Jeep Commander

In terms of showroom success, Jeep's Commander is unlikely to register much of a blip on arch rival Land Rover's radar when it arrives here in the spring. The Solihull firm expects to sell 12,000 Discoverys this year, while Jeep's modest plans involve shifting only 600 examples of its seven-seat 4x4 in 2006. In other words, Jeep's annual target is less than Land Rover expects in three weeks.

JEEP is setting its sights high by taking on the dominant Discovery, but at least the US firm's sales targets are realistic. Opinions are divided on the Commander's no-nonsense styling, and while the the packaging isn't as strong as the Discovery's, those head-turning looks and guarantee of exclusivity will hold some appeal.

In terms of showroom success, Jeep's Commander is unlikely to register much of a blip on arch rival Land Rover's radar when it arrives here in the spring. The Solihull firm expects to sell 12,000 Discoverys this year, while Jeep's modest plans involve shifting only 600 examples of its seven-seat 4x4 in 2006. In other words, Jeep's annual target is less than Land Rover expects in three weeks.

At first glance, that's not surprising. Despite its exclusivity and its head- turning looks, the huge US machine is hardly politically correct, as the flagship model packs a planet-melting 330bhp, 5.7-litre V8 engine.

But it is not only environmental concerns that could deter buyers. Average fuel returns of 16mpg from Chrysler's renowned HEMI V8 powerplant - as seen in the Grand Cherokee and forthcoming 300C - are likely to make British drivers feel faint. Even Chrysler's Multi-Displacement System (MDS), which cuts off four of the eight cylinders at cruising speed, does little to quench the 4x4's insatiable thirst.

A 0-60mph sprint time of 7.5 seconds and maximum speed of 127mph are highly respectable for such a large car. Nevertheless, Jeep estimates the alternative 215bhp 3.0-litre turbodiesel engine will account for 85 per cent of sales. Owners of this model are likely to see their fuel consumption creep as high as 25mpg on a motorway run.

Ride quality at any speed is excellent; yet as a 4x4, the Commander feels neither quick nor comfortable being thrown around country lanes. Jeep says it will adjust the set-up for European roads, but this machine has some way to go before matching the Discovery's all-round ability.

Its squared-off, no-nonsense styling may not be to everyone's liking, either. Inside, exposed metal Allen bolts will be too macho for some, while the cheap-feeling plastics aren't what we would expect from a car in this price range. There are some neat touches, though, such as the roof-mounted drop-down DVD player, easy-to-use folding seats, twin sunroofs and curry hooks. But the packaging lets the Commander down. The middle row of seats is surprisingly tight on legroom and the third row is strictly for children only - although we like the individual ventilation and temperature controls.

While it is priced a little higher than Jeep's own Grand Cherokee, this model is expected to have slightly better kit, so the argument for the Commander comes down to whether you really need the two extra seats. If not, the Grand is clearly a more sensible buy.

However, two-thirds of all Discovery sales are of the three lowest-spec models (TDV6, S and SE), which are priced directly in Commander territory. And the Jeep's exclusivity may not be enough of a selling point to have a serious impact on Land Rover sales.

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