An interesting new tool in the towing arsenal, the Commander is the first Jeep vehicle with three rows of seats and seven-passenger capacity. We matched it to a Fleetwood Orbit model 260XP trailer.
The Commander uses some familiar technologies and components throughout its drivetrain. The optional 5.7-liter Hemi engine boasts impressive power output that’s well-managed and routed to the road via a 545RFE five-speed automatic transmission. Included in the engine is the Multi-Displacement System (MDS), which turns the V-8 into a V-4 by deactivating unneeded cylinders under light load or modest acceleration.
The Commander drives and tows much as we’ve come to expect from a modern SUV. It’s in control of the trailer and responds well to the demands of the road. Steering and braking happen as expected, with no functional surprises.
Fleetwood’s Orbit trailer is the latest in a line of popular models known as hybrids, which combine the compact size and construction of a lightweight trailer with tip-down end bed platforms like those of a fold-down tent trailer.
In addition, this model is equipped with a generous array of four bunk beds up front in a separate bedroom. The balance of the trailer includes an aft dinette opposing a sofa bed, a trim galley and small self-contained bath.
At just 4,335 pounds wet weight and a 5,800-pound gross vehicle weight rating (gvwr), the Orbit was not a serious load for the Jeep’s 7,200-pound tow rating. Yet, this is the kind and size of trailer a family who needs a seven-seater tow rig will often purchase. However, in order to tow the Orbit used in this article, you’d need to have no more than four adults (or two adults and four/five children) in the Commander to avoid an overloaded situation.
In general, the Orbit performs as a family-style trailer should. It’s towable by modest-size vehicles, it provides accommodations for a passel of campers and it looks sharp. While the Commander doesn’t do anything to seriously set itself functionally apart from the other full-size SUVs on the market, it has a distinct visual appeal and does its towing job very well.
Pick up the August 2006 issue of Trailer Life for full test impressions and details on Jeep’s Commander and Fleetwood’s Orbit 260XP 26′ — then subscribe to Trailer Life, so you can stay informed on the latest tests, previews, tow vehicles, and technical and RV-lifestyle information. Fleetwood Enterprises Inc., (877) 308-7644, fleetwoodrv.com.