The boxy shape of the popular new Discovery has helped fuel demand for a return of the traditional ‘square’ Jeep Cherokee, claims Chrysler Group UK marketing director Steve Gray.
Launched in 1992, the original model evolved into a more rounded design as it was positioned upmarket to face competitors in the fast-expanding premium SUV sector.
Gray, speaking at the launch of the new model in Scotland, said: ‘The Commander stems from the many requests we received from customers for a return to back-to-basics styling with the versatility of a seven seat layout – and the new look developed for Land Rover shows it couldn’t have come at a better time.
‘The great thing for us is that we now have a foot in both sectors of the large SUV market by offering greater choice and wider appeal.’
With the same 3.0-litre turbodiesel and 5.7-litre V8 petrol engines as the Grand Cherokee, the Commander is the first Jeep to offer three-row seating as standard.
But a stadium layout that makes each row higher than the one in front makes the best of the feature by guaranteeing a good view of outside from every seat. ‘We think this is of particular benefit in making travel more interesting for children’, added Gray. Underscoring the car’s rugged appearance is a boxy rear end, more upright windscreen and vertical side glass and a utilitarian-look dashboard highlighting a mixture of real and simulated Allen head bolts.
However, occupants of the two rearmost seats get a dedicated heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system that operates independently of the standard dual-zone equipment at the front.
When all the seats are in use, there’s room for 212 litres of luggage and folding down the back two seats increases the volume to 1,027 litres. With both second and third-row backrests simply folded on to the cushions, the flat floor provides an impressive 1,939 litres of load area.
Despite harking back to yesteryear, the Commander’s platform, shared with the Grand Cherokee, means it is right up to date in terms of specification, with a full complement of safety features which includes full-length side curtain airbags, electronic stability control and rollover mitigation control, and an electronics package that cuts engine power and applies the brakes if it senses the vehicle might flip over.
There’s no shortage of niceties either, with cruise control, parking sensors, steering wheel-mounted stereo controls, automatic wipers, type pressure monitoring and a see-you-home time delay function for the headlamps.
In Limited form, which includes leather-trimmed seats and a premium stereo system, the £31,035 Commander 3.0 CRD is priced to be 10% cheaper than the Discovery 3 and also fractionally less than the Mitsubishi Shogun 3.2 DI-D Warrior on a specification-adjusted basis.
Behind the wheel
GIVEN that the Commander uses the Grand Cherokee platform and most of its underpinnings, the on-road driving experience reveals surprising differences.
Over a particularly twisty section of our Highlands test route, the taller and slightly wider Commander lacked the cornering finesse of its rounded and more stylish stablemate.
It also felt less sharp off the mark, although acceleration to the benchmark 62mph rate from standstill is identical and top speed is only fractionally less than the Grand Cherokee.
But though its bodywork is only 37mm longer, the retro-look Commander has greatly superior capacity for carrying people and luggage.
And its clear advantage in practical terms is boosted by the fact that a slightly higher ground clearance at the rear also gives it the edge in the extreme off-road conditions we encountered over an amazing assortment of obstacles that included alarmingly steep descents, clambering over boulders and wading through rock-strewn riverbeds.
Each encounter highlighted the advantages of the latest Quadra-Drive four-wheel drive system, which uses electronic limited slip differentials on both axles to keep the car going even if only one front wheel has traction.
THERE’S no denying the Commander reflects the rugged theme Jeep officials claim is dear to the hearts of off-roading aficionados. If you like the brand’s classic boxy look, this model is for you – but the more compact and comfortable Grand Cherokee is the choice for those who need only five seats and prefer contemporary styling.
|Model:||3.0 CRD||5.7 V8 Hemi|
|Max power (bhp/rpm):||215/4,000||322/5,000|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm):||376/1,600||369/4,000|
|Max speed (mph):||118||129|
|Fuel economy (mpg):||26.2||18.2|
|CO2 emissions (g/km):||284||386|