Jeep Commander

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Picture: Jeep

Over the years, Jeep has made some attempts at a full-size offer, something that could take on Chevy Suburban and Ford Expeditions around the world. While Jeep’s original Grand Wagoneer trials remained fairly successful for almost 30 years, Jeep’s second blow to a viable competitor was not as great or remarkable. That attempt was known as the Jeep Commander.

Welcome to Forgotten Cars where we go into a short history and background of some models you may not remember. Join us on a drive along memory lane.

1999 Jeep Commander Concept

1999 Jeep Commander Concept
Picture: Stellantis Media Archives

Like many of Chrysler’s products, the Jeep Commander began life as a concept. I would not go so far as to say that the only thing that the concept and the production commander had in common in the end was the seven-door grille. I will, but say that the concept was ahead of its time. The driveline in the original idea that was introduced in 2000 was exotic in its use of one methanol fuel cell. That cell converted energy in the liquid into electricity, which was then led to electric motors at each wheel. Of course, we never saw anything like this on the production model.

Image for the article titled Forgotten Cars: Jeep Commander

Picture: Jeep

The actual customer-ready Commander debuted at the 2005 New York Auto Show for the 2006 model. It shared a platform, independent suspension, active rear axle and unibody construction with the Jeep Grand Cherokee but visually looked like just a larger Liberty.

Jeep’s reasoning for the master’s existence was also a bit strange. According to Allpar, Michael BerubeJeep’s marketing manager at the time, claimed that customers expressed that they did not actually need a permanent set of three rows of seats, only seats that could be used as “in a pinch” flexibility – having to drive home two more children or adults from time to time.

Basically, the master came out as the largest vehicle in the Jeep series. And much of it depends on its boxy design. The SUV was only two inches longer than the Grand Cherokee and had a terribly narrow third row with only 28.9 inches of legroom. While children could easily get back there, adults could tolerate being back there for quick excursions around the neighborhood. Ask me how I know.

Image for the article titled Forgotten Cars: Jeep Commander

Picture: Jeep

Speaking of its design, the Jeep really embraced the box for the Commander. Senior Manager of Jeeps Design Studio Donald A. Renkert did not want to do anything too big or impressive and said: “… let’s embrace and celebrate the box. Let’s not think outside the box, let’s build a cool box.” The design became something new but familiar to Jeep customers, but perhaps larger than the designer imagined, which may or may not be good.

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Picture: Jeep

Inside the master it was just like odd. Chrysler offered a 5.7-liter Hemi V8 with 357 horsepower – more than enough engine to power the boxy three-row titanium. Though, its two other engine options were less appealing.

Middle class trims came standard with the 4.7-liter 305 hp PowerTech V8. It was an odd alternative, considering that the 5.7-liter Hemi was larger than the PowerTech, only $ 820 more (on the limited trim), and got better fuel economy with its Multi-Displacement System. PowerTech was also slower than Hemi. Our own Mike Spinelli clocked 10.2 seconds for a time of 0 to 60 mph from a 4.7-liter equipped Commander.

Base Commander buyers, if there was such a thing, had it even worse with the 3.7-liter 210 horsepower PowerTech V6 (the 3.7) was only a 4.7-liter V8 lacks two cylinders) that turned the Commander into a quiet block on wheels. At least buyers could choose three different four-wheel drive systems and two transfer bags.

Image for the article titled Forgotten Cars: Jeep Commander

Picture: Jeep

Perhaps its downfall was easy to see coming because the hold was almost non-existent with all seven seats full; Fuel economy was rubbish across the board with the Hemi-powered four-wheel-drive versions being extinguished 13/19/15 mpg combined (Similar another huge three-seater jeep); and that boxy design gave way to disruptive handling with Car and driver describes it as “really disturbing transient behavior.”

But the press loved this box of a jeep, something. Its high drive and seating areas at the stadium were praised, as was how well-equipped the upholstery was.

Base Commander Sports started at $ 27,985, with Limited 4x4s for up to $ 38,900. Nearly 85,000 masters found a home during the first year of production, with a total of close to 200,000 sold until 2010.

When Jeep tries again on a full-size SUV in Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer, you have to wonder if this type of vehicle will find as many buyers today as then in a world of high petrol prices and an impending EV transition.

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