Norm's Car Review: The Jeep Commander

I just got back from a ski trip in which they rented us the Jeep Commander. This big boxy cherokee wannabee was Jeep's answer to the Expedition and the Suburban/Tahoe.

Of course, no one let Jeep know that they missed their market by about 15 years... but leaving that aside for the moment.

The Cherokee was two cars in one. Underneath it, it is the last generation Jeep Grand Cherokee, which is quite a good vehicle. I think I might buy one some time, if I ever give up on my '96 Tahoe (unlikely for a while). This means that suspension, engine, handling, transmission and chassis are all quite good. However, what they dumped upon this platform is fit for Fresh Kills island.
(not kidding. Fresh Kills was the garbage dump for NYC for years. Can't make this shit up)

The interior was obviously designed on a budget. And by budget, I mean the kind of cash that you would give your kid to go into the toy store in the mall so that they would shut the hell up.

First off, when you get up into the cabin, and try and swing your legs in, your knees directly collide with a freaking knife edge of hard shitty plastic placed perfectly to practice un-elective surgery on your kneecaps. I shit you not, all of us hit this damn thing getting in and out of the Commander, and on a ski trip that is especially annoying. The once you are in, settled in the captains chair of this Commander, what do you see before you? Acres of hard plastic. Hard, black plastic. Between each piece of plastic are ill-fitting gaps more common to a British dentist's office than a modern car.

But more than the front, it is the rear two seats which piss me off. The Commander is built on the platform of the Grand Cherokee, which has two rows of seats. But to compete with the big boys, the Commander needed three. Of course, stretching the platform would require a redesign, so what did Jeep do? First, they increase the front and rear overhang, killing some of the offroad cred the Grand Cherokee has, and giving a valuable few extra inches to the designer. Of course, you cant increase the overhangs too much, or you start looking like a Coupe de Ville, and driving like one also.

Or you could take the Japanese method and go "forward control"... but we are not going to get into that here.


The Jeep designers still needed more space, and making things longer cost money... thinking in three dimensions, these brilliant designers realized... "We can just make it really goddamn tall!" This moment of sheer brilliance lead them to another realization: people take up space front to back when they are stretching out, reclining comfortably, like in the back of.. a Coupe de Ville.

(Half of you were conceived back there)

The brilliant designers that this lap of luxury living took up lots of space, and was killing their "fit three rows into the space of two" objective. So instead, they designed the second row so that you sit like you are a goddamn Egyptian Pharaoh.

Let me tell you, this is not comfortable. Think about how often you sit with your feet straight down? Hell, I am 6'0, and my feet were barely touching the ground. Its like sitting on a bar stool for two hours. Actually screw that, not even a bar stool, its like sitting on a $12 Ikea stool for two hours. I should know, they are the seats we use for out foosball-come-dining room table.
mmm comfy

The only redeeming feature to the back seat is that you get a little 1sq ft personal moon roof above you. This is obviously the Jeep 5$ answer to the now popular panorama roofs and double sunroofs which have become so popular. The nice thing about these little windows is that they actually let you see the sky. Because you can't see out the front due to the fact that your head is literally a foot higher than the head of the person in front of you.

Finally, let me talk about the back. One redeeming feature is that the third row folds flat into the floor, that was well done. However, the rear lift gate takes a Luger to any good feelings this may have created. You see, the designers took the easy way out: the top half of the lift gate is glass, and you would think that when you hit the button, you could load the top half of the cargo bay. Not so fast Mr. I-Want-It-All, in fact, the glass pops up and gives you a oval shaped opening which cuts off the top and sides, making it damn hard to get groceries in and out without putting up the whole back.

In sum, the Commander is a shitty car dropped onto the bones of a good car. The design compromises made are simply unacceptable. It is a far worse vehicle than my '96 Tahoe, worse designed, worse to drive, less comfortable and less appealing. Avoid it, even if the resale values drop like Obama's approval ratings, which they will.

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