The Jeep That Isn’t – Winnipeg Free Press

The 2022 Wagoneer isn’t the biggest vehicle I’ve ever driven, but it certainly feels like it.

As I left the lot after picking up the press vehicle, a thought occurred to me that a handy optional package might be a set of ports to assist with parking… The size of the vehicle was in stark contrast to the one I drove to trade for the Wagoneer: Subaru WRX.

What brand is the Wagoneer you wonder? Funny you should mention that.

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You won’t miss the Wagoneer name on this vehicle, but don’t strain your eyes when looking for the word Jeep.

Jeep, purveyor of standard four-by-fours in everything from the tiny Renegade to the expensive Grand Cherokee, seems to have decided that the last model is not premium enough. Which brings us to what the automaker calls its “premium extension of the Jeep brand,” with two vehicles, the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer.

So premium, it seems, only a mononym will do, so let’s call it The Auto Formerly Known As Jeep. Especially since it asks customers to pay over from $81,000 to more than $100,000. The as-tested Wagoneer comes in at $93,175.

The Wagoneer name, of course, harkens back to the days of American Motors Corp. with arguably the first vehicle to combine family transportation with serious off-road chops. Now that such a design has come to dominate the automotive landscape, it’s fitting to apply the iconic moniker to the biggest Jeeps, even if the Jeep name just won’t do.

The Grand Wagoneer is basically the same vehicle but with slightly less interior volume. It is in engine choice and interior appointments that the Grand differs from the Wagoneer. Chrysler’s 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 is standard on the Grand, while the standard engine on the Wagoneer is a 5.7-liter V-8. Also available are a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 (Wagoneer) and a 3.0-liter twin-turbo, 510-horsepower V-6 (Grand).

The 5.7-liter delivers 392 horsepower and 404 pound-feet of torque. Which is good, because it moves more than three tons of vehicles. That power is delivered through an eight-speed automatic transmission to an all-wheel-drive system – standard in Canada – with a variety of drive modes. An optional two-speed derailleur offers a low position.

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The 2023 Wagoneer looks just like a larger version of other Jeeps, including that signature seven-slat grille.

While the Wagoneer isn’t positioned as something that can follow the Wrangler through the Rubicon Trail, it does offer a variable ride height, just for a little extra leeway.

On the road, the key word that comes to mind is comfortable. Again, in contrast to the WRX, where you feel every expansion joint, the Wagoneer’s suspension – short- and long-arm independent up front and five-link independent out back – soaks up road imperfections nicely. Which is ideal considering the sorry state of Winnipeg’s roads.

However, the damping effect also leads to smooth handling. A sudden lane change will cause the body to move a lot. Worth knowing, but also worth understanding sports car precision is not the design goal.

For all its massive footprint, cargo space is a little disappointing. It looks like you can carry eight people, but everyone should pack light. With the third row up, there’s barely enough room for a decent weekly grocery store. To be fair, the Wagoneer is not alone in attracting such criticism.

The Wagoneer is larger than the base models of the Ford Expedition/Lincoln Navigator, and not quite as grand as the long wheelbase versions of the Fords. Still, for all its size, the Jeep still can’t match a Toyota Sienna for cargo volume. (The Sienna has 2,129 liters behind the second-row seats, while the Wagoneer has 1,800 liters.)

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Inside, the Wagoneer represents luxury, with high-quality finishes and impeccable details throughout.

With gas prices hovering above $1.80 a liter and showing no sign of easing, fuel economy for such a behemoth is really in focus. Here’s a bit of a surprise: it has 13.8 liters per 100km combined and currently reads 12.8 on the dash computer. Helping reach that level is Etorque’s mild-hybrid system, which uses a 48-volt, 390 kWh battery to add 12 kW of power and 130 ft-lb. torque at launch.

Fuel economy is thirsty for most drivers, but not terrible considering the size and weight of the vehicle. An eye-opener: the tank is 100 gallons, so at prices at the time of writing, a fill-up from empty would be between $164.90 and $185.90, according to GasBuddy.com. Imagine if it took premium.

So that’s the bad news. The good news is that when Jeep says it wants to differentiate the Wagoneer as a premium product, it generally delivers.

Although it’s a single large Jeep, the Wagoneer’s premium status comes from more than just its size. The interior is as premium as anything Chrysler/DaimlerChrysler/Fiat Chrysler/Stellantis has ever produced. Fit and finish are outstanding, and the material choices create understated luxury.

Just don’t mention the word Jeep.

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There’s no denying that the Wagoneer is huge, especially if you park it next to mere mortals’ vehicles at work.

kelly.taylor@winnipegfreepress.com

Kelly Taylor

Kelly Taylor
Copy Editor, Autos Reporter

Kelly Taylor is a Winnipeg Free Press editor and award-winning automotive journalist. He has been a member of the Automobile Journalists’ Association of Canada since 2001.

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