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2009 Jeep Commander Limited 4 x 4 Review

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SEE ALSO: Jeep Specs, Comparisons and Prices-Jeep Buyers Guide

Text and Photos
By Bruce Hubbard
Auto Advisor Group

Jeep has been manufacturing vehicles for 68 years and is the ICON for true adventure on and off the road. The "Jeep" name originated back as World-War I Army motor pool personnel negatively referred to unproven vehicles and unproven recruits as "jeeps".

Kaiser and later American Motors were brilliant to purchase the Jeep Brand. Bantam, Ford and Willys Overland all contributing to the rich history of Jeeps, the legacy continues now in 2009. The Jeep name lives on as one of the most unique and iconic vehicles ever designed. Today they are built with pride at Detroit’s Jefferson North Plant.

The Jeep Commander is 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.

For 2009 we find that the powerful 5.7-liter HEMI engine with 357 horsepower and 389 pound-feet of torque is offered as an option. In 2009 the HEMI will is standard on the Overland with Quadra-drive II and trailer tow package. 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 is in the Jeep Commander Sport. A step up from that is a 4.7-liter V-8, which makes 305 horsepower that, was standard on our Jeep Commander Limited.

In late 2005 we drove the first Jeep Commander Limited from Philadelphia to the Poconos. I was impressed then and now the nearly five-year-old Jeep Commander 4 x 4 Limited is even better. The 2009 Jeep Commander 4 x 4 Limited I reviewed had superb leather seating surfaces in front bucket seats and the 60 / 40 bench in the second row. Both rows had wonderful heated seats. The steering wheel did not have heated option as is now on Dodge Rams. Expect to see that soon. Ideal for those cool winter days. The third row is still useful in the seven passenger Jeep Commander Limited. It even had the opera seating, their own controls for heat and cool. The seats are adequate for children and easy access for adults or children is done with second row folding forward. Adults will be comfortable in third row seats for short trips.

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The Jeep Commander Limited 4 x 4’s standard sunroof was a feature that made my driving enjoyable. The Jeep Commander had for the second row passenger’s two skylights that are a nice addition.

The exterior straight sheet metal design is all Jeep and rugged. The design is simple with its squared-off styling and tall stance. The tall Jeep Commander is an Icon and in the last week I have had young and old state they own the same Jeep! Proud as they could be of the Jeep Brand. Today is an excellent time to buy a Jeep Commander. With the Flex Fuel ability with the ethanol-burning Jeep Commander you can decide gas or a gas ethanol mixture. Don’t expect gas mileage like the small vehicles. In the City look at 13 to 18 miles per gallon. A lot better on the highway. Trailering you will see a reduction in fuel economy.

Our Jeep Commander Limited 4 x 4 had the 4.7 liter V8. Plenty of power for a fully loaded seven passenger model. It had Quadra Drive II improved over the first model introduced in 2005 as a 2006 model. Quadra-Drive II's active full-time 4WD system is the ultimate for virtually any driving situation. This system uses the Quadra-Trac II transfer case and Electronic Limited Slip Differentials in both axles, offering excellent performance. Quadra-Drive II also features a 2.72 LOW-RANGE and NEUTRAL.

The advanced and flexible Hill Descent Control in the Jeep Commander Limited 4 x4 with improved control in off-road situations as well as a new Hill Start Assist holds the vehicle automatically on steep hills for a smooth and controlled drive away from a stop.

Operational in the 4WD Low position, Hill Descent Control provides downhill assistance at a controlled rate of speed with more precision and smoother operation than simply using the brakes. By means of electronic brake control, Hill Descent Control supplements the gear reduction and engine braking that a traditional mechanical low-range transfer case provides. Unlike most of its competitors. Hill Descent Control offers extremely smooth transitions between speeds and allows the driver to use the throttle and brakes without turning the system off, with a smooth and controlled return to the preset speed after the driver releases the throttle or brakes.

I love the ability to downshift on the mountain roads and with the Sport Track mode.

The advanced four-speed transmission uses fully adaptive electronic control for exceptionally smooth shifting. Push the TOW / HAUL button next to the shifter for improved vehicle performance and fuel economy while minimizing engine noise during trailer towing or heavy-load hauling. The TOW / HAUL mode inhibits fourth gear and allows upshifts to third gear during higher speed / lighter loads.

Front and rear Electronic Limited-Slip Differentials (ELSDs) in Quadra-Drive II team up with the NV245 active transfer case and its electronically controlled clutch pack for superb traction on the highway and off road. The short and long-arm independent front suspension on Jeep Commander Limited 4 x 4 provides the driver with a greater sense of precision and control and more precise steering and reduces vehicle weight and head toss, all without compromising the vehicle’s off-road performance. The five-link rear-suspension geometry, including a track bar, also improves lateral stiffness to match that of the front suspension for optimum handling. The rack-and-pinion steering imparts more precise steering to the driver, providing quick response during all types of maneuvers.

We have never tested the two-wheel drive Jeep Commander so comments cannot be made. We wonder why anyone would want the two-wheel drive version?

If rain starts don’t worry for the rain sensors turn on the wipers. This is one improvement I would like to see. The windshield squirter (if not heated) would have to be cleared in heavy snow ice area for its low position could get iced up or snowed over. The wipers need to be updated with larger coverage.

For the trips I take to areas unknown. Areas where no maps exist I have the ability with the Navigation system to duplicate my route by asking the navigation system to record the exact roads I drove. This I love for back areas where no roads exist. The system knows where you are and don’t worry with the satellite allowing you to just follow the route back.

The navigation system can work directly with Chrysler’s My Gig infotainment system that incorporates a hard drive that can store songs, The U connect system that Chrysler and Jeep offer is superb. U connect gps combines the features of uconnect phone and uconnect tunes with navigation and real-time traffic.

The system includes an integrated voice recognition system and touch screen for easy operation. The voice recognition system also recognizes more than 100,000 words and can input addresses, which allows the customer to enter destinations while the vehicle is in motion. U Connect uses Bluetooth® technology to provide voice-controlled wireless communication between the occupants’ compatible mobile phones and the vehicle’s onboard receiver.

New for 2009, the hands-free system automatically downloads up to 1,000 phone book entries from supported phones. The system also recognizes three languages, and is capable of learning. Voice commands can manage onboard phone book entries, select radio stations and access voice mail. Voice memos can be recorded using the microphone that’s integrated within the rearview mirror. Three memos of up to thirty seconds each can be stored in the system. The hands-free option promotes safety, freedom, value and flexibility.

U Connect phone has an iPod interface, which allows an iPod to be plugged into the vehicle’s sound system to play music through the vehicle’s speakers, charge/recharge the iPod when the ignition is on, display artists and music choices on the radio and pause play when uconnect phone receives a phone call.

The iPod can be controlled through the radio controls and the remote steering wheel switches (if equipped). The system uses a Universal Customer Interface (UCI) connector located either in the glove box or in the center console, depending on vehicle model.

The studio works with the Sirius radio system. U connect studios offer optional SIRIUS Backseat TV, featuring three channels of family TV programming, and optional SIRIUS Satellite Radio, with more than 130 channels of the best music, entertainment and information coast to coast. The systems can be bundled or opted for independently depending upon model availability, and either can be operated from the rear-seat entertainment unit or from the radio head unit. Sirius TV is also available and allows TV to be viewed by not only the entertainment screen(s) but on the large navigational screen in the center dash (when Jeep is in park only). The sound system works in conjunction to the navigational system . Second row and third row passengers can use wireless head sets to listen to music or even watch the Sirius TV, DVD’s. Throughout the Jeep Commander interior six Boston Acoustic speakers are located delivering concert hall sounds.

U Connect WEB will provide high-speed data transfer and flexibility, combining WiFi and cellular connectivity for a new level of wireless technology. The system transforms the vehicle into a “hot spot” to deliver the Internet directly to the vehicle, for instant access to Web sites, e-mail, personalized music, online gaming, photo albums, and more. Sirius GPS, Sirius traffic services, and U Connect Sirius radio come first year at no charge.

We used the Commander 4 x 4 Limited to tow a 24-foot dual axle trailer with a fiberglass Sea Ray. Two wonderful options offered by Jeep were the rear camera that is standard on the Limited and the trailer sway system ($260). The back up camera made it so easy for me alone to connect to the hitch! Merely watching the navigation monitor and slowly backing up to the hitch I was able to drop the trailer in position alone. If you have a boat trailer or any type trailer and must hook the hitch up alone this is an amazing option.

Jeep vehicles have the torque you need to tow it's a wave runner trailer horse trailer. The Trailer Tow Group includes a Class II receiver hitch, trailer tow wiring harness and Trailer Sway Control (TSC). The Trailer Tow Group Class IV includes a Class IV receiver hitch, 7- and 4-pin wiring harness, heavy-duty cooling and Trailer Sway Control (TSC).

Some trailer installers wish that you considered tongue weight to be from 10 to 15 percent of the trailer weight. The maximum tongue weight on Class III (The bumper ball) is limited to 500 lbs, and Class IV (The receiver hitch) to 1200 lbs.

The Jeep Commander Limited 4 x 4 has maximum trailer weight at 6,500 pounds. If outfitted with the Hemi the trailer weight increases to 7,200 pounds when properly equipped.

The trailer sway control is offered by the manufacturer and works well with single or double axle trailers. Other systems are available from numerous after market suppliers, the one that Jeep offers is excellent. The system works with the dynamic stability control system that the Jeep Commander is equipped with. Computers work with the trailer sway system to help keep sway to a minimum.

Trailer sway controls determine from the yaw motion of the vehicle if the trailer is swaying and take measures – such as applying precise braking or reduced engine torque – to help bring both vehicle and trailer under control. Trailer sway control does not require imput by the driver. It works when needed thanks to the sensors determining need and then uses ESP and brakes to automatically correct any sway in the trailer.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) both agree stability control systems could save thousands of lives annually.

Dodge Rams offer the same system. Other manufacturers like Ford is offering on the F150 and then in 2010 for even the Ford Flex. Volvo has one for their new XC60 as an option. Mercedes, Lexus and other luxury brands are offering the system on certain SUV Cross over type of vehicles. I expect from interviewing all the manufacturers this will be an option that may become part of a trailer package.

The seven passenger Jeep Commander 4 x 4 Limited has the third row that is split 50/50. If rear seats are up for passenger’s then cargo spaces is really cut and then consider an overhead cargo carrier. Another option is a cargo carrier that fits on the rear trailer hitch. Many suppliers offer cargo carriers that are large and secure. The third row of the 7 passenger Jeep Commander is ideal for children. Easy access is shown in photo when just moving second row seat forward. Adults can get in the third row and will be comfortable for short trips. In the rear section the occupants control their heat and cooling plus entertainment (if equipped) themselves.

The Jeep Commander models like so many Jeep vehicles are really made for off road fun. In Michigan on fire roads no problem. Can cruise with ease. With the large trail rated tires and the 8. 5-inch road clearance the Jeep Commander does well off-road. But, when you get to boulders or deep sand few vehicles can cross without ability to climb or cross. The optional skid plates were on our Commander. They are needed in most backwoods travel. Hydraulics lifting is on a few SUV vehicles.

The adjustable air-suspension on the 2009 Volkswagen Touareg is made for the Moab or serious off-road experience. Hummer H2's when sold did also offer adjustments with hydraulic lifting to raise ground clearance for the H2.Vehicles with adjustable hydraulics offer ability to travel over tall timbers or rocks. After market tuners also offer air-suspension or hydraulic systems to raise ground clearance to 11 plus inches.

The options from Mopar or Jeep are many for the Jeep Commanders. Including winches for the front and rear bumpers or receiver hitches. Lights, racks, carriers, protective skid plates and so much more are offered by Jeep to enhance the off-roading adventure. Many Jeep tuners offer spring kits and other specialty products for off-roading.

The 2009 Jeep Commander Limited features 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)." Commander's four-wheel disc Antilock Brake System (ABS), brake assist and all-speed traction control helps prevent wheel lockup for improved steering under extreme braking and slippery conditions. The system also aids in trail driving when in four-wheel-drive 4LO mode.

Serious off-roaders insist upon a winch or at least a long rope and come along or chain fall to take for security. I take screen, timbers, and shovels to make sure I am not stuck.Why! In Michigan on the West near sand dunes if your vehicle sinks into the sand any and all 4-wheel drive or all wheel drive vehicles do not have the ability to move the entire vehicle bed on sand.

The electric winches are often offered for the rear and front of a true off -roading vehicle. Some you can easily attach to the rear hitch receiver. If you get optional front receiver then a winch can be put on that if you need to be pulled forward.

At the training school for Range Rover in the Carolinas I spent half an hour throwing wood under the wheels to get out! At Nemacolin resort in Western Pennsylvania with the Hummers I had to get a winch to pull us out. The horror stories I have are many. Just because you have 4-wheel drive or all wheel drive does not mean you will not get stuck.

In the winter I have been stuck as a result of driving over frozen snow. That snow collapsed and the bed of the superb $80,000 plus vehicle was stuck. Wheels and bed stuck in the ice and snow. If we had not had a chain fall, ropes, electric winch we would have been in the snow four a day!

Jeep Commanders include four-wheel-disc anti-lock brakes, traction control, and an electronic stability system, energy absorbing steering wheel. Jeep Commanders are also equipped with side curtain airbags for all three rows with tip sensors, so they'll deploy during a rollover. The stability system uses Chrysler's Electronic Roll Mitigation, which helps prevent an imminent rollover and trigger preventative braking measures.

Child door locks and an engine immobilizer are standard on the 2009 Jeep Commander.

At night safety and security is felt in our Jeep Commander Limited with the lights on our Commander Limited were Smart Beam headlamps that use microprocessors to automatically adjust high beam brightness and intensity.

I like that Jeep engineers made the rear lift-gate dual mode. By that I mean that the glass top section opens with one button or the remote control system. The reason I like the opening of the top glass is that when open I could use the small area to hold even a 2 x 6 x 12 foot treated wood or other long plexi pipe. The second mode if full rear hatch open. The optional electric hatch opener is convenient ($400). Open by using the remote keyless entry or a button on the rear hatch.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the Jeep Commander a three star rating in the rollover test and received the best rating of five stars for frontal impact crash tests.

In the future I expect to find adaptive cruise control and lane departure to become available. Crash avoidance systems would be next in safety features no optional now on some of BMW, Mercedes and Lexus, Infiniti luxury vehicles.

Our 2009 Jeep Commander Limited 4 x 4 had a base price of $41,105, destination charge $780, and entertainment package ($1720), quadra-drive II 4Wdwith electronic limited-slip rear differential, limited slip-differential for front, skid- plates, and tow hooks, saddle brown leather ($150), power rear lift gate $400), trailer package including sway control ($280). The total sticker came in at $45,455.

Few SUV’s offer what the Jeep Commander does. Explorer, Expedition, Chevy Traverse, GMC Tahoe, Escalade EXT, and Dodge Durango, Buick Enclave, Kia Borengo, Honda Pilot, Mercury Mountainer, Mitsubishi Endeavor are competitors. The overall advantage of Jeep Commander is pricing, standard options and so many features none of the competition offers standard.

The Jeep brand will live on and I can’t wait to see what they will offer next to the loyal customer base.

SEE ALSO: Jeep Specs, Comparisons and Prices-Jeep Buyers Guide