KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors
Jeep purists never got over the loss of the original Cherokee, so it's no surprise the 2009 Jeep Commander bears a striking resemblance to the former's beloved and boxy design. Unlike the old Cherokee, the Commander offers far better interior accommodations, including a third-row seat. The Commander is Jeep's largest SUV to date and, although it shares much of its chassis and suspension with the Grand Cherokee (as well as the availability of a HEMI V8 engine), no one will ever mistake the two. While the Commander doesn't offer the same cargo space as a full-sized Chevrolet Tahoe or even Dodge Durango, it should suit most families looking for a workable combination of comfort, power and superior off-road ability.
You'll Like This Car If...
This is the SUV for you if you like the bolted-together industrial look, want seven-passenger capacity and have an occasional desire for serious off-road capability. If you covet Jeep's tough "Trail Rated" image and reputation in a quiet, fully-equipped, leather-lined cabin, you'll like the 2009 Jeep Commander all the more.
You May Not Like This Car If...
If your SUV needs are more about fashion than function, and/or your driving preferences are more attuned to on-road ride and handling than off-road aptitude, this may not be the car for you. There are sleeker, less-expensive and more fuel-efficient SUV and crossover wagon choices available to get you around town.
What's New for 2009
Changes for 2009 include more power and better fuel economy with the 5.7-liter HEMI V8, and the addition of tire pressure monitoring system information to the instrument cluster. New options include auto-leveling HID headlamps, rain sensing wipers and new Leather Appearance Package.
The standard 3.7-liter V6 is adequate on- or off-road with light passenger and cargo loads, but would be underpowered with heavier loads or at higher altitudes. Steering is nicely weighted and fairly precise, while the on-road ride is surprisingly quiet and smooth. Braking is strong and fade-free. Compared to the only slightly more economical V6, the 4.7-liter V8 delivers considerably more torque and horsepower, is a much better performer and hauler and is recommended for its superior balance of power, price and fuel economy. The hot-rod HEMI V8 is delightfully smooth and powerful at any speed, as you would expect. Given its hefty weight and high center of gravity, on-road cornering is not the Commander's forte, but truly impressive off-road capability is. Also impressive are the Limited's leather- and woodgrain-trimmed interior and ultra-comfortable front bucket seats.
HEMI V8 Engine
This smooth and muscular powerplant, named for its '50s high-performance ancestors, is an always-eager sweetheart, electronically tethered to your throttle foot. Despite its size, power and simple OHV (pushrod) valvetrain, it delivers EPA fuel economy ratings of 14 miles per gallon city and 20 miles per gallon highway, due to its Multi-Displacement System (MDS), which transparently disables four of its eight cylinders at light loads to conserve fuel.
Quadra-Drive II Active Full-Time Four-Wheel Drive
Jeep's most advanced four-wheel-drive technology, Quadra-Drive II uses front and rear Electronic Slip Differentials (ELSDs) to transfer up to all available torque to any individual wheel with traction. Standard with the HEMI V8 and available with the other two engines, it is as capable in difficult conditions as any system, either on or off the road.
Jeep's first three-row vehicle provides good two-row room, but we wouldn't want to spend much time in that way-back third row with just 28.9 inches of legroom and 35.7 inches of headroom. Behind it are grocery hooks and a bin with a clever three-way lid, but little cargo capacity with the seatbacks up. Echoing the exterior's "bold, rugged, constructed" theme, the base Commander cabin has cloth seats and a nicely textured upper dash. Sixteen Allen-head screws retain eight large, round air vents, while simulated Allen heads encircle the gearshift knob and steering wheel hub. The second row splits 40/20/40, the third row 50/50, and both fold flat for cargo.
While the Commander's shape is cinder-block blunt, much wind-tunnel effort has been devoted to reducing aerodynamic drag for fuel efficiency and interior quietness. The big, blocky outside mirrors, for example, are virtually invisible to the wind, according to the vehicle's chief designer. The roof is raised 3.15 inches, with the upturn beginning over the second row to provide more headroom. The roof-rack stanchions resemble buttress-style bridge supports, and five large simulated Allen screws appear to hold on each trapezoidal fender flare. The uplevel Limited wears chrome on its signature seven-slot grille, front fascia, body-side moldings, roof-rail crossbars and the two large liftgate grab handles that assist access to rooftop cargo.
Notable Standard Equipment
The 2009 Jeep Commander Sport boasts a 3.7-liter V6 engine, Quadra-Trac 1 (4x4 models), 17-inch machined-face wheels with painted pockets, power front windows, heated power mirrors, air conditioning, cruise control, AM/FM/CD six-speaker audio and rear park assist. Its standard safety package includes multi-stage front and three-row side-curtain airbags, tire pressure monitoring and Electronic Stability Control (ESC) with "Roll Mitigation" that senses an impending roll-over and works to prevent it. The loaded Limited adds a 4.7-liter V8 engine, leather seats with heated fronts and a four-way power passenger's seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear heating and air conditioning, power-adjustable pedals, CD/DVD/HDD/MP3 player with gps touchscreen, SIRIUS Satellite Radio, power flip-up liftgate glass, power sun roof, ParkView rear back-up camera and twin tinted second-row skylights.
Notable Optional Equipment
Available options include the Overland trim, which adds a 5.7-liter HEMI engine, 18-inch wheels, platinum finish trim and grille work and suede seats with Overland embroidery. Other options include driver's eight-way and passenger's four-way power seats, an engine block heater, 20G hard drive audio and navigation system, ParkView rear backup camera, auto-leveling HID headlights, rain sensing wipers, power rear liftgate, uconnect hands-free communication, rear heating and air conditioning, rear-seat DVD with nine-inch screen, "Saddle Brown" seating surfaces and a "popular equipment group" that includes heated front seats, power-adjustable pedals and adjustable roof-rail crossbars. Four-wheel-drive choices include Quadra-Trac I (V6 model), Quadra-Trac II and Quadra-Drive II.
Under the Hood
Chrysler's modern HEMI V8 gets all the attention, but it is costly and, despite the best efforts of its fuel-saving MDS, less fuel-efficient than its more affordable stablemates. Potential buyers should test drive and consider the more frugal V6 or the mid-range V8, depending upon their anticipated towing and hauling needs. The HEMI is more glamorous and more fun when you tickle its throttle, but you don't need 357 horses to cruise around town on level ground.
210 horsepower @ 5200 rpm
235 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 15/20 (2WD), 14/19 (4WD)
305 horsepower @ 5650 rpm
334 lb.-ft. of torque @ 3950 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 14/19 (2WD, gasoline), 13/18 (4WD, gasoline), 9/13 (2WD, E85), 9/12 (4WD, E85)
5.7-liter V8 HEMI
357 horsepower @ 5200 rpm
389 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4350 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 14/20 (2WD), 13/19 (4WD)
The 2009 Jeep Commander Sport has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting around $29,000. The four-wheel drive model with Quadra-Trac I full-time four-wheel drive and Brake Traction Control System (BTCS) starts closer to $31,000. The Limited runs close to $38,500 with rear-wheel drive and a 305-horsepower 4.7-liter V8, and with the more sophisticated Quadra-Trac II four-wheel drive, it's around $41,000. A fully-loaded Overland with Quadra-Trac II and the 5.7-liter HEMI V8 tops out just shy of the $49,000 mark. Fair Purchase Prices that represent what people are actually paying can differ substantially, so be sure to check the price, as it is updated frequently. The Commander is expected to hold an average resale value, on par with the Grand Cherokee, but well below the Toyota 4Runner and HUMMER H2.