It’s time for Jeep to revive the Commander

The 2000s were a peculiar time for domestic SUVs. Buyers had a variety of choices, including the lovely Hummer H2, the not-quite-groundbreaking GMC Envoy XUV, and even the rarely-seen Chrysler Aspen hybrid. The economy was booming. Fuel was cheap – or at least cheaper. Jeep, of course, decided to get in on the action, and gave us the Commander.

The only three-row vehicle Jeep has ever sold in the United States, the brawny Commander debuted in 2005 with a choice of a V6 or two different V8 engines and, correspondingly, three different four-wheel-drive systems. In a cutting-edge move for the time, the second and third rows were mounted higher than the first, offering a theater-like seating arrangement. The Commander soldiered on for five and a bit years of sales. Chrysler axed it after 2010, presumably due in part to the economic recession of a couple years prior.

The Commander has not seen a redesign or re-release since. Mostly. In China, Jeep sells a three-row crossover called the Grand Commander. Rumors once claimed it would come to the U.S. market badged as a Chrysler, which would have increased the number of models in the marque’s portfolio by 50%, but this now appears unlikely at best. This Traverse doppelgänger, though, is not the Commander that Jeep should be reviving.

Bring it back!

Jeep has room in its lineup for a muscular, off-road SUV with three rows. Jeep has few equals in terms of brand recognition, especially when it comes to tough terrain. For those who find a Wrangler too crude, a Grand Cherokee too suburban, and both too devoid of seating, a new Commander would fit the bill nicely. Like the old one, it could even be built on the same platform as the Grand Cherokee — the two contemporaries differed in size by a mere two inches. Best of all, the Commander was just cool.

The Grand Wagoneer is coming back too. Like the old one, however, it’s probably going to be large, soft, and cushy. And expensive. This is not what the Commander should become either. The Commander must be designed using little more than a ruler.

SUVs are massively popular. Off-roaders are massively popular. Almost certainly, a new Commander would find success. As a bonus, it would add some edge and cool factor to Jeep’s lineup. There would even be space to shoehorn a Hellcat engine under the hood.

14 Comments

    1. Do you think the looming economic apocalypse will bring back cars to the US marked? Or will the apocalypse be postponed again and the big three will follow through on the trajectory to a three ton truck?

      1. As much as I’d like to see that, I kinda doubt it. I do possibly see small crossovers gaining a fair amount of sales.

        1. Actually, I would like to admend that statement. This is probably true for the short term, but I wonder how this will effect the long term version of the automobile, especially when the gen Z kids get into new car buying age in 5-10 years. After all, this is the second major economic downturn they have seen in their lives. It is possible they may choose cheaper, smaller vehicles, seeing AWD as a unnecessary add on. Coupled with the fact they are the first generation to grow up with CUVs, they will likely shy away from them, just as my generation shyed away from minivans.

  1. The Commander was cool, but not well-executed. My sister drove one for a couple of years. It was big on the outside, but felt cramped and tiny on the inside, where the look and feel were disappointing. The V8 was perhaps the laziest engine I’ve ever experienced, or maybe it was just an inefficient transmission. Regardless, it didn’t feel very powerful. At least it sounded good, especially after my BIL put dual pipes on it.

    Don’t get me wrong– I love the Commander as a concept. I just think Jeep’s execution of it was pretty weak. Jeep’s on a roll lately, though, and could probably put forth a better effort. I’d love to see a spiritual replacement for the SJ Cherokee/Wagoneer.

    1. It was a Grand Cherokee, reworked to have a kinda sorta third row. That brought along too many compromises. It probably would have been a much better vehicle if it could have been engineered around a full sized platform, but that would have raised the development costs too high to produce the vehicle, probably.

    2. As per some colleagues who had both Commanders and contemporary Grand Cherokees as company cars, apparently the Commander drove worse even though basically just being a 3-row Grand Cherokee.

  2. not very crash worthy. got rear ended by woman texting while driving in traffic 40mph work zone. destroyed everything from the rear of the front tires to the front bumper, but it was a walk away for her. totaled the jeep. bit of tin, paint and a bumper & hitch on my 7,000 lb. dodge truck. I only felt the recoil. haven’t figured out why some cars sound like a trash can getting smacked with a sledge hammer when they hit something hard.

  3. It doesn’t have the cool squared off styling or much of any off-road capability, but the Durango is that XL Grand Cherokee that the Commander was. I imagine FCA figures they’ve only got space for one product in that segment, so depending on what they intend to do with Dodge, losing the Durango might free up that space.

    1. Kind of. GM sells platform mates Suburban, Yukon XL, and Escalade ESV aimed at three different markets with different prices. They all sell well without cannibalizing each other. FCA has probably come to the conclusion that people won’t pay more for a Durango just because it has a 7-slot grille.

  4. Since it’s their best selling platform, Jeep might be better off building a three row version of the Wrangler using the Gladiator chassis. Kludging a third seat into either the Grand Cherokee or the Cherokee will repeat the mistakes of the Commander.

  5. That’s funny – at the time they were being built, Peter De Lorenzo over at The Autoextremist called it, “The answer to the question no one is asking”, mainly based on the third-row space inside.

  6. As a long time “Jeeper”, with 17 years in the auto body repair and the auto glass replacement industry, plus now 8 as a CJDR parts manager, trust me when I say these car were the WORST of the Chrysler/Benz mashup vehicles. They are absolute junk.

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