2008 Jeep Commander Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
August 1, 2008

The 2008 Jeep Commander is good Jeep (a trail-capable vehicle), but it's not a great people mover.

TheCarConnection.com's off-road experts and SUV experts researched the 2008 Jeep Commander to bring you this conclusive review. TheCarConnection.com's editors also drove the Jeep Commander, including a well-equipped HEMI-powered Overland model, to bring you firsthand knowledge about this SUV where it helps you make a better purchasing decision.

The 2008 Jeep Commander may have seemed like a good idea when the leadership at DaimlerChrysler approved the new SUV somewhere around 2002 or 2003. The group that signed off on the Jeep Commander must have thought it would be good for Jeep to have a vehicle that could advertise seating for seven. But when Jeep introduced the Jeep Commander in late 2005 as a 2006 model, SUV buyers didn't seem to care one bit.

Perhaps the market really wanted a minivan with SUV styling or a large crossover, as the Jeep Commander hasn't sold very well. Currently, it is the least popular Jeep model, trailing even the relatively unloved Jeep Compass by 25 percent.

While sales might not be on fire, the 2008 Jeep Commander is considered by several editors from TheCarConnection.com to be a handsome SUV. It certainly looks big and strong, two fundamental cues sought out by SUV shoppers. It also has an instantly recognizable Jeep face--unless you mistake it for a HUMMER, which also sports a seven-slot grille.

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Inside, the Jeep Commander's styling is straightforward. Round gauges are nestled into a squared-off dash that brings the angularity of the exterior inside. The front seats are supportive and comfortable, but the rear seats are cramped in terms of legroom. The optional third-row seat suffers a similar lack of legroom made worse by having precious little headroom. Younger kids will find it comfortable, provided they haven't hit their grown spurt. If anybody is sitting in the way back, get used to your exterior mirrors, as rearward visibility is virtually nil.

Performance for the 2008 Jeep Commander is completely dependent on your engine choice. The base 3.7-liter V-6 (also used in the Liberty) produces just 210 horsepower. That's not enough for this big Jeep even with its standard five-speed automatic. The larger 4.7-liter V-8 with 305 horsepower is much better, but the king HEMI that displaces 5.7 liters produces the best acceleration with its 330 horsepower. Three four-wheel-drive systems are available, including part- and full-time units. If you're up for off-road adventures, a range of powertrain and underbody/chassis components can make the Commander nearly unstoppable on trails.

One could make an argument to go with smaller engines because of their vastly better fuel economy, but the truth is that the 2008 Jeep Commander gets lousy mileage regardless of which engine you choose. The range is 13 mpg city/17 mpg highway for the HEMI and just 14 mpg city/19 mpg highway for the 3.7-liter V-6. Trust TheCarConnection.com when we tell you to go with the larger engines.

Safety features are plentiful, and they include anti-lock brakes, stability control, and side curtain airbags. These features add peace of mind to the Jeep's excellent performance in frontal crash tests: five stars in government trials. The Commander, though, has a three-star rollover rating and hasn't been tested for side impacts by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Options include a DVD video system, Boston Acoustics stereo, dual "Command View" skylights over the second row of seats, plus a MyGIG hard drive media system, Sirius Backseat TV, and a rearview camera (standard on Overland and Limited models).

However, some of these competitors offer varying degrees of extra room and/or comfort for rear-seat passengers. The Ford Explorer is one of the roomiest in the class, with ample space even way in back. The Nissan Pathfinder's second row is comfortable, but its third row is similar to the Commander's. The new Honda Pilot offers seating for eight, outdoing the Commander by one.

The Commander crushes the Toyota 4Runner in available power (330 max horsepower compared to 260), and they both suffer from the same rear-seat smallness.

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