by Deiondre van der Merwe
Introduced in the USA in 2005, the Jeep Commander shares a lot of its DNA with the Grand Cherokee, it just wraps the shared genetics in a boxy body that is far more rugged looking. Its macho appearance is one of the few things the Commander has to brag about because, much to the dismay of Jeep, the Commander is an SUV that's never been a top seller. This is probably because, despite its seven-seater configuration, it doesn't offer the space you'd expect and the interior is a little underwhelming. Still, it offers a decent amount of performance and it is a capable off-roader.
Jeep stuck to its traditional styling for the Commander. The brawny SUV keeps it simple but functional with a set of HID headlamps that flank the classic seven-slot grille. There are very few, if any, soft lines to be seen in the design. The rear of the SUV is home to a set of rectangular taillights and wheel sizes range from 17 to 18 inches. It has a length measurement of 188.5 inches and a 109.5-inch wheelbase. It also stands tall at 72.1 inches. Without the mirrors, the high-rider has a width of 74.8 inches. As for curb weights, the Commander in its lightest RWD form will weigh in at 4,591 pounds. Its heaviest 4WD configuration has a curb weight of 5,185 lbs.
The American automaker makes two power plants available for the Commander. The base-level 3.7-liter V6 delivers 210 horsepower, which is really not impressive for a car of this size. The new V8 is a different story entirely, though. The 5.7-liter V8 produces a total of 357 hp and 389 lb-ft of torque. With this engine equipped, Jeep claims that it has a maximum towing capacity of 7,400 pounds. The base motor's five-speed automatic transmission does what it can with the underpowered motor, but it is inevitably sluggish.
The Commander may deliver decent performance on the road, but its true home lies off the beaten track. This is where most of its appeal lies, so if you are not a known adventurer, the Commander is a car that may not be for you. There are a total of four different 4WD drivetrains that cater to different types of terrains, and it is lifted high enough already so there are no additional options for that. It must be noted that it is not as capable off-road as some of the smaller products, but when you consider its size, it performs commendably. Climbing a few mountains and getting down in the dirt is what it was made for, so it feels particularly top-heavy on smoother surfaces. We recommend slowing down if you need to take a corner. Still, the steering is appreciably accurate and well-weighted and the brakes are sharp enough when you need them.
You don't shop for anything with six cylinders and hope for frugal fuel economy figures. The lightest performer in terms of gas mileage is the 2WD V6. It returns EPA estimates of 15/20/16 mpg city/highway/combined. The thirstiest would be the 4WD V8 that returns figures of 13/19/15 mpg. With the 21.1-gallon fuel tank full, the former allows for 338 miles of range and the latter allows for 316 miles.
This is where things start to get a little murky. It is an expensive vehicle to purchase, but the new Jeep Commander is far from luxurious on the inside. The cabin lets you know that it was made for durability and functionality rather than comfort. Still, there is quite a bit of space that can be taken advantage of, and the materials are better than the cheaper Patriot or Compass. The seats are not as comfortable as we'd like them to be, mainly because they are not supportive enough to coddle you on longer journeys. The standard eight-way power-adjustable seat for the driver does relatively well at offering a comfortable seating position.
The seats in the second row have enough room to manage, but it gets uncomfortable for taller adults. The third row is best reserved for small children or adults that you resent. While in-cabin storage is generous, the same cannot be said for the trunk capacity. There is 7.5 cubic feet of cargo space to work with behind the third row, so pack light if you're planning on taking the family on a long holiday.
There are two trim levels in the lineup. The base-level Sport trim comes stocked with a power-adjustable seat for the driver, manual air conditioning, power windows and a CD player. The top trim adds dual-zone climate control, AM/FM radio and a power sunroof. It also welcomes a power liftgate. There are quite a few additional options that can be specced if you feel like you need a little more. These include a DVD system in the rear to entertain the kids on longer journeys and a navigation system. There is also an optional hard drive, upgraded sound system, and SiriusXM.
The NHTSA's review of the Jeep Commander did not result in an overall score, but it did score five out five stars in frontal crash tests. There are no reviews for the Jeep Commander from the IIHS at this stage. As for reliability, the 2010 Jeep Commander is not in the black, as it was recalled four times. At the very least, it comes with decent warranties as standard.
To sum it up, the Commander is a vehicle that belongs in the dirt. Keeping it in your driveway is like keeping a shark in your pool. It looks cool, but that is not where it should be. It is vastly capable on rough terrain but disappointing on normal roads, and its limited safety review information is concerning. If you're not going to be using it for regular 4X4 trailing, it is best to consider something else.
In terms of pricing, the Jeep Commander was not the most affordable option for sale as new. The base model's starting cost was around $31,575 and the top-tier Limited trim would set you back around $42,830. The Jeep Commander's cost increased rather quickly when buyers added packages on as well. Opting for a second-hand purchase in 2020 will see an outlay of around $7,7k and upwards. Some might say the Jeep Commander's prices are far too high for what it offers, but it really depends on what you want from it.