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PERFORMANCE | 7 out of 10
Capable not only off-road, but on highways and byways, too
Shifts quite early in most situations
Labors in highway passing and merging”
Poor fuel mileage with the larger engines
Superior off-road ability
Kelley Blue Book
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."
The 2009 Jeep Commander is a competent suburban daily driver, but it distinguishes itself from its competition as an excellent off-roader.