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.