2009 Jeep Commander Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
January 5, 2009

While not a great people mover, the 2009 Jeep Commander is a trail-capable Jeep.

By driving and researching the 2009 Jeep Commander, the SUV and off-road experts at TheCarConnection.com are able to provide this conclusive review of the new HEMI-powered Jeep so that you might make a better purchasing decision.

Whoever gave the green light on the original Jeep Commander project must have been compelled by the thought of advertising a Jeep that could seat seven. But when Jeep introduced the Commander in late 2005 as a 2006 model, SUV buyers yawned, causing leadership at DaimlerChrysler to gulp, swallow hard, and wonder if the vehicle was worth the investment.

The Commander is closely related to the Grand Cherokee mechanically but introduces a boxier body and reconfigured interior over similar components. The boxy shape takes after Jeep tradition, especially following the styling cues left off the last Cherokee, and has a large, muscular appearance, which is what many SUV buyers still want. It also has an instantly recognizable Jeep face, though you may mistake it for a HUMMER, which also sports a seven-slot grille.

Jeep styled the cabin of the Commander in a straightforward fashion. The squared-off dash houses round gauges that bring the angularity of the exterior to the vehicle’s interior.

Review continues below

The comfortable and supportive front seats contradict the cramped legroom of rear seats in the 2009 Jeep Commander. The optional third-row seat suffers a similar lack of legroom made worse by the limited headroom. Children will find it comfortable, until they hit a growth spurt. If anybody is sitting in the way back, get used to your exterior mirrors, as rearward visibility is virtually nil.

Performance for the 2009 Jeep Commander has improved with the introduction of a new 5.7-liter HEMI engine making 357 horsepower and 389 pound-feet of torque—an 8.2 percent increase in horsepower and a 3.7 percent increase in torque compared to the previous-generation engine.

Other available engines include the base 3.7-liter V-6 (also used in the Liberty) that produces 210 horsepower. However, that's not enough power for this big Jeep, even with a standard five-speed automatic. The larger 4.7-liter V-8 with 305 horsepower is a better choice. Three separate four-wheel-drive systems are available, including part- and full-time units, and each for different types of off-roading. If you're up for off-road adventures, a range of powertrain and underbody/chassis components can make the Commander nearly unstoppable on trails.

The HEMI V-8 features Multi-Displacement System (MDS) technology, which helps improve fuel economy. The truth is, the 2009 Jeep Commander gets lousy mileage regardless of which engine you choose (the 3.7-liter V-6 gets just 14 mpg city). If this alone doesn’t deter you from the Commander, go with the big engine and you won’t get much worse.

Safety features abound and include side curtain airbags, stability control, and anti-lock brakes. 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.

Available options include a rearview camera (standard on Overland and Limited models), dual Command View skylights over the second row of seats, a MyGIG hard drive media system, Sirius Backseat TV, Boston Acoustics stereo, and a DVD video system with a new nine-inch rear DVD screen.

8

2009 Jeep Commander

Styling

The best of Jeep’s classic design cues are evoked in the 2009 Commander—inside and out.

Although retail sales remain unimpressive, the 2009 Jeep Commander is considered by several editors from TheCarConnection.com to be a handsome SUV. It certainly contains two fundamental cues sought out by SUV shoppers—a big and strong appearance. It also has an instantly recognizable Jeep face, lest you mistake it for a HUMMER, which also sports a seven-slot grille.

As the largest and most luxurious SUV in Jeep’s model lineup, the 2009 Commander features a range of configurations from the standard Sport model to the loaded Overland and the Limited model in between.

In many ways the 2009 Jeep Commander strikes a close resemblance to the old Cherokee—the loss of which Jeep lovers have long lamented. With its squared-off styling and tall stance, it maintains Jeep's rugged, simple design aesthetic. According to Kelley Blue Book, the Jeep Commander "bears a striking resemblance to the formers beloved and boxy design." Cars.com states, "The Commander's shape made it instantly recognizable as a Jeep when it arrived in early 2005 and it remains fresh today," citing its "slab-sided body and boxlike hood." Car and Driver also praises what it calls "classic Jeep styling," and Edmunds commends its "classic good looks."

The Jeep Commander's interior styling is straightforward. Consumer Guide reports that the "Sport's cabin is more rugged than rich, appropriate for a vehicle with off-road pretensions," adding that the Limited's "extra trim and leather upholstery creates a more upscale ambiance." Edmunds echoes this sentiment, saying that the Jeep Commander’s "upscale two-tone decor makes for an attractive interior." Kelley Blue Book agrees, describing the 2009 Commander as offering "far better interior accommodations" than the old Cherokee. Cars.com focuses on the more rugged elements inside the Jeep Commander, noting that the "dashboard's upper sections have exposed Allen-head screws, there's no shortage of A/C vents, and most surfaces are hard to the touch."

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2009 Jeep Commander

Performance

The 2009 Jeep Commander is a competent suburban daily driver, but it distinguishes itself from its competition as an excellent off-roader.

TheCarConnection.com finds the on-road performance of the 2009 Jeep Commander to be decent, but off-road is where the vehicle really shines. The various engine options, as well as drivetrain choices, control which wheels transfer power to the ground.

The big news for 2009 is the introduction of the new 5.7-liter HEMI engine with 357 horsepower and 389 pound-feet of torque. Along with more power, the new engine is also more fuel-efficient. Featuring MDS technology, the engine cuts to four cylinders when V-8 power isn’t needed. The smaller of the other two engines is a 3.7-liter V-6, producing 210 horsepower. A step up from that is a 4.7-liter V-8, which makes 305 horsepower.

Reviewers give mixed opinions of the various engines, with Edmunds remarking, "The base Jeep Commander Sport gets its pep from a standard 3.7-liter V-6; while this engine is a decent source of motivation in smaller Jeeps, it's barely adequate in the 4,800-pound Commander." ConsumerGuide takes a more positive view, reporting, "Helped by an alert automatic transmission, the V6 has surprising spirit, with adequate power off the line and around town," but also acknowledges that it "labors in highway passing and merging." The 2009 Jeep Commander is available with a significantly improved version of the 4.7-liter V-8, which Edmunds describes as "accelerating easily to highway speeds, with smooth, linear power and a burly exhaust sound well into the upper revs." However, ConsumerGuide calls this powerplant "notably less refined than the V-6 or 5.7-liter V-8." The Jeep Commander can also be had with the aforementioned 5.7-liter HEMI V-8.

Consumer Guide lists the Commander as being able to tow 7,400 pounds. Consumer Guide also notes that all engines "team with a five-speed automatic transmission," which Cars.com says "shifts quite early in most situations, and around town there's a discernable lag as it moves from gear to gear," but finds its highway behavior "much more agreeable, with hassle-free kick down for easy passing."

If you're up for off-road adventures, a range of powertrain and underbody/chassis components can make the Commander nearly unstoppable on trails. A trio of four-wheel-drive systems is available, including part- and full-time units. Edmunds points out the Commander’s strong points, saying, "Although not quite as capable off-road as the smaller Jeeps, among SUVs in its size class the Commander is a superb trail-buster, able to tackle rock-strewn paths and steep mountain tracks without breaking a sweat." Cars.com states, "Three four-wheel-drive systems are available, and all three earn Jeep's 'Trail Rated' designation." Consumer Guide notes, "A low-range gear for off-roading is standard on Limited and Overland, optional on Sport."

Fuel economy is a bit counterintuitive with the Commander. None of the engines provide fuel-efficient operation, but the powerful HEMI rates 13 mpg city, 19 highway—compared to 14 mpg city, 18 highway for the base V-6. ConsumerGuide points out that the 4.7-liter V-8 can also take E85 ethanol fuel.

Cars.com reports that when driving the Commander, "Prolonged curves induce plenty of body roll, and the SUV feels especially top-heavy if it's loaded with people and cargo." Cars.com says the 2009 Jeep Commander "has good straight-line stability, but its tall build results in body lean that prompts lots of slowing down for tight turns," and describes the brakes as having "linear response, but never feeling particularly strong." Kelley Blue Book argues that the brakes are "strong and fade-free," and judges the steering "nicely weighted and fairly precise," adding that "the on-road ride is surprisingly quiet and smooth."

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2009 Jeep Commander

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Jeep Commander’s third row is strictly for kids, but its first two rows of seating are quite comfortable; don’t expect luxurious, though.

The Jeep Commander is not a true luxury SUV, and it never let occupants forget that; however, it still retains sturdy construction and off-road prowess.

Consumer Guide says the Commander’s front seats provide "ample headroom, legroom, and shoulder space for even large adults, but flat seat bottoms lack support for longer trips.” However, Edmunds calls the front seats "comfortable," and Cars.com deems them "well-cushioned and durable," adding that "the standard eight-way power driver's seat has lots of travel."

"Headroom is adequate,” says ConsumerGuide about the Commander’s second-row seats, “but legroom is very tight...three-abreast travel is best left to brief rides.” According to Kelley Blue Book, the third row has just 28.9 inches of legroom and 35.7 inches of headroom. "The cramped 3rd row suits only grade-schoolers, and is overly complicated to access,” contends Consumer Guide.

When the third-row seat is lowered, storage space becomes a strong suit of the Commander. To this regard Consumer Guide comments, "Generous space is made more useful by a wide, flat floor and large hatch opening," but notes that with the third-row bench in the "up" position, "available cargo space shrinks to negligible." Cars.com reports that inside the Jeep Commander, "A pocketed shelf sits above the glove compartment, and there are several nooks around the gearshift to stash cell phones or parking stubs," but adds, "There's just 7.5 cubic feet of luggage space behind the [rear] seats, which is less than half what you'll get in a Nissan Pathfinder."

Although the 2009 Jeep Commander is a definite upgrade compared to the old Cherokee, reviewers' opinions are mixed. Edmunds calls the interior materials "lackluster" and cites "too much hard plastic for an SUV in this price range," while Cars.com remarks, "The silver plastic surrounding the center controls and window switches is respectable in quality." ConsumerGuide ranks the 2009 Commander "among the quietest traditional truck-type SUVs." And Kelley Blue Book is impressed with the leather and wood grain-trimmed interior found in the Limited version. Cars.com adds, "Road and wind noise stay in check on the highway, but the Commander's poor aerodynamics mean crosswinds can catch drivers off-guard."

8

2009 Jeep Commander

Safety

In a tall vehicle like the 2009 Jeep Commander, the rearview camera becomes a necessity instead of an option. But overall, good crash-test scores assure that your family will stay safe.

Rollover resistance is low in the 2009 Jeep Commander, but the SUV performed well in crash tests.

When tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Commander scored three stars in the rollover test and received the best rating of five stars for frontal impact crash tests.

All Jeep Commanders includes four-wheel-disc anti-lock brakes, traction control, and an electronic stability system. Cars.com reports Jeep Commanders are also equipped with side curtain airbags for all three rows with tip sensors, so they'll deploy during a rollover. The Web site also states that the "stability system uses Chrysler's Electronic Roll Mitigation, which attempts to intuit an imminent rollover and trigger preventative braking measures." Kelley Blue Book notes that child door locks and an engine immobilizer are standard on the 2009 Jeep Commander, as well.

Although a rearview camera is available on the Commander, rear visibility is certainly an issue. Cars.com says that when the headrest-equipped third-row bench is upright, "visibility out the rear window all but disappears." ConsumerGuide concurs, stating, "Thick roof pillars and theater-style seating combine to block rear visibility almost entirely.”

9

2009 Jeep Commander

Features

The list of available options for the 2009 Jeep Commander allows owners to customize the Commander into the perfect—albeit potentially very pricey—SUV.

Each ascending trim level of the 2009 Jeep Commander offers a wider variation of standard features both inside and out, while optional equipment includes even more gadgetry.

The 2009 Jeep Commander is available in Sport, Limited, and Overland trim levels, with optional rear- or all-wheel drive. Power windows and door locks, a power driver seat, air conditioning, and a CD player are standard equipment on all Jeep Commander models. Edmunds reports that the Limited model adds "a power sunroof with twin skylights for those ensconced in the second row, satellite radio, rain-sensing automatic wipers, power-adjustable pedals and an automatic dual-zone climate control." Edmunds also notes that the Overland is similarly equipped but features special interior and exterior trim.

Cars.com reports that Jeep Commander owners with families "will appreciate the kid-friendly options. Among them are Sirius Satellite TV, which debuted in Chrysler's redesigned minivans not long ago; it streams mobile content from Nickelodeon, The Disney Channel and Cartoon Network to the Commander's rear flip-down screen.” The Web site adds, "Chrysler's MyGIG infotainment system incorporates a hard drive that can store some 1,600 songs—enough that you can leave your iPod at home. A navigation system can be coupled with it, and the system includes real-time traffic monitoring, provided you subscribe to Sirius Satellite Radio, which streams the data in."

Other 2009 Jeep Commander features include 17-inch aluminum machined-face wheels with painted pockets (standard on Sport models); 17-inch, five-spoke aluminum machined face wheels with painted pockets (standard on Limited models, optional on Overland models); and 18-inch, seven-spoke aluminum chrome-clad wheels (standard on Overland models).

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7.8
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Expert Rating
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Styling 8.0
Performance 7.0
Comfort & Quality 7.0
Safety 8.0
Features 9.0
Fuel Economy N/A
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