Even as the automotive industry takes a course into a mostly electrified future, internal combustion engines still prevail in most segments. This includes the full-size SUV segment dominated in the US by Chevy Tahoe and Ford Explorer. Although Jeep parent Stellantis predicts that 40 percent of its sales will come from BEV by the end of the decade, it will have to challenge GM and Ford with its own three-wheeled SUV: the all-new Wagoneer.
From $ 71,845 for the base model, this is not your dad’s Jeep Wagoneer. While the grille screams Jeep, that word does not actually appear on this massive SUV. Instead, “Wagoneer” appears in many places inside and outside. And it’s really massive – the Grand Wagoneer measures a full 215 inches (5,461 mm) from head to tail, a couple of inches longer than the competitors from GM and Ford.
To power this best of an SUV, Jeep has gone with a 5.7-liter V8 with eTorque (a 48-volt battery-powered engine generator designed to help with performance and fuel economy) and an eight-speed automatic transmission. Although it uses the same box-on-frame design as the Ram pickup, the independent suspension of the rear-wheel drive Wagoneer gives it a much smoother ride than the Ram 1500 with its solid rear axle. The upside is almost 10,000 pounds (4,500 kg) of towing capacity, surprisingly fast acceleration and smooth driving on the highway. The downside to this combination of power, weight and size? A disappointing mileage. The EPA estimates 15 mpg in the city, 20 mpg on the highway and 17 mpg in total. Our week of late autumn driving resulted in only 13.5 mpg. (This is a reminder that it is not just electric cars that lose range in cold weather.)
The interior is both spacious and refined. The $ 82,925 Series II we tested came with captain’s seats on the second row and a third row bench. There is plenty of legroom in the two front rows, and the third row is less poor than other SUVs in this segment. Where Wagoneer really stands out from the competition is in the look and feel of the interior. Wood veneer, leather upholstery and overall interior refinement made me double-check the paperwork to see if I had received a $ 90,000+ Grand Wagoneer.
Uconnect, Jeep / Chrysler / Dodge infotainment system, has received a long-awaited update. Version 5 has a brand new user interface that looks great on Wagoneer’s 10-inch center screen along with wireless CarPlay and Android Auto support. In combination with the 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster and an optional passenger display, you can have as many as 30-inch screens in the front row. With a built-in 4G connection, passengers can stream TV programs and movies via Wagoneer’s built-in Fire TV for automatic integration.
On the road, Wagoneer shines on open stretches of motorway and offers an almost elegant ride. Uneven city streets are another matter, with a little too much information about road conditions that are transmitted through the suspension to the occupants. To no one’s surprise, Wagoneer can feel top heavy on winding roads.
Kia and Hyundai were pioneers of what I like to call the “unexpected luxury SUV”, where the trim level and number of included features are surprisingly high for a regular car. Stellantis has taken notes, and it shows with Wagoneer. It’s no Cullinan, but the cabin is almost beyond blame when it comes to style and comfort. Wagoneer lacks fuel economy, and the ride may be a little better on bumpy sidewalks, but like a regular full-size SUV, it stands up very well to competitors.