Some people think Jeep's newest addition looks like the illicit result of a Jeep and Hummer's hot one nighter. However, the real inspiration for the Commander is the angular Jeeps of yesteryear. Either way, the body style elicits love it or hate it comments from most people I encounter.
The 2006 Jeep Commander, Jeep's first vehicle with extended seating for seven, has the potential to be a solid family car. But, being that this is its first model year, there are still quite a few issues that need to be worked through and resolved. Let's start with the pros: Jeff Bell, the former vice president of Jeep, was amazed at how much junk his three boys managed to collect in the car. For this reason, the interior of the Commander is outfitted with plenty of cargo nets and storage bins to contain the clutter. If only other car manufacturer's brought their experience as parents to the design table! Better yet, bring the kids themselves!
According to Jeep Commander's product communication manager, "the Jeep Commander has the highest level of safety and security technology and features ever offered on a Chrysler Group vehicle." Some of these features include standard side curtain airbags for all three rows, rollover sensors, Electronic Stability Control, Traction Control System and my favorite feature, Rear Park Assist Detection System. This system offers an audible tone along with a lighted visual alert to possible obstructions behind the vehicle (although no actual camera).
Three sets of latch connectors in the second row are a rarity in any SUV. The Jeep Commander gets brownie points for latch connectors that are not only functional, but easy to use.
The Commander is quite flexible and accommodates a wide array of seating configurations. Both the second and third rows fold fairly easily when additional cargo space is needed. Passengers in the third row can control their own heat/AC. This feature is great for older kids or adults, but a nuisance for younger children who want nothing more than to fuss with the buttons and dials.
Drivers of different statures will appreciate adjustable foot pedals and a high seating position with a good view of the road ahead. I also enjoy the surprisingly smooth and quiet ride for such a large and square SUV.
On the flip side: The second row is desperately lacking leg room. My youngest daughter rides in her child safety seat with her feet squished up against the back of the driver's head restraint when my husband drives. My older daughter complains constantly about not having enough room to climb into the car. Although she's slim enough to squeeze through the narrow passageway, her backpack isn't and needs to be lifted up and over the seat.