Trucks & SUVs

The Jeep Commander is the 3 Row SUV Jeepers Forgot

The Jeep Grand Cherokee L was revealed today. It is a long-wheelbase version of the Grand Cherokee. That extra length gives room to passengers of the new third row. That’s right! A third-row Jeep exists… again. In fact, other third-row models are coming from the manufacturer soon. But, what has been forgotten is that the automaker had a three-row SUV before, called the Commander

2006 – 2010 Jeep Commander SUV

A burgundy 2008 Jeep Commander at the base of the Grand Canyon.
2008 Jeep Commander | FCA

The Jeep Commander SUV was based on the existing Grand Cherokee chassis of the time. However, it had its own boxy bodywork and was two inches longer overall. Those two inches alone are not sufficient to add a third row of seating. So, the manufacturer reconfigured seating and raised the platform design in the rear. So, the second and third rows are elevated versus the driver and passenger. 

The Jeep Commander is also a capable off-road vehicle. Back then, nothing could wear a Jeep nameplate unless it had off-road chops. So, to make sure all four corners engaged the surface terrain as desired, there were multiple four-wheel drive systems available. 

Power for the Jeep Commander came from a variety of engines. The powerplants included a V6 and two thirsty V8s. There was also a six-cylinder diesel engine option. So, the consumer could choose an engine appropriately either for family hauling or for use as a tow rig.

Impressions of the Jeep Commander

A rear overhead view of the Jeep Commander shows the sunroofs.
2008 Jeep Commander | FCA

Sadly, the Jeep Commander was a great idea that had a mediocre execution. The boxy design on the large platform looked dated. It almost seemed as if the manufacturer was trying to repackage a larger version of the boxy 1984 Jeep Cherokee XJ, or an old Jeep Wagoneer. 

The rest of the Commander garnered mixed reviews. Some of those were disheartening to Jeep fans. Car and Driver reviewed the SUV and gave it only a four out of ten rating. They came to the following conclusion,

“The biggest Jeep isn’t as refined as many of its car-based competitors, but it’s adept off-road, seats up to seven, and will tow a heavy load with the optional Hemi V-8. Its fuel economy is unimpressive and its handling is clumsy, but it does have classic Jeep styling.”

Kelley Blue Book also offered their comments about the Jeep Commander. They said, “There are sleeker, less-expensive and more fuel-efficient SUV and crossover wagon choices available to get you around town.”

The national economy turned

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It is important to note that at the time the Jeep Commander was in production, the world economy started to experience upheavals. Financial bailouts of banks rolled out. Then, in 2008 and 2009, the US auto manufacturers were testifying before Congress as to why they needed a bailout. Also, the Cash-for-Clunkers program was started and was geared to have consumers trade-in gas guzzlers. So, big gas-guzzling SUVs were falling out of favor. For example, the whole Hummer brand as a whole was shuttered as General Motors tried to stem losses and shed the environmentally unfriendly shade.

The confluence of all these factors, the mediocre reviews, the gas-guzzling tendencies of the Jeep Commander, and the financial crisis led to the discontinuation of the three-row SUV. Consequently, to this day, many people have forgotten the modern incarnation of the Commander nameplate. In fact, the press would barely note its passing in 2010. Sadly, had it not been for the debut of the new three-row Jeep that broke cover today, the Grand Cherokee L, the Commander might not be a topic of conversation at all.