2008 Commander New Car Test Drive
The Jeep Commander offers more capability over rugged terrain than most drivers will ever need. It can haul up to seven people and a lot of stuff just about anywhere it can fit. If you're expecting an unrefined vehicle with sluggish performance, however, you'll be surprised. It's surprisingly smooth and spry.
As suggested by its slab-sided styling, the Commander offers utility and a roomy, airy cabin. The rear seats are progressively stepped up, theater style, giving back-seat riders a view of the road. This feeling of airiness is enhanced by a pair of glass roof panels, though the third row is best reserved for 10-year-olds.
Utility comes in the form of a perfectly flat cargo floor when the rear two rows are folded down, providing 68.5 cubic feet of cargo space. Those in the front seats enjoy a comfortable cabin, much of which is shared with the Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Belied by the utilitarian styling, however, is the Commander's responsiveness and ride quality. It rides surprisingly well for a tall, seven-passenger SUV. On the highway, the Commander is a notably smooth and comfortable cruiser. It's reasonably quiet, allowing easy conversation, a pleasant surprise given the squared-off styling and all-terrain tires. The tall ride height and off-road capability make the Commander handle poorly, though. While not tippy, the Commander is prone to body lean in turns and heavy braking, and isn't as nimble as the latest crossover SUVs.
A choice of V6 and V8 engines is available. The mid-level 4.7-liter V8 is upgraded for 2008, gaining 70 horsepower for a total of 305 while also gaining slightly in fuel economy performance. With its responsive acceleration and 6,500-pound towing capacity, the 4.7-liter V8 is a fine choice in the Commander. The top-line 5.7-liter V8 Hemi makes the Commander downright quick and is best for those who need to tow trailers up to 7,400 pounds.
Two-wheel-drive models are available, though that seems a curious choice because it loses the benefits of Jeep's highly capable four-wheel-drive systems, one of the Commander's most compelling features. Buyers who don't need off-road capability might be better served by something else.
In addition to the upgraded 4.7-liter V8, Commander gets new entertainment and off-road features for 2008, as well as an available five-passenger version. The entertainment features consist of Sirius Backseat TV with three child-oriented channels and Jeep's MyGig, a 20-gigabyte hard drive that holds songs, pictures, and navigation system map information. Hill-start assist holds the brakes when the driver lets off them on a hill to allow smooth launches. Hill-descent control uses the ABS to control the rate of speed when driving down steep hills. Commander is available with an optional trailer sway control system that helps stabilize trailers during towing.
The 2008 Jeep Commander comes in three trim levels: Sport, Limited, and Overland. All are available with 2WD or 4WD.
Commander Sport 2WD ($27,415) comes standard with a 3.7-liter SOHC V6, rated at 210 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque. The V6 is mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. Standard on Sport are cloth upholstery, air conditioning, AM/FM/CD stereo with six speakers, power windows, power heated mirrors, front bucket seats with lumbar adjustment, rear obstacle detection, liftgate glass that opens by remote control, all-terrain tires on 17-inch cast aluminum wheels, a full-size spare tire, and cruise control with switches on the steering wheel. For 2008, the tilting steering column adds a telescoping feature.
Commander Sport 4WD ($29,415) adds Quadra-Trac I, an automatic full-time all-wheel-drive system enhanced by electronic traction control.
A 4.7-liter SOHC V8 is available on Sport as part of an option package. It is rated 305 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque. This engine also comes with a five-speed automatic, but a more heavy-duty unit with a split second gear that provides a shorter ratio on kick-down than on up-shift.
Limited 2WD ($36,305) comes standard with the 4.7-liter V8 and HD transmission, plus a wide array of comfort and convenience features, including leather-trimmed first- and second-row seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, Sirius satellite radio with one-year subscription, Boston Acoustics speakers, power adjustable heated front seats, power adjustable pedals, third-row heat and ventilation, sunroof, remote starting, rain-sensitive wipers, automatic headlights, universal garage door opener; and a security system. For 2008, the Limited model adds a standard rear backup camera and Jeep's MyGig Entertainment System, which has a 6.5-inch touchscreen and a 20-gigabyte hard drive to hold music and picture files. Limited can be distinguished by its chromed grille and exterior chrome accents.
Limited 4WD ($38,925) has Quadra-Trac II, a full-time active four-wheel-drive system that includes a two-speed transfer case (so you can select a lower gear range for crawling through seriously rugged, muddy, or sandy terrain; or neutral for towing); plus electronic traction control.
Optional on Limited is the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 (again, as part of a larger package), producing 330 horsepower and 375 pound-feet of torque. The Hemi features the fuel-saving Multi-Displacement System (MDS) technology, which shuts down four of the eight cylinders under light-load conditions.
Optional with the Hemi is Quadra-Drive II ($795), Jeep's most sophisticated 4WD system. Three limited-slip differentials (one in each axle and one between the axles) are electronically controlled, sending torque to the wheels, or single wheel, with the best traction. The system also includes low-range gearing and traction control.
The top-of-the-line Overland ($40,385) comes standard with the Hemi and a trailer-tow group. It raises the interior plush factor with suede-trimmed leather seats embroidered with the Overland logo; leather-wrapped shift knob and grab handles; Berber floor mats; and woodgrain trim on the center stack, console, steering wheel (which is also leather-wrapped) and front door panels. Overland also adds conveniences, such as a power liftgate, UConnect hands-free cell phone link, and a cargo net. For 2008, Overland trades a standard navigation system for Jeep's MyGig Multi-Media Infotainment system, which adds voice control and a navigation system with real-time traffic to the MyGig Entertainment System. Outside, Overland is distinguished by Platinum-look trim, a unique wire-lattice grille and 18-inch wheels instead of 17s.
Overland 4WD ($43,850) comes with Quadra-Drive II.
Other Commander options include rear DVD entertainment system and engine block heater. For 2008, the rear DVD entertainment system is available with Sirius Backseat.
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