Jeep’s new entry-level Wagoneer and luxurious Grand Wagoneer are full-size SUVs built on a modified Ram truck chassis. It makes perfect sense that Stellantis would capitalize on its capable and comfortable Ram trucks with an SUV capable of competing with the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator. But why isn’t the opulent Grand Wagoneer part of the Chrysler brand’s luxury lineup? To answer that question, we might have to reexamine the failure of Chrysler’s first and only full-size SUV: the short-lived Aspen.
The failure of the Chrysler Aspen
The 2007-2009 Chrysler Aspen was the brand’s first full-size SUV (though the PT Cruiser was technically classified as a crossover SUV for emissions purposes). It was a full-frame vehicle based on the Dodge Durango, offering a range of luxury features. Still, it ended up being a short-lived flop.
The Aspen’s failure was certainly not due to a lack of features. It improved on its Dodge Durango sibling with chrome trim, a grille reminiscent of the 300, and an opulent luxury-level interior. It only came in one trim level: Limited. The Chrysler Aspen also offered AWD. And for the 2009 model year, Chrysler rolled out a HEMI V8 hybrid powertrain that improved the city efficiency by a whopping 6 MPG–for a total of 19 city/20 highway.
If you’ve never heard of the Chrysler Aspen SUV, you’re not alone. Chrysler only built its rebadged Dodge Durango for the 2007-2009 model years. And according to GoodCarBadCar.com, the automaker never sold more than 30,000 a year. The Wagoneer brand, however, has sold more than 40,000 vehicles in the first three quarters of 2022–despite a global chip shortage impacting production. Offering many of the same features as the Grand Wagoneer–a decade ahead of its time–was not enough to make the Chrysler Aspen a success.
Fullsize SUVs must offer something extra
Today’s most successful full-size SUVs offer something more than a luxury badge. Take, for example, the latest Cadillac Escalade. General Motor’s flagship SUV is based on the chassis of the Chevrolet Silverado 1500/GMC Sierra 1500. Its certainly a luxury vehicle, boasting a three row Cadillac-level interior. But General Motors has also been careful to position the Escalade as the fastest of the full-size luxury SUVs, with its flagship trim being the Escalade V.
Ford Motor Company positions its Lincoln Navigator as an oasis among full-size luxury SUVs. The automaker offers its SUV with carefully curated “Black Label” interiors. It also touts active noise control, ActiveGlide hands-free driver aids, and natural materials.
Even Toyota’s latest full-size Lexus LX 600 banks on its Land Cruiser roots with a series safari-themed advertisements depicting glamping in the desert with the bespoke SUV.
A straightforward luxury SUV wearing a Chrysler badge would have competed directly with these vehicles. In its day, the Chrysler Aspen did just that. Without its own, unique flare, a Chrysler SUV struggles to break into this competitive market.
Jeep’s Grand Wagoneer is luxurious, capable…and outdoorsy
Jeep’s Wagoneer sub-brand places Stellantis’ new full-size luxury SUVs in an interest place in their market segment. They offer the underpinnings of the already smooth-riding and off-road capable Ram truck. But they add Jeep’s proprietary Quadra-Trac full-time 4WD system. In addition, they upgrade the Ram 1500’s solid rear axle to independent suspension.
The 2022 Grand Wagoneer model adds drivetrain features the Wagoneer does not. It comes with standard four-corner air suspension–also borrowed from the Ram 1500. In addition, it sees the Wagoneer’s 5.7-liter HEMI and raises it with a 6.4-liter version borrowed from the Ram 2500/Wrangler 392.
The result is that the refined Grand Wagoneer still has plenty of grunt to pull a trailer full of off-road toys to the trailhead. It actually boasts a 10,000-pound towing capacity, the highest of any SUV.
It is also surprisingly capable off-road. Reviewers have found its independent rear suspension, multiple driving modes, and off-road driver aid software make it very Jeep-like on the trail. It is naturally limited by its enormous size and 6,000+ pound weight. But considering these parameters, it does fairly well.
Finally, Stellantis’ resurrection of the Grand Wagoneer nameplate and Jeep’s styling give the Wagoneer ample retro appeal. The result is something much more unique than Chrysler’s take on the Escalade/Navigator. The market’s resounding answer is that Stellantis made the right choice.
Next, find out the true relationship between Stellantis’ Jeep brand and Wagoneer brand or watch