepower V-8, was in the test Commander. This engine will run on ethanol, if you can find an ethanol pump. Transmission is a five-speed automatic.

Commanders have rear-wheel drive as standard, but this being a Jeep, four-wheel drive is offered. In fact, there are three four-wheel-drive systems: The simplest, and cheapest, is the basic Quadra-Trac I, which is mostly for on-road use. Quadra-Trac II, which the test Commander had, is more sophisticated and has low-range gearing for off-roading. Quadra-Drive II is the most sophisticated, using lots of electronic aids to maximize traction.

The test Commander was a Sport, which is the least expensive of the three models, the other two being the Limited and the luxurious Overland. Even so, our Sport started at $29,915, and with options that include a navigation system, a backup camera, a power sunroof with two rear nonopening “skylights,” a premium stereo and leather upholstery, the list price was $38,925.

I liked the Commander from the start, and the styling has grown on me — in certain colors, white and black in particular, I think it’s downright handsome. Road manners have never been a problem: The Commander is capable off-road, and on-pavement ride and handling are excellent.

But the Commander is a late arrival to an already-crowded field. At its base-price level, the Commander — still offering plenty of standard equipment — is a very good buy, but the more deluxe it gets, the better the competition looks. After all, the $3,500 rebate applies to the $29,915 model, as well as to the $45,015 Overland, but it makes more of an impression at the lower end of the lineup.

Of course, if the Commander doesn’t appeal, Jeep has other products that might. Suddenly, a lot of them.

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