Big Boulder Mountain doesn't quite live up to its name, even with the ski slopes. But its outlaw hills--south of Scranton, Pa., in the Poconos--more than fit the bill for auto-centric rock climbing at what's known as Camp Jeep, an actual summer camp for 4X4 lovers. I paid a visit to test the off-roading prowess of the 2006 Jeep Commander.
After we enjoyed a grilled bratwurst feast and a visit from a large family of deer, the folks at Camp Jeep demonstrated the Commander's capabilities. The full-time four-wheel-drive system shifts torque to any wheel to prevent slipping. It was theatrically displayed by a Jeep representative who conquered a bunch of slippery metal rollers before showing the proper approach angle for going over a stacked pile of railroad ties.
After the performance, I jumped into the Commander and sized up a gnarly forest course of rocks, tree trunks, fallen branches, dirt clods, ruts, and stumps. I attacked it like a woodchuck on crystal meth (and just think how much wood a woodchuck would chuck then). The Commander owned the trails and, as I discovered later, offered pleasant highway driving to boot. If your business (or your pleasure) somehow involves 4X4 off-roading, saddle up. And even if you don't need that kind of rugged handling, who could resist the name? Commander. Yeah.
Sticker price: $27,985 base price for the 4X2 version, $38,900 for the 4X4 tested.
Nice touches: A bolted-together look that gives it a hearty World War II aesthetic, wheels that look like socket wrenches, stadium seating, and the ability to drive over giant boulders...er, largish rocks.
Drawbacks: There are technically seven seats, but the two in the back might fit twin seven-year-olds; and the removable plastic shelf in the back that flips around to hold groceries ain't making it home from little Johnny's first keg party.
Second opinion: "The Commander doesn't exude Jeepiness like its more iconic cousins, the Wrangler and CJ, but its classic Cherokee look and off-road performance overkill bind the Commander to its mountain man heritage," says Mark Halvorsen, staff editor at Truckin' magazine.