The Grand Commander has been spotted rolling around Michigan once again, lending credence to rumors that it could make its way here.
“Grand Commander” sounds like the rank of one of those Imperial officers seated at the table along with General Tagge, Admiral Motti, Grand Moff Tarkin and others in “Star Wars Episode IV.” But it’s also the name of a three-row, seven-seat Jeep based on the Cherokee that entered production in China in late 2018.
Beneath the extremely authoritative-sounding name is a stretched Cherokee platform with a few changes on the outside, including very generous overhangs and a very small engine. It’s the Tigershark turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four producing 231 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque — something not offered under the hood of our standard-wheelbase Cherokee here in the U.S. Ours is a 2.4-liter Tigershark engine, which you can also get in the Renegade here in the States.
What’s the Grand Commander doing here in Michigan, where it was photographed? Before the model debuted in China in 2018, there was little expectation of the Grand Commander making it stateside — the Chinese-market Grand Commander was not necessarily created with off-roading in mind. That’s because off-roading is not really a thing in China, unless we’re talking about off-roading in urban areas undergoing construction, such as between residential high-rises where parking lots have not been paved yet. But China does have a very strong appetite for large, premium and luxury SUVs that convey wealth but will spend most of their lives sitting in traffic jams.
Normally, that would have been the end of it and we’d never see it again, but in late 2018 Allpar floated a rumor that the Grand Commander could come to the U.S. as a Chrysler-badged successor to the Dodge Journey, of all things, which has been sitting on the shelf a little too long.
Such a rumor makes sense on some level: Jeep would not have to field what is basically a minivan — it’s front-wheel drive with available all-wheel drive, actually — and Chrysler would receive a roomy alternative to the Pacifica in order to keep the Chrysler brand from looking like it has a grand total of two vehicles in its lineup (which, at the moment, it does). Dodge, meanwhile, would get to keep the Durango but let go of the aged Journey, even though the Journey has been selling surprisingly well all this time.
It remains to be seen whether the Grand Commander will make it stateside in some form at all; this rumor is about six months old at this point, and the Grand Commander would likely have to be produced locally in the U.S. But if things turn out the way this rumor suggests, it would solve a number of problems for Jeep parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
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