Text: Tito F. Hermoso / Photos: Tito F. Hermoso | posted September 02, 2010 10:11
Jeep sense with diesel cents
In this country, if you say you drive a diesel powered Jeep, you wouldn't raise any eyebrows. Add that its a Mercedes Benz, and those veteran Jeep fleet owners would tell you, the 180D Mercedes Benz engine was the default Jeepney engine, beating out Peugeot, Hanomag and Perkins for decades since the 60's. Until the DM [Deutsche Mark] went ballisticc and Isuzu, and later Fuso came in reconditioned form and controlled the market ever since.
What to do? For maximum dinner table effect, say you drive a Jeep Commander. Even long time fans of Jeeps, to whom only the Wrangler CJ-series matters, would take note. Afterall, the Commander is Jeep's foray into the trendy 7-seat market. It is not their first luxury attempt as Jeep Cherokees, Comanches, Grand Cherokee, Wagoners etc. have been a staple of the North American market.
Jeep as luxury?
In today's Jeep world, the Commander is the top of the line, the 7-seat rugged look luxo Jeep. The Grand Cherokee, though quite large too, remains a 5-seater. Locally, most off road and classic Jeep fans only know and respect the Wrangler. But like all vehicles that carry the Jeep name, all, including the up-market models are trail rated. Translation: they can go anywhere that a Wrangler can. But if you think the only fun you could have with Jeeps is slow mo 1km/h speeds over boulders and rivers, find out what they do in the Middle East. I did.
Jeep for rally?
Mimicking WRC's Gronholm and Solberg [World Rallye Champions] in the Wadis and desert tracks of Oman, slipping and sliding at 180km/h through loose gravel special stages used by the FIA [Federation Internationale d' Automobile] sanctioned Middle East World Rallye, I could relate to what the WRC legends feel; the kick of the steering, the hunkering down of the sizable body, the weight transfers leaning into the corner, the lunge of the powerful engine.... Mind you I was not driving a specially prepared lightweight Dakar-Argentina Rallye machine. This was Four years ago when the top line Commander was launched and it may well have been a first that a Jeep, instead of just being introduced exclusively on climbing dunes and rocky passes, was also dusting sideways on special rallye stages.
Jeep for trail
That Jeep had the famous HEMI V-8. Teamed with the Jeep all wheel drive system called, Quadra Trac II which takes care of boosting torque when crawling between steep boulders, we could match any of those monster off road machines that "paved" the way for us in the dry river banks called Wadis. It was my first exposure to what Jeep means by being "Trail rated", i.e. superior abilities in traction, ground clearance, maneuverability, articulation and fording water. On more familiar ground for me, that is triple digit speeds, it was like a rocket despite its solid big weight.
The Jeep Commander defined a new standard of rugged chic, sort of what one calls smart casual. The heavy duty looking details on the dashboard, door panels, ceiling and exterior are styled to look purpose built and rugged, dispensing with the crudeness associated with off-road 4x4. Its part of a new genre. The departed Hummer H2 and H3 are off-duty pseudo-military look SUVs. The Range Rover has the sophistication of a yacht. And the Discovery is what the original Land Rover should be today if only people stopped buying the old LR Defender. It was the anti-thesis of the dumbed down truck SUV.
Roots in World War 2
The Jeep Commander's character is far divorced from the spartan ones of WW2. Door handles, cubby holes, levers and tabs are tailor made in luxury sedan materials. The 3rd row has a very intelligently designed system of a lever and tab that stows and deploys the seat back in 2 steps. The plastic dashboard make no pretenses of trying to look like leather while the exposed Allen head screws make a nice counterpoint to the 16 circular air con vents that symmetrically dot the dashboard. Parcel shelves have non-slip rubber mats while the chrome door latches remind one of ring tabs for fastening heavy duty items. The seats are pure luxury in cushion and texture. Chrome accents and black bumper accents look like steel anti-slip checkered plate. Feature spotters will nod with approval for the standard side curtain air bags, traction control, roll stability control, ParkSense assist system and they will feel proud of the achievements made when Jeep was an adopted son of Mercedes Benz.
Power and thrift
Nowadays, a carefully driven Jeep Commander 4.7-liter V8 Magnum 4x4 Limited can get 10.03kms/liter on the highway, but the sheer weight and heavy duty build of the solid axle suspension needs all that torque. 5-speed automatics are standard for all 3 engine variants. The 5.7 liter HEMI would be even more enjoyable both on the off road track and the traffic light drag. The 215hp 3.0 liter Mercedes-Benz common rail diesel V6 churns out a very healthy 376 foot pounds of torque. No wonder it isn't a slouch compared to the 4.7 liter V-8 (305 HP and 334 foot pounds of torque) and 5.7 liter HEMI V-8 (330 HP and 375 foot pounds of torque). It's an even match up when it come to grunt, but when it comes to fuel efficiency, the 3.0 liter CRD shines with 0-100 times more than a second quicker to the Magnum's 10.51seconds and top speed faster by 12km/h, and still do 12.68km/liter on the highway.
Between the drag strip eligible 5.7 HEMI, the 3.0D is a bit slower of the mark, but the turbo gives it a powerful surge, useful when overtaking or chasing a HEMI powered Commander on the expressway. The ride gives honest meaning to the word absorbent, as the Jeep flattens humps with its considerable weight and long coil springs. Superior suspension tuning of the shocks gives it a degree of high speed body and cornering control that is fitting of its formers partners, Mercedes Benz. Despite the extensive axle articulation demanded by off-roaders, the Commander limits the rebound bump bounce to just one cycle instead of multi-bounce floppiness that plagues old-tech American cars. Also not too many cars or trucks can ride so smoothly on tires inflated to 36PSI tires. Its Jeep charm of no non-sense appeal for those who hanker for Hummers, without being as space stingy, limited visibility and damning in thirst. With CATS' introduction of the CRD model, that cost only as much as 2 and half locally made brand new 22-passenger PUJs, the Jeep, with a diesel, makes a lot of sense. And with it, a lot of comfort hitherto not associated with the name Jeep.