Regardless of what you think about the trend toward retro styling, sometimes it just makes sense. Take the newly released Jeep Commander, which hearkens back to the old Jeep Wagoneer. Because Jeep wanted a full-size SUV with seven-passenger capacity, the boxy lines of the Wagoneer as a styling cue provided much-needed headroom for the third row of seating.
While the Commander looks like yesterday’s Wagoneer and Cherokee, those familiar with today’s Grand Cherokee will feel right at home during an under-truck inspection. That’s because the Commander and the Grand Cherokee share engine options, 4WD systems, transfer-case options, transmissions and suspensions.
These are all good things for those who want a seven-passenger SUV with real off-road capabilities. Our off-road excursions with the Commander surprised us with better-than-expected agility, turning radius and traction. Although the sound of skid-plate-on-rock always makes me cringe, the under-armor was up to the task, and the Commander came through proud to be a real Jeep. As a tow vehicle, the new Jeep is rated to take on trailers up to 7,200 pounds.
The second and third rows of seats fold down to open up an impressive 68.9 cubic feet of cargo area. With the third row only folded down — a very common configuration — there is 36.4 cubic feet of space, but with full passenger capacity the cargo space goes to a skinny 7-1/2 cubic feet. The hatch glass can be opened while the tailgate remains closed, which helps when loading cargo into the limited space behind the third row.
With the Hemi throwing it into corners, the Commander, well, commanded respect with a minimum of body roll on curvy roads. Both braking and steering have a good balance of assistance and road feel.
Drivability is further enhanced by the better-than-expected turning radius, and the outstanding visibility. These all combine in a vehicle that is not unwieldy for the kid chauffeur in the family to drive every day.
Pick up the February 2006 issue of Trailer Life for more details on the new Jeep Commander — then subscribe to Trailer Life, so you can stay informed on the latest tow vehicles, tests, previews, and technical and RV-lifestyle information.