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The Jeep that isn’t

Wagoneer a ‘premium extension’ of iconic brand, just don’t mention the ‘J’ word

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

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

Leaving the lot after picking up the press vehicle, a thought occurred to me that a handy option package might be a set of dock hands to help with parking… The size of the vehicle was laid in stark contrast to that which I drove to swap for the Wagoneer: Subaru WRX.

What brand is Wagoneer, you ask? Funny you should mention it.

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

Jeep, purveyor of mainstream four-by-fours in everything from the tiny Renegade to the pricey Grand Cherokee, seems to have decided that last model isn’t premium enough. Which brings us to what the automaker calls its “premium extension of the Jeep brand,” with two vehicles, the Wagoneer and the 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’s asking customers to fork over from $81,000 to more than $100,000. The Wagoneer tested comes in at $93,175.

The Wagoneer name, of course, dates back to the American Motors Corp. days with, arguably, the first vehicle to combine family hauling 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 grandest of Jeeps, even if the Jeep name simply won’t do.

The Grand Wagoneer is, essentially, the same vehicle but with a little less interior volume. It’s in engine choices and interior appointments that the Grand distinguishes itself from the Wagoneer. Chrysler’s 6.4-litre Hemi V-8 is standard on Grand, while the standard motor on Wagoneer is a 5.7-litre V-8. Also available are a 3.0-litre twin-turbo V-6 (Wagoneer) and a 3.0-litre twin-turbo, 510 horsepower V-6 (Grand).

The 5.7-litre delivers 392 horsepower and 404 pound-feet of torque. Which is good, since it’s moving more than three tons of vehicle. That power is delivered through an eight-speed automatic transmission to a four-wheel-drive system — standard in Canada — with a variety of drive modes. An optional two-speed transfer case offers a low mode.

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The 2023 Wagoneer looks every bit like a larger version of other Jeeps, including the 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 to get a bit of added clearance.

On the road, the key word that comes to mind is comfortable. Again, contrasting with the WRX, in which 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 given the sorry state of Winnipeg’s roads.

That dampening effect, however, also translates into soft handling. A sudden lane-change manoeuvre will get the body moving quite a bit. Worth knowing, but also worth understanding sports-car precision isn’t the design objective.

For all its massive footprint, cargo space is a bit disappointing. It seems you can carry eight people, but they all better pack lightly. With the third row up, there’s barely enough room for a decent weekly grocery run. To be fair, the Wagoneer isn’t alone in attracting such criticism.

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

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

With gas prices sitting above $1.80 a litre and showing no signs of relief, the fuel economy of such a behemoth is certainly top of mind. Here, there’s a bit of a surprise: it’s rated at 13.8 litres per 100 km combined and is currently sitting at 12.8 on the dash computer. Helping reach that level is the Etorque mild hybrid system that uses a 48-volt, 390 kWh battery to add 12 kW of power and 130 ft-lb. of torque at launch.

The fuel economy is thirsty to most drivers, but not awful considering the size and weight of the vehicle. One eye-opener: the tank is 100 litres, so at prices at the time of writing, a fill 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 distinguish the Wagoneer as a premium product, it generally delivers.

While it is one big Jeep, the Wagoneer’s premium status comes from more than its mere size. The interior is as premium as anything Chrysler/DaimlerChrysler/Fiat Chrysler/Stellantis has ever produced. Fit and finish is outstanding, and the choices in materials create understated luxury.

Just don’t mention the word Jeep.

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There’s no denying the Wagoneer is huge, particularly 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 copy editor and award-winning automotive journalist. He's been a member of the Automobile Journalists' Association of Canada since 2001.

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