Stellantis, the newly formed conglomerate that includes Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, does not sell a single electric vehicle in the United States. But when Stellanti’s executives head south on I-75 to see what rival General Motors is up to, we can not imagine that there is much jealousy on GM’s EV plans, no matter how many headlines the general receives. What executives like is big, juicy profit margins, such as Cadillac, Chevy, GMC, Ford and Lincoln do on the sales of large SUVs. So far, Stellantis has had no way of threatening the crosstown race’s stranglehold on the jumbo SUV segment.
It is not in the absence of attempts. A decade ago, the name Grand Wagoneer was to be added to a three-line version of the Grand Cherokee. In the intervening years, plans shifted from Grand Cherokee’s unibody architecture to the Ram 1500’s frame pickup platform. After several delays, Jeep finally showed off its long-awaited full-size luxury SUV earlier this year, and now Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer are actually reaching dealers. We can almost hear cha-chings coming out of the accounting department.
Jeep has not spent the last decade thinking about ways to reverse the paradigm of big SUVs. Instead, Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer, which are the same size, follow the well-established formula for this segment. Take a full-size pickup, keep the V-8, wrap a spacious SUV body around it, fit three rows and wait for payday. As is the norm in the segment now, the Jeep removes the Frame’s live axle and mounts an independent rear suspension to improve driving and increase cargo space and third-row spaciousness.
While General Motors is spreading its portfolio across three different brands and four nameplates, Stellantis does not appear to have any plans to market this as a Dodge or a Chrysler. But you would not even know that it was a Jeep from the brand, because the only place you will find the word “Jeep” is on the infotainment start screen and on small insignia in the taillights. Jeep is trying to make Wagoneer its very own sub-brand, but we can not understand why it is not more confident in its own brand given the brand’s unparalleled global success, especially in the last decade or so.
To find the juiciest gains, Jeep places Wagoneer on the more expensive side of the full-size SUV spectrum. There are only two versions at the moment: Wagoneer, from $ 59,995— $ 8650 more than a base Chevy Tahoe — and Grand Wagoneer as you see here, from $ 89,845— $ 11,955 more than a base Cadillac Escalade. Unlike competitors that offer the ability to oversize their SUVs, Wagoneer currently only comes in one length. Its 123.0-inch wheelbase and 214.7-inch overall length fit between the GM offerings with short and long wheelbase. A longer version is a possibility. Check each box and the Grand Wagoneer can easily exceed $ 100,000. Our Series II tester cost $ 104,825 and is not even the most expensive trim level.
In an attempt to dispel any doubts about the exclusive status of this SUV, Jeep threw everything imaginable into the interior of the Grand Wagoneer. We counted seven monitors, four electrical outlets, 23 speakers and a shocking 26 inputs with USB, HDMI and audio outlets. Many of these screens and speakers are optional. The McIntosh 23-speaker audio system is part of a $ 3995 package, and the silly display mounted on the passenger side dashboard costs $ 1195 extra. Unfortunately, there is no alternative for better-looking turn signal and windscreen wipers, which click unsatisfactorily and are made of the same scratched black plastic that you find in a Compass.
With the exception of some company buttons that feel cheap on the steering wheel, the rest of the interior materials are in proportion to the six-digit price. Soft leather, textured metal inserts and piano black finishes for many of the buttons and knobs match the atmosphere you find in similar Cadillacs and Lincolns. The Agave Blue color scheme reminded us of a luxury yacht, and the shade is not just for the seats – everything from the roof panel down to the door sills is blue.
Buyers in this segment are after space, and Grand Wagoneer has plenty of it. Both center consoles, one between the front seats and one between the second row of captain’s chairs, are massive and the cabin feels wide and airy. The seats in the second row fold down easily to give access to the third row, and they create a large opening that does not force you to turn in any awkward positions to get back there. The third row is particularly comfortable, even for adults, with supportive bottom pillows and a generous space.
The interior space is largely due to the boxy style and the uncomfortable square rear. Columns in body color are combined with a black roof to improve the plate’s versatility and overall height. Jeep’s design is practical, but conservative. The brand resisted breaking Grand Wagoneer’s past. Maybe they should have done it. A little wood paneling can help.
Grand Wagoneer lacks the agile handling of GM’s SUVs, which drive less than they are and have a refreshingly precise steering. On the road, the size and mass of the Jeep are always present. The large steering wheel transmits some information to the driver, and the body movements are nautical when you push it against its handling limits – which are low, with only 0.67 g of grip registered on our ski pad. The upside of the softness is a creamy and relaxing ride quality. Even on 22-inch wheels, Grand Wagoneer waves flaws with almost a shudder. Despite the plushness, the Jeep keeps side-to-side movements or head-throwing to a minimum, and the cabin is well insulated from the road and records a calm 66 decibels at 70 mph.
The smaller Wagoneer comes with a 5.7-liter V-8 with a 48-volt eTorque hybrid system that increases the low torque and evens out the engine’s stop-start system. Grand Wagoneers 471 hp 6.4-liter V-8 gets no electrical assistance – just old-fashioned displacement – but, boy, does that job done. It blows at idle like an offshore motorboat and pushes the 6326-pound beast forward with sharpness. We measured a 60 mph sprint in just 5.4 seconds, half a second faster than a long-wheelbase Cadillac Escalade with its slightly less powerful 6.2-liter V-8.
All that acceleration has a price. Although the old-school 6.4-liter V-8 has cylinder shut-off, Grand Wagoneer’s fuel economy figures are shocking. Grand Wagoneer’s EPA combined rating of 15 mpg is the lowest in this fuel-consuming segment. According to the EPA, Escalade makes 1 mpg better and Lincoln Navigators’ twin-turbo V-6 gives a combined rating that is 2 mpg higher. We had an average of 13 mpg in total during our time with Grand Wagoneer. The 5.7-liter V-8 in the Wagoneer softens the stroke slightly, with an 18-mpg combined rating for its standard rear-wheel drive setup.
No matter how you feel about a new vehicle that will get 15 mpg in 2021, Jeep could not let sales continue to go to the competition. Sure, Grand Wagoneer should probably have come out 10 or even 20 years ago, but America’s hunger for full-size SUVs remains incapable. Just ask GM executives who brag to investors about the ever-increasing transaction prices that their large trucks are currently enjoying. Grand Wagoneer has the luxury and desire to capture some of these buyers. Arriving after the race will probably not hurt Jeep’s chances of success. Late arrival is exactly what the doctor ordered – now you just have to wait until they start to catch up with this whole EV thing.
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