2009 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. It's also surprisingly refined, a fact belied by its rugged, utilitarian looks. The Commander is 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. But any self-respecting off-road enthusiast understands this going in.
A choice of V6 and V8 engines is available. The top-of-the-line 5.7-liter Hemi V8 is upgraded for 2009, gaining 27 horsepower and 14 pound-feet of torque. The Hemi makes the Commander downright quick and is best for those who need to tow trailers up to 7,400 pounds. The mid-line 4.7-liter V8 offers fairly responsive acceleration and a 6,500-pound towing capacity, making it a fine choice in the Commander.
Two-wheel-drive models are available, though that seems a curious choice because Jeep's highly capable four-wheel-drive systems are among the Commander's most compelling features. Buyers who don't need off-road capability might be better served by something else.
The 2009 Commander offers a new 9-inch rear DVD screen, auto-leveling xenon headlights, an iPod interface, and a new entertainment system called UConnect GPS with a 30 gigabyte hard drive.
The 2009 Jeep Commander comes in three trim levels: Sport, Limited, and Overland. All are available with rear-wheel drive (2WD) or four-wheel drive (4WD).
Commander Sport 2WD ($29,380) 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, eight-way power driver’s seat with lumbar adjustment, air conditioning, tilt/telescoping steering wheel with audio controls, cruise control, AM/FM/CD stereo with six speakers, Sirius satellite radio, power windows, power heated mirrors, power locks, remote keyless entry, split-folding second-row seats, rear obstacle detection, trip computer, liftgate glass that opens by remote control, roof rails, and P245/65R17 all-terrain tires on cast aluminum wheels.
Commander Sport 4WD ($31,380) adds Quadra-Trac I, an automatic full-time all-wheel-drive system enhanced by electronic traction control. A 4.7-liter SOHC V8 is optional ($1,580), which can run on E85 ethanol or gasoline or any combination of the two, 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.
Commander Limited 2WD ($38,885) comes standard with the 4.7-liter V8 and HD transmission, plus a wide array of comfort and convenience features, including leather-trimmed and heated first- and second-row seats; 4-way power front passenger seat; memory for the driver’s seat, mirrors and pedals; split-folding third-row seat; leather-wrapped steering wheel; dual-zone automatic climate control with rear air conditioning; 6-disc CD changer; Boston Acoustics speakers; power adjustable pedals; sunroof with two static glass panels; rain-sensitive wipers; automatic, self-dimming headlights; auto-dimming outside and rearview mirrors; universal garage door opener; security system; 115-volt power outlet; roof rack; fog lights; rear backup camera; and Jeep's UConnect GPS which includes a navigation system with a real-time traffic information, a 6.5-inch touchscreen, an iPod interface, a wireless cell phone link and a 30-gigabyte hard drive to hold music and picture files. Limited can be distinguished by its chromed grille and exterior chrome accents.
Limited 4WD ($41,505) 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 ($820), which is upgraded for 2009. It now produces 357 horsepower and 389 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 for the Sport and Limited 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, traction control, hill-start assist and hill-descent control.
The top-of-the-line Overland ($42,645) comes standard with the Hemi and a trailer-tow group. It raises the interior plush factor with 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 a power liftgate, xenon headlights, a Class IV trailer hitch receiver and wiring harness, trailer sway control, and P245/60R18 all-terrain tires on chromed alloy wheels. Outside, Overland is distinguished by Platinum-look trim and a unique wire-lattice grille. Overland 4WD ($46,110) comes with Quadra-Drive II, plus skid plates and front tow hooks.
Options include saddle-brown upholstery ($150) for the Limited and a rear DVD entertainment system ($1720) that comes with Sirius Backseat TV and three child-oriented channels: Disney Channel, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network. A Class III towing package is available with the V6 ($205), and a Class IV package ($280) with either V8. Many Limited and Overland features are offered as options on lower-cost models.
Safety features that come standard include head-protecting side-curtain air bags with a roll detection system to deploy in case of rollover and/or side impact. Front air bags are the multi-stage type that deploy in stages according to the severity of an impact. Torso-protecting front side airbags are not offered. Also standard are anti-lock brakes (ABS) with brake assist, electronic stability control, a tire-pressure monitor and rear obstacle detection. All-wheel-drive models have traction control. Available are a rear backup camera, hill-start assist, hill-descent control and trailer sway control.