With its gargantuan new chrome-covered $100,000 Grand Wagoneer SUV, Jeep – yes, Jeep – wants a slice of those juicy Cadillac Escalade-sized profits up for grabs in the booming large-luxury-SUV market. The company that brought four-by-fours to the masses with the Wrangler is now eager to lure big spenders out of their leather-lined Mercedes-Benz GLs and BMW X7s, and away from Lincoln Navigators and Range Rovers.
“With a lot of those [European] brands, people buy it for the brand; they buy it because it’s a Mercedes or because it’s a BMW, and that’s tough to overcome,” said Mike Szymkiewicz, head of product planning for Stellantis Canada. Convincing those customers to come into a Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram dealership and drop six-figures will be a challenge, he admitted. But, it’s a challenge worth meeting because there’s money to be made.
Those two German firms plus Range Rover account for roughly half of the large-luxury-SUV market in Canada. Cadillac and Lincoln combined account for another 32 per cent, according to 2019 data presented by Szymkiewicz. Sales of large SUVs grew by 65 per cent between 2015 and 2019 in Canada, and, this year, sales are on track to beat 2019′s total.
“Especially in the pandemic, people are buying boats and Sea-Doos and motorbikes like crazy so, if you have a family or a crew you need to move around and you’re towing a boat, you see why these vehicles make sense,” Szymkiewicz said. The Grand Wagoneer is built for exactly that purpose, capable of carrying seven or eight people and towing 9,850 lb., which is comfortably more than the Escalade or Navigator. For the maximum 10,000 lb. boat-hauling ability, you’ll want the $69,995 Wagoneer – non-“Grand” – which omits many luxury features.
Both Wagoneers feature four-wheel drive and body-on-frame construction, which means that – like the Escalade and Navigator – underneath all the chrome and leather these are essentially pickup trucks, albeit with the added benefit of independent rear suspension in this case.
Wheeling the Grand Wagoneer around town, you’ll know you’re driving a truck, which for some people is part of the appeal, but it means you do feel curbs and potholes more at low speeds than you would in, say, a BMW X7, despite the Grand Wagoneer’s height-adjustable air suspension. On the highway though, this truck covers ground like a train, rolling smoothly over great distances with effortless torque from a 6.4-litre Hemi V8.
If you remember the original 1963 Wagoneer, or the 1984 Grand Wagoneer – pioneers of the SUV genre – you may be wondering if wood panel siding is available on these reborn models. Alas, it is not, but if you’re looking for wood trim, look to the cabin, which is covered in the stuff.
It’s here, sitting in the driver’s seat, where Jeep’s new luxury contender stands out from its rivals. A beautiful, sculpted wooden shelf runs across the width of the cabin and down the centre console through to the second-row. Light pours in through tall windows and a long glass roof. The gear selector is a tactile hunk of machined metal.
Everywhere you look there are screens, as many as three displays in the second row, plus four in front, for 75-inches of total screen real-estate. The front passenger’s screen can be used to quickly input a navigation destination, then send it to the main screen for the driver, a useful feature you won’t find in any Germany luxury SUV. Despite all the screens, the interface is fairly intuitive. If you do get stressed out, the car even a relax mode, which, no joke, plays soft music and shows a fake fireplace or aquarium scene across the main displays. According to Jeep’s research, 10 per cent of people use their cars to hide and relax in. And, okay, fair enough, the Grand Wagoneer is as close as you can get to a luxury lake-house on wheels.
So far, so good, right? Yes, but let’s talk about fuel economy. Even if you don’t pay much attention to the auto industry, you’ve likely heard ad-nauseum about how car companies are trying to make electric vehicles happen and that they’re serious about climate change and reducing emissions. What the industry doesn’t say is that, while they gradually go green, they’re also going to try and sell a bunch more gas-guzzlers for a tidy profit.
The Grand Wagoneer gets the same fuel economy as a Chevrolet Tahoe SUV from 20 years ago, as the website Autoblog recently pointed out. The Jeep has nearly double the power of the old Chevy, sure, but a fuel economy rating of 18.6 L/100 km in the city and 12.8 on the highway is not good. The regular Wagoneer at least gets a mild-hybrid system, but the Grand version doesn’t. Cadillac, BMW, Mercedes and others also offer large SUVs with needlessly-powerful V8 engines because they can, and because they’re profitable, and because many people buy them. You can point fingers at consumers, or the industry, however this is ultimately a failure of government to adequately regulate an industry so that we might, perhaps, have just a slightly better chance of staving off even more forest fires, draughts and scorching-hot summers, but, that’s a story for another time.
2022 Grand Wagoneer
- Base price/as tested: $100,995/$130,270
- Engine: 6.4-litre V8
- Transmission/drive: eight-speed automatic/four-wheel drive
- Fuel economy (litres/100 kilometres): 18.6 city, 12.8 highway
- Alternatives: Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Navigator, Mercedes-Benz GLS, BMW X7, Range Rover, Lexus LX, Infiniti QX80
It bears only a slight resemblance to the 1980s original. The raised copper-and-chrome Grand Wagoneer lettering on the trunk, doors and bumper are luxurious details. You’ve got no excuse for forgetting its name.
Just sitting in the cabin will surely be enough to sell plenty of Grand Wagoneers. It’s plush, as it had better be with a six-figure price tag.
Even with a V8 churning out 471 horsepower and 455 lb-ft of torque, you’re very aware of the Grand Wagoneer’s 2,876 kg (6,340 lb.) curb weight. It differentiates itself from rivals by offering many of the same off-road-focused options found on other Jeeps.
Top-notch. The many large screens were surprisingly intuitive and the optional McIntosh stereo sounded spectacular. Jeep is also launching Wagoneer Client Services, a dedicated phone line available to talk through any issues customers may have with the vehicles.
Even the second- and third-row seats, legroom is ample. Jeep claims best-in-class passenger volume, and it feels like it. Parents will appreciate the overhead camera to keep tabs on rear-seat passengers.
The Grand Wagoneer has a rich, high-tech cabin, making it a solid entry in the crowded luxury SUV market, but beware the hefty fuel bills.
The writer was a guest of the auto maker. Content was not subject to approval.