Big, Boxy & Better Than You'd Think? The Jeep Commander is an Underdog 4x4 With Hemi-Power
Over the last year the Jeep brand has earned a lot of attention for adding two new models to its lineup, both of which are on the larger size of the SUV spectrum. First there was the Grand Cherokee L—a lengthened, three-row version of the Grand Cherokee, and it was soon joined by the Wagoneer, another full-size SUV designed to take Jeep to a new level of luxury.
But this isn't the first time Jeep has attempted to go big. To see what had happened the last time the brand tried to introduce an SUV larger than the Grand Cherokee, you have to go back to the late 2000s and the Jeep Commander.
Of Another Era
Like the new Grand Cherokee L and Wagoneer, the Commander shared a lot with the Grand Cherokee when it debuted for the 2006 model year.
It's profile was tall and boxy, and in a lot of ways it basically looked like a scaled up version of the XJ Cherokee, and depending on your perspective had a fair amount of retro charm to it.
As for power, the base engine was a V6, with two optional V8s, including the 5.7 liter Hemi V8 as the top of the line powerplant. On later models it made as much 360 horsepower.
Two-wheel-drive was standard, but the Commander could be equipped with the Quadra-Drive II 4x4 system borrowed from the Grand Cherokee, and it did quite well off-road for its size.
More Charming Than You Remember
The boxy shape allowed plenty of space in its three-rows of seating, which featured a stadium layout for maximum visibility. Depending on trim, it sat in between three-row crossovers like the Honda Pilot and full-size Luxury SUVs from Lexus or GMC.
The mid 2000s were boom times for large SUVs in America, and the Commander sold pretty well for the first couple years it was around. But soon after a couple of factors contributed to its demise.
First was a large spike in gasoline prices that sent many buyers away from large SUVs toward more fuel efficient offerings. Then came the 2008 recession and the economic downturn that accompanied it.
With Chrysler undergoing restructuring during bankruptcy, it's not surprising that the large, fuel-drinking Commander was one of the first vehicles to get the axe. 2010 would be its final model year.
Its spot in Chrysler's stable would be replaced by the new 2011 Dodge Durango, which was basically a three-row, Dodge-branded version of the Grand Cherokee.
A Short, But Memorable Run
Now, more than 12 years after it disappeared, it's an interesting vehicle to look back on. You could say it represents a bygone era, but the existence of the new Grand Cherokee L and Wagoneer suggest the "big Jeep" idea has plenty of life left.
Some vehicles from the 2000s have aged better than others in terms of looks, and there's still something endearing about the tall, boxy shape of the Commander. We'd say its aged better than a same-era Grand Cherokee.
It's still a mechanically stout vehicle as well, especially when powered by the 5.7 liter V8—as long as you don't mind paying the price at the pump.
You can also get them dirt cheap today, stretching from $5,000 on the low end to $10,000 for a high trim model in excellent condition. And while it may not be the world's best off-roading platform, and it can still chop it up pretty well in the dirt.
And while it's far-down the list of most popular Jeep models for modification, there's a reasonable amount of upgrades available thanks to its shared platform with the Grand Cherokee.
A quick internet search will yield several examples of lifted, big-tired Commanders doing some pretty serious off-roading.
Calling the Jeep Commander an up and coming classic may be a stretch, but it's certainly a unique part of Jeep's modern history, and an affordable, spacious and unique candidate on the secondhand market.
And in era with it seems like used 4x4 SUVs are in higher demand than ever, the Commander might be just the cheap, under the radar choice for your next project.
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- Looking for a more mainstream "modern classic" Jeep choice? XJ Cherokees can still be had pretty cheap - for now.