Full 2009 Jeep Commander Review
What's New for 2009
The Jeep Commander's optional 5.7-liter V8 is both more powerful and more fuel-efficient for 2009. Interior materials are improved on Limited and Overland trims, and an iPod interface is now included with the optional navigation system.
A luxury off-road family vehicle -- now there's an interesting concept. Now in its fourth year in production, the 2009 Jeep Commander was created to provide the seven-passenger seating of a family crossover, the amenities of a luxury SUV and the endearingly blocky styling of the long-departed Cherokee. The Commander mostly meets these individual goals, but we're not sure they come together in a way that best meets the needs of consumers.
For 2009, the Commander's top-shelf 5.7-liter V8 gets an increase in power and torque. This is made possible by a revised variable valve timing system, which also improves fuel economy. The vigorous and smooth Hemi now churns out 52 more horses than the available 4.7-liter V8, and it actually drinks less 87 octane than its smaller sibling. This obviously makes the Hemi the engine of choice if your heart is set on buying a Commander.
However, we think most consumers would be better served by looking elsewhere. The Commander's passenger and cargo space pale in comparison to that of full-size crossovers like the Ford Flex, GMC Acadia and Mazda CX-9, while its fuel economy and driving dynamics also trail these class leaders. The loaded Limited and Overland models offer plenty of creature comforts, but there are luxury-branded vehicles that provide a more upscale image and ambience for similar cash. Few can challenge the off-road prowess of the Commander in this segment, yet we don't know many families that go trail busting in their large SUVs. The 2009 Jeep Commander does what it's designed to do, but for the most part, the competition does it better.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Jeep Commander is a midsize SUV available in Sport, Limited and Overland trim levels. Seven seats are standard in the latter two trims and optional in the Sport, which comes standard with only two rows of seats.
Standard equipment on Sport models includes 17-inch alloy wheels, all-terrain tires, rear parking sensors, roof rails, cruise control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, an eight-way power driver seat, a 40/20/40-split second-row bench, a trip computer and a six-speaker stereo with a CD/MP3 player and satellite radio. Adding the third-row seat nets foglamps and rear climate controls. The Popular Equipment Group tacks on remote ignition, heated front seats, power-adjustable pedals and upgraded speakers. The Sun and Sound Group adds a six-CD changer and a sunroof. The Luxury Group adds auto headlamps, a power passenger seat, an auto-dimming rearview interior mirror and a universal garage opener. An upgraded stereo system is also available, featuring touchscreen control, digital music storage, an iPod interface and a back-up camera. This is included with the optional navigation system.
The Limited adds all the Sport's option groups plus auto-dimming exterior mirrors, heated mirrors, automatic dual-zone climate control, higher-quality interior surfaces, heated second-row seats, manual front seat lumbar control, driver memory functions, leather upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel (optional on the Sport) and Bluetooth.
The Overland adds to all this 18-inch chrome-clad wheels, a towing package, a power liftgate, auto-leveling xenon headlamps, a wood and leather steering wheel, leather and faux-suede upholstery and special Overland badging. The headlamps are a stand-alone option on the Limited, while both lower trims can be equipped with the power liftgate and towing package. A rear-seat entertainment system including Sirius Satellite TV is available on the Limited and Overland.
Powertrains and Performance
Each 2009 Jeep Commander model is offered with either rear- or four-wheel drive. Sport models have the basic Quadra Trac 4WD system and can be upgraded to the full-time active Quadra Trac II 4WD. The Limited has the latter standard. Optional on the Sport and Limited and standard on the Overland is the more advanced Quadra Drive II system, which includes hill start assist, hill descent control, and front and rear electronic limited-slip differentials.
Under the hood, the base Commander Sport comes standard with a 3.7-liter V6 that produces 210 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque. Like all Commanders, the Sport gets a five-speed automatic standard. This anemic V6 engine provides the dreaded one-two punch of gutless acceleration and forgettable fuel economy -- EPA fuel economy estimates stand at 14 mpg city/19 mpg highway and 16 mpg combined with 4WD.
Optional on the Sport and standard on the Limited is a 4.7-liter V8 good for 305 hp and 334 lb-ft of torque. This engine provides satisfying acceleration along with fuel economy that almost matches that of the V6 -- 13/18/15 with 4WD.
Optional on the Limited and standard on the Overland is a 5.7-liter Hemi V8 that cranks out 357 hp and 389 lb-ft of torque, increases of 27 hp and 14 lb-ft over last year's Hemi. Despite this increase in power, fuel economy improves to an estimated 13/19/15 with 4WD, making the Hemi more fuel efficient than the 4.7-liter V8.
Properly equipped, the Commander can tow 3,500 pounds with the V6, 6,500 pounds with the 4.7-liter V8 and 7,400 pounds with the Hemi.
All Commanders come standard with antilock disc brakes, stability control with rollover mitigation, and full-length side curtain airbags. In government crash tests, the 2009 Jeep Commander achieved a perfect five stars for frontal collision protection. It hasn't undergone side impact testing.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Commander's interior exhibits clean, functional instrumentation and controls that are consistent with Jeep's user-friendly interior designs. However, the touchscreen controls that come with the available navigation system and upgraded stereo are poorly executed, with small touch buttons, too many menu pages and unresponsive navigation map controls.
The front seats are superbly comfortable. The second-row theater seats provide a good view of the road, but they unfortunately provide only average legroom, and larger occupants will find third-row accommodations decidedly cramped. Cargo space behind the third-row seat is only 7.5 cubic feet. Maximum cargo capacity with all rear seats folded is 69 cubic feet for models with the third-row seat; for comparison, most competitors in this class usually provide 80 cubic feet or more.
The 2009 Jeep Commander has a comfortable, serene ride. Some drivers might find its undulating body motions excessive when driven over bumps, however. In off-road applications, the Commander's ample wheel travel, sophisticated 4WD systems and decent ground clearance enable it to conquer some pretty rugged terrain. That said, we'd opt for a more compact Jeep if off-roading is a frequent activity -- the Commander is just too large for optimal trail busting.