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Car reviews - Jeep - Commander - 5-dr wagon range

Launch Story

Jeep logo23 May 2006

By MARTON PETTENDY

A NEW Jeep flagship has rumbled into town and the iconic US off-road brand’s first seven-seater 4WD wagon is more than a stretched version of the Grand Cherokee upon which it is based.

Commander is the first of several all-new Jeep models to go on sale in Australia over the next four years, and goes on sale this week priced from $54,990 – just $1000 more than the entry-level Grand Cherokee, the price of which has also been reduced by $2500 to $53,990.

Echoing the five-seat Grand Cherokee range released last July, the Commander range opens with a 170kW/410Nm 4.7-litre V8 from the Grand Cherokee Laredo 4.7L.

The $59,990 Commander 3.0L CRD employs the same DaimlerChrysler-developed 160kW/510Nm 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel engine as the $58,990 Grand Cherokee Laredo CRD (and the Mercedes-Benz ML320 CDI).

Topping the range are three Limited variants, with the Commander Limited 4.7 priced $1000 above the Grand Cherokee Limited 4.7 at $66,990, the Commander Limited CRD priced $1000 above the Grand Cherokee Limited CRD at $69,990, and the flagship Commander Limited 5.7L priced $1000 more than the Grand Cherokee Limited 5.7L at $71,990.

The top-shelf Commander is powered by the same 240kW/500Nm 5.7-litre HEMI V8 that motivates the quickest Grand Cherokee (and is a detuned version of the 250kW/525Nm engine found in sister company Chrysler’s 300C V8 sedan).

As in those models, it features the Chrysler Group’s fuel-saving Multi-Displacement System and, unlike 4.7 V8 variants, requires 95 RON premium unleaded fuel.

The Grand Cherokee line-up will be capped by an SRT-8 range-topper later this year, powered by a 313kW version of the recently released 300C SRT-8’s 317kW/569Nm 6.1-litre V8, and Commander could follow suit in 2007 – when the compact Compass and Patriot Jeep 4WDs will also be launched.

For now, however, Commander represents good value within Australia’s seven-seat SUV arena, which opens at under $40,000 with the likes of Ford’s Territory, Hyundai’s Terracan and Holden’s forthcoming Captiva, rises to similar pricing for Mitsubishi’s (six-cylinder and diesel) Pajero and Toyota’s Prado, and tops out with European-built V8s like Land Rover’s Discovery, Volkswagen’s Touareg, Audi’s upcoming Q7 and $100,000-plus Germans like the Mercedes-Benz ML500, BMW X5 4.4i and Porsche Cayenne.

Commander brings the number of Jeep models offered here to five and is well specified despite Chrysler Group Australia’s aggressive pricing.

Its three rows of seats are staggered theatre-style, with the rear two rows positioned about 120mm higher than those in front to allow good forward vision from all seven positions, and the second row is 40/20/40-split to improve rear-seat access.

They are housed in a chunkier five-door body that rides on the same 2780mm wheelbase but is just 37mm longer overall than the Grand Cherokee and features a more upright windscreen, rear-end and body sides – plus a stepped roof to accommodate third-row passengers, who enjoy a dedicated heating/air-conditioning system as standard.

Inside there is also a bespoked gear-shifter, LED-illuminated instrument cluster, steering wheel, upper dash (featuring 16 tough-look allen bolts) and seats, which fold flat in the second and third rows, while the optional "Command View" panoramic sunroof with "skylights" resides above the second-row seats.

Commander offers 212 litres of cargo space with all seven seats in use, while folding the third-row seats expand this to 1028 litres and folding the second row extends this to a generous total of 1940 litres.

As well as "best-in-class" off-road capability, Jeep claims Commander delivers "precise and responsive on-road dynamics" thanks to Grand Cherokee’s new independent front suspension and rack-and-pinion steering system, which provides a decent 11.8-metre turning circle.

Just as two five-speed automatic transmissions with manual-shift function are offered (a W5A580 for the CRD and a 5-45RFE for the V8s), so too are two full-time four-wheel drive systems, both offering 4WD on demand and low-range 4WD with a drive ratio of 2.72:1.

As with Grand Cherokee, which is also built at DaimlerChrysler’s Magna Steyr plant in Austria, Quadra-Trac II is standard on the base 4.7L and features an electronically controlled clutch pack coupling in the centre differential, open front and rear differentials, a default torque split of 48/52 front/rear and the ability to send 100 per cent to either axle.

Limited variants’ more sophisticated Quadra-Drive II adds front and rear electronic limited-slip differentials to enable cross-axle torque transfer.

An ESP stability control system is standard across the range, as is traction control, brake assist, ABS, tyre pressure monitoring, twin adaptive front airbags and full-length side curtain airbags.

Standard equipment includes electric (eight-way driver, four-way passenger) front seats, six-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo, trip computer, power windows and (heated) mirrors, cloth trim and 17-inch alloy wheels. All-terrain tyres are a no-cost option.

Limited variants add Quadra-Drive II, seat/mirror memory, leather seat/steering wheel trim, rain-sensing wipers, a Boston Acoustics 276-watt six-speaker/six-CD sound system, front/rear parking assistance, heated front seats, chromed grille and bodyside mouldings, dual-zone climate-control and auto-dimming mirrors.

Nine paint colours (including just two solids: black and white) and three interior trim options are available.

Commander comes with a full-size spare wheel/tyre.

Major options include metallic paint ($370), sunroof/window tinting ($2700), Quadra-Drive II for the 4.7L V8 ($2100), parking radars (ex-Limited, $675), Boston Acoustics audio (ex-Limited, $1596) and, for the Limited, a skid plate ($166).

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