Make no qualms about it: I love the Jeep Commander. That being said, handing over the keys to Mark for the remainder of our long-term test comes with an air of joy - joy because during my six weeks of driving the Hemi-powered Jeep, I handed over $1,030 to the money-hungry gas companies filling up the seven-passenger SUV. Logging over 4,450 miles on the odometer, the Commander and I have a bond created by mile after mile of driving.
This love/hate relationship started with a trend that Jeep is quickly establishing as a trademark: superior build quality, above-average materials, and a long list of options. Gorgeous Yuma leather seats in saddle brown really add elegance and adventure to the interior, while the Quadra-Drive II 4x4 system is top-notch and able to get me off the beaten path if necessary.
All that is fine and dandy until the Commander's other shoulder reveals the little devil firmly resting on top of it. Shortcomings such as unidentified engine vibration that happens at highway speeds when the A/C is turned on caught my attention. Speaking of the A/C, it did take a while for the Freon to actually cool the cabin, and once the blower motor was engaged, a prominent mildew smell filled the air. Everyone knows the name Hemi, but it appears that the heavily advertised Multi Displacement System (MDS) may not take into account a heavy right foot, brick-shaped design, and a very thirsty 330hp V-8. MDS deactivates four cylinders when the Commander is cruising along on the highway, for example, and is supposed to save you up to 20% on mileage. I averaged 13.75 mpg (not the 15.5 EPA estimate) at nearly $53 a fill-up.
Other shortcomings included an odd fuel/timing surge while coming off idle, weird sputtering after a cold start, and an incident when the brake pedal pulsated as if the ABS was suffering from a seizure. All of these issues were given a thumbs-up from the service department at our dealer and could be the quirks inevitable to a loaner vehicle that is often ridden hard and put away wet. Complaints aside, the Commander is one heck of a good-riding SUV, and the long list of features, along with the intuitive storage compartments throughout, makes the oddness of the drivetrain forgivable.
With Anaheim as my departure city, I made several trips to Las Vegas, Santa Barbara, and San Francisco (where the freeway was easily tamed by the well-mannered Commander).
This is the fifth installment of our long-term coverage of the Jeep Commander. Miles to date are 23,879 and miles clocked during this update were 4,450. The overall MPG for this period was 13.75.