Jeep is in the family way, and the brand is expanding into the three-row premium SUV space with a whole portfolio of vehicles under the Wagoneer name.
The first members of the new Wagoneer family will arrive in the summer of 2021, including a mainstream 2022 Jeep Wagoneer. That model is expected to start at about $60,000 and take on such competitors as the Chevrolet Tahoe, Ford Expedition, and GMC Yukon. At the same time, Jeep will launch the 2022 Grand Wagoneer that will take on the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator.
Once production is humming along at the assembly plant in Warren, Michigan, Jeep will add even bigger boys in the form of long-wheelbase versions. The stretched Wagoneer will tackle the Chevy Suburban, Ford Expedition Max, and GMC Yukon XL, while the longer upscale Grand Wagoneer is pointed at the Escalade ESV and Navigator L. The Grand Wagoneer, which fully loaded will carry a price tag of about $100,000, is also targeting the Range Rover. All the new Jeeps have body-on-frame bones courtesy of a modified version of the Ram pickup architecture.
More Variants—Including, Yes, One With 702 HP—Are Expected
And we fully expect the Wagoneer family to receive some extreme variants. Most Jeep nameplates have Trailhawk versions to deliver ultimate rock-crawling capability, and Jeep also makes a super-powerful Trackhawk on-road model, too, as well a Mojave desert-running Gladiator. The pinnacle of the Jeep lineup is not likely to be shortchanged when it comes to eventual spin-offs.
Let’s not forget, too, that the Ram pickup also built at the Warren plant is now available in 2021 Ram 1500 TRX guise, with a supercharged 6.2-liter (Hellcat) V-8 pumping out 702 horsepower and 650 lb-ft. The stars are aligned for adding a high-performance version of the Grand Wagoneer in the future.
Expanding Jeep Into New Territory
All of this is new space for modern Jeep: expanding the brand into large, full-size SUVs, and moving up to the premium league. It is even new that a Wagoneer—which was in production from 1962 to 1991—has a third row.
In addition to conventional powertrains, the Wagoneer family will also offer plug-in hybrid versions. That is in keeping with FCA’s commitment to electrify all Jeeps in the next few years without compromising their off-road prowess. FCA is spending $10 billion to add electric motors to 30 nameplates, half of which will be hybrids or plug-in hybrids like the Wagoneer.
Ralph Gilles, FCA’s head of design, said he was excited—as long as a decade ago—about the prospect of elevating Jeep and expanding the lineup. Then he was told the new three-row SUV would revive the Wagoneer name, and the task instantly became more intimidating. “That name really means a lot to all of us,” he said. No pressure: His team just needed to take a nameplate rooted in Jeep brand heritage and create a new portfolio of vehicles worthy of the badge. But there was to be no copying past Wagoneers, as his marching orders were, in so many words, to redefine “American Premium” and deliver a unique customer experience with a vehicle that sets a new standard for sophistication.
The return of this American icon is a logical extension of the brand, says Christian Meunier, global president of the Jeep brand. “Wagoneer will allow us to expand very well beyond the current Jeep lineup.” He confirmed two wheelbases for both Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer to go after different players in the segment. “We’ll be very well equipped to be a key player in both mainstream and premium.” In addition to the United States, Meunier said the Wagoneer lineup will also be available in Canada and Mexico.
Plans and Timing Kept Changing
A Grand Wagoneer revival has been planned for quite some time. It’s been on the wishlist of FCA CEO Mike Manley for more than a decade, dating to when he pushed to make it happen as the global chief of the Jeep brand. In 2014, when former FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne put the Grand Wagoneer in the automaker’s five-year-plan, it was timed for a 2018 launch and was going to be built on a stretched version of the next-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee architecture. But as they seemingly do with frequency at FCA, the plans changed, and in 2017 Marchionne announced the SUV would instead use a modified version of the Ram 1500 architecture and be built in the same truck plant. The timing was pushed back, but we now know that has come to pass.
Jeep is not alone in creating a family. Ford recently took two of its iconic vehicles, the Mustang and the Bronco, and created sub-brands around their storied names. But in the case of Ford, it extended its legendary badges to vehicles that are quite different from and ride on different platforms than their namesakes. The 2021 Mustang Mach-E is an electric SUV that shares some styling cues with the pony car but not underpinnings or powertrains. And while the Bronco rides on the Ford Ranger pickup truck body-on-frame architecture, the 2021 Bronco Sport is a unibody crossover that uses the underpinnings of the Ford Escape.