More stories related to New York Auto ShowChrysler Group’s Jeep brand launches a long-awaited product expansion effort at the New York auto show with the debut of the ’06 Commander.

The first-ever production Jeep with 3-row, 7-passenger seating, the Commander SUV is based on the Grand Cherokee platform.

“The Commander is a derivative from the new Grand Cherokee…and shares basically everything below the floorpan,” says Craig Love, vice president, rear-wheel-drive product team. “Engine, drivetrain, 4-wheel-drive system, suspension and performance are all shared with the sibling Grand Cherokee.”

’06 Jeep Commander

The overall exterior design of the Commander harkens back to Jeep’s history, with visible cues from the Willys Station Wagon, Jeep Wagoneer and the Jeep Cherokee.

Commander features a boxy, flat-hood design with an upright windshield, backlight and rear end and measures 2 ins. (5 cm) longer and 4 ins. (10 cm) taller than the Grand Cherokee.

Square headlamp lenses, featuring round, stacked headlamp insets accented by faux Allen-head bolts, dominate the front fascia.

“If you pictured this side-by-side with the Grand Cherokee in the showroom, the Grand Cherokee is obviously the more sporty looking branch of the tree,” says Trevor Creed, senior vice president-design. “This, if you will, brings back some aspects of the previous Cherokee but in a much larger, convenient package.”

To provide additional headroom for second- and third-row occupants, the roof of the Commander is raised 3.15 ins. (8 cm) at the second row. The stepped roof is disguised by the luggage rack, which is standard on both the base Commander and Commander Limited trim levels. Limited models receive standard D-pillar assist handles that extend from the roof rail.

The interior features a two-tone color scheme on the instrument panel and trim, while circular elements are used on the shift knob, air vents, steering-wheel pad, interior door handle and the four gauges in the instrument cluster.

Second-row seats feature a 40-20-40 split configuration, while the third row splits 50-50. Both rows fold forward, providing a flat load floor. Commander is available with Command-View skylights over the second and third row seats.

Power for this rugged SUV is provided via a standard 3.7L SOHC V-6 engine producing 210 hp at 5,200 rpm and 235 lb.-ft. (319 Nm) of torque at 4,000 rpm. Two V-8 powerplants are available: the 4.7L SOHC V-8 producing 235 hp at 4,500 rpm and 305 lb.-ft. (414 Nm) of torque at 3,600 rpm and the 5.7L Hemi V-8 engine with the fuel-saving multi-displacement system. The Hemi develops 330 hp at 5,000 rpm and 375 lb.-ft. of torque (509 Nm) at 4,000 rpm.

All Commander engines are mated to 5-speed automatic transmissions.

Off-road capability is highlighted via three full-time 4WD systems: Quadra-Trac I, Quadra-Trac II and Quadra-Drive II. Quadra-Trac I uses a single-speed transfer case to provide fulltime 4WD with no transfer case lever to shift. The Quadra-Trac II system utilizes a transfer case that provides fulltime active 4WD, which anticipates and prevents wheel slip. The system also features a true low-range gear and neutral for towing the Commander behind other vehicles.

The Quadra-Drive II system employs electronic limited slip differentials at the front, center and rear for even quicker response to varying traction conditions.

“Quadra-Drive II, in addition to a 2-speed transfer case, high and low range, offers electronically locking differentials at both the front and rear axle that allow you to deliver 100% of the engine’s torque...to any one of the wheels that has traction,” says Love.

Commander also features electronic roll mitigation as standard equipment. Using the electronic stability program, the roll mitigation system observes and monitors the vehicle roll attitude and lateral force to estimate the potential for a rollover. If a potential rollover is identified, the engine torque is reduced and a short burst of braking is applied to the appropriate wheel.

Commander will be built at Chrysler’s Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit beginning in the second quarter.

kekelly@primediabusiness.com