date : 2nd July 2006
A talking point amongst
journalists at the recent Jeep Commander launch near Cullinan
was the back-to-the-roots looks of Jeepís new
sports-utility. Generally the feeling was that the chunky-charlie
Commander was up to the job.
Like most journos on the launch, David wasnít convinced by
Jeepís luggage space claims with the third row of seats
The point about the Commander is that it does have seating for
seven, which can be useful during short game viewing trips
when everyone wants to come along for the ride.
Off road the Commander is extremely comfortable, with an
isolated ride that is quite typical of DaimlerChrsylerís
This is a vehicle with quite serious off-road aspirations
despite its luxury cabin, with a sophisticated
four-wheel-drive system that, of course, includes a low-range
option to its automatic transmission.
Itís a long distance highway hauler that copes with typical
game tracks with almost contemptuous ease.
All sorts of electronic features are designed to assist the
Commander driver, both on and off-road. Thereís an
electronic stability programme, a tyre pressure monitoring
system, and an anti-roll mitigation system which compensates
for body tilt when traversing a steep slope.
The steering uses a variable ratio rack-and-pinion system
which explains its light feel at low speeds. For this type of
terrain the Jeep Commander was quite happy with the high
transmission ratio selected.
All the launch vehicles were fitted with the stump-pulling 5,7
litre Hemi V8, which has ample torque for almost all
When preparing for rockier surfaces, changing from high to low
is a doddle with Jeepís electronic Range Select. The
suspension travel is reasonable, but not in the Land Rover
class, as there is not quite enough extension on each
But the Quadradrive 2 system is
designed to transfer torque to the wheels with enough bite.
Perhaps its biggest limitation off-road is ground clearance,
the overhang at the rear being quite long.
The Commander is visually profiled as a more purposeful
looking Jeep rendition, to the extent of dummy bolts giving
the appearance of securing the squared off wheel-arch
We have long wondered at the wisdom of fitting beautifully
polished alloy wheels to any vehicles going off road,
as itís hard enough keeping them scuff-free when dealing
with typical South African suburban kerb stones!
The metallic paint too is bound to take a pounding in the
bushveld, but sales of these slightly more "on" than
"off" roaders suggest that we are in the minority in
Game viewing trips are what they are about and if that goes
with a few thorn bush excursions, so be it.
The legendary Hemi motor is in fact a modern derivative of the
old V8 from the 1950s which ruled Nascar races when fitted to
the original Chrysler 300.
The Jeep Commander, too can trace its roots back over half a
century, as the original Willys Station Wagon was a 1946 seven
seater version of the famous World War Two Jeep.
While the Commanderís ancestors made do with four cylinders,
the 2006 Commander Limited, which uses the very modern 5,7
litre Hemi V8, switches from eight to four cylinders in cruise
mode, which makes it a frugal device on the highway.
Cylinders 1, 4, 6 and 7 are shut down when moderate throttle
openings are employed, and Chrysler claim fuel consumption
reductions of between 12 and 15 per cent.
Another interesting device is an alternative second gear,
activated by throttle kick-down for use in extreme
At 213 millimetres, the ground clearance is okay-ish, but with
a long wheelbase you have to take care not to bottom it.
Weíve always enjoyed the chunky Tonka
Toy-meets-cocktail-lounge approach to Jeep SUV interiors. What
is noticeable is that Chrysler, like its American counterparts
Ford and GM, has upped its game in the fit and finish
department, as it strives to crack the European markets.
Plastics are more expensive, panel fit is approaching
millimeter perfect and the Jeep has an ambience of luxury that
speaks of integrated elegance, rather than striving to be
something it isnít.
This is an SUV with a long heritage, and in fact Jeep, with
some justification, claims to have invented the concept back
in 1946. And in a game-viewing vehicle, sun-roofs are totally
What has survived on the Jeep, weíre happy to say, is
the original seven-slot grille, which dates way back to the
desert and jungles in World War Two.
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