There are Kahunas – and then there is the Kahuna. Jeep’s Grand Wagoneer L.
“L” for length – and more.
More than three tons (6,621 lbs.) and 500-plus horsepower to keep it all moving – and pulling. This Kahuna can tow 10,000 lbs. and seats eight, too.
It also includes the house the kitchen sink was in – just about.
The Grand Wagoneer L is a longer, larger version of the Jeep Grand Wagoneer, the latter introduced last year as Jeep’s largest-ever SUV and meant to offer an alternative to rival large SUVs like the Chevy Tahoe/GMC Yukon/Cadillac Escalade, Ford Expedition/Lincoln Navigator, Nissan Armada/Infiniti QX and Toyota LandCruiser/Lexus LX600. You’ll note the mention of both the standard and luxury-badged version of these large SUVs. Jeep is not, per se, a luxury brand but it is a distinction with less and less difference as the non-luxury-badged versions of the just listed SUVs aren’t basic or inexpensive – and neither is this Jeep.
Base price is $91,495 and for that you get a standard 510 horsepower twin-turbo engine (the Cadillac Escalade’s maximum-effort engine offers 420), an adjustable-height suspension, three-pane panorama glass sunroof, 20-inch wheels, massaging seats, four zone climate control, a 19 speaker McIntosh premium audio system, second row captain’s chairs and sunshades, digital instrument panel and a 12 inch secondary touchscreen on top of the center stack plus another one – that folds away, revealing a secret storage cubby – just below it.
A top-of-the line Series III Obsidian ($111,990) comes standard with quilted leather upholstery, night vision, a 23 speaker McIntosh audio system, a mini-fridge built into the center console and a pair of 10.25 inch LCD entertainment monitors for the rearseat passengers.
It’s like Babe Ruth – another Kahuna – at the plate, pointing out beyond center field, where he was about to hit a home run.
The L version of the Grand Wagoneer is new for 2023.
One-ups everything else – in almost every way.
Six cylinder engine out-powers rivals’ V8 engines.
Seating in third row is nearly as spacious as second row seating.
What’s No So Good
“Jeep” isn’t yet a luxury brand, though this Jeep is priced to compete with luxury brands.
Powerful six doesn’t sound as powerful as a V8.
One of the interesting things about this big Kahuna is that it comes standard with one of the smallest engines in the class – a 3.0 liter inline six. Jeep chose the Wagoneer to showcase this all-new engine, the Hurricane, which will replace the Hemi V8 engine in Jeep, Ram and Dodge models going forward.
A moment of silence, please.
On the upside, it is an immensely powerful engine, summoning 510 horsepower and 500 ft.-lbs. of torque, more of both than even the twice-its-size 6.4 liter V8 that’s still the standard engine in the regular-wheelbase Wagoneer (the six is available in higher trims).
The not-as-mighty 6.4 liter Hemi produces 471 horsepower and 455 ft.-lbs. of torque – a number that was impressive, last year. Now it’s second-rate, which says a lot about what can be done with less.
The six is also really smooth – with an almost imperceptible idle. Inline sixes are esteemed for exactly that reason and are lighter, in addition, because they do not need heavy counterweights and balancers to smooth them out.
On the downside, the six does not sound like much – which you may miss if you like the rumble of a big V8. And while it is more powerful, it is not appreciably less thirsty.
The 6.4 Hemi in the standard wheelbase Wagoneer rates 13 city, 18 highway – which actually isn’t bad for a full-sized (and almost three ton) SUV, especially one with 471 horsepower under the hood. But with the six (and three less liters of engine) under the hood, the mileage is only slightly better: 14 city, 19 highway and may be less in real-world driving because the six relies on boost – as much as 26 psi – rather than displacement – to generate its power.
Hypothetically – if you drive with a light right foot – the six will use about the same amount of gas as the V8. But without the boost – provided by a pair of turbochargers – the six does not make as much power as the V8. To get it to make as much or more power, boost is needed – and that will result in more gas being used.
You do get more power, however – and there’s no question about that. This Jeep is a Hercules, capable of pulling about a third again its own curb weight – 10,000 lbs. And it is remarkably athletic, sprinting from zero to 60 MPH in 6.2 seconds – no mean feat for a vehicle that weighs well over three tons and has “only” 3.0 liters of engine under its hood.
But it does have the additional hardware – the pair of turbos and all the related bits and pieces – as well as the pressure, of the boost it’s frequently under. V8s may be “gas pigs,” to use the slur often directed at them. But they have the great virtue of not needing to work very hard to pull you along – as well as whatever you’re pulling behind you. There is thus less pressure on internal parts, such as rod and main bearings. These are also usually larger (in terms of surface area) and that spreads out the load they’re under – reducing the effect of it in terms of wear and tear over time.
They are like a big man who does not need steroids to bench press 300 pounds. It’s easy for him; it comes naturally. A smaller man can also bench that much, perhaps – with some chemical help.
But he often pays the price, down the road.
An eight speed automatic and 4WD are standard; the two speed transfer case has 2.64 gearing in 4WD Low range. Also standard is a 30 gallon gas tank, which gives this Kahuna 579 miles of range on the highway.
Even in city driving, where a big rig like this is least fuel efficient, this one can go 427 miles before you’ll need to gas up. There isn’t an energy hog EV that can match that – and certainly nothing comparable to this Kahuna. A GMC Hummer EV, for instance, has a maximum range of just 329 miles. And if you try to pull even half the 7,500 lbs. it’s rated to tow it will go perhaps half that far before you must stop – and wait – to get going again.
It is difficult to find anything objective to fault about the Grand Wagoneer L’s road manners, which are as refined as any current full-size luxury car’s. It is like driving a Mercedes S-Class that can drive over one, should the need arise. The standard air-adjustable suspension can raise you up ten inches off the pavement, sufficient to wade through two feet of water. You feel like Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in Titanic – because you are king of the world.
Grand is exactly the right word, too.
Jeep chose well. So much more apt than some anodyne X234a 2.0 appliance, which so many others are. It is also grand in another way in that it is not a loaded version of another brand’s model. Jeep may not be a luxury marque – but Wagoneer is on its way to being one. Meanwhile, there is something not as . . . grand about driving around in a Cadillac Escalade that is pretty much the same thing as a Chevy Tahoe. Not that there’s anything wrong with the Tahoe. But the point is it’s not a Cadillac – and neither is the Escalade. Same goes for the Lincoln Navigator, which is a very nice Ford Expedition. And the Infiniti QX80, also a very done Nissan Armada.
The Wagoneer is no one else’s re-sell and that could very well confer upon it the exclusivity Jeep is after – and which many of its rivals lack.
There is almost nothing lacking here – from the grand ride conferred by body-on-frame construction and 130 inches of wheelbase – to the comfort of standard massaging seats. It is almost inconceivable that something more . . . grand could be envisioned, let alone delivered.
But there is that almost – though it may not matter to you.
It is the absence of a grand sound to accompany this Kahuna’s coming and going. The Hurricane six is so quiet you can barely hear it. Even when the automated start-stop system cycles it back on after it’s been turned off (you can turn ASS off if you don’t want the engine to stop-start every time you stop) you can hardly tell it’s running – whether by sound or by feel. And when you floor it, the sound isn’t quite . . . grand. Just a smooth and quiet whoosh that is almost EV-like.
Without the wait.
But also without the bellow – or the rumble.
This is admittedly a subjective but it also objectively indisputable that – up to now – many of the people who’ve bought a Jeep/Dodge/Ram vehicle did so because they wanted the bellow and the rumble that only a big V8 can make. The Hurricane six is a technically impressive piece of engineering; by the numbers, it is superior in every way to the V8 it was designed to replace. But the numbers aren’t necessarily everything. There is something ineffable but no less real that cannot be quantified but can be felt – and heard.
And missed, when absent.
It is perfectly possible that the buyers Jeep is hoping to attract – an affluent clientele by definition when we are talking about a rig that starts at more than $90k – will prefer the sounds of silence, or nearly so. But some of us will mourn the loss of the grand sound that used to come standard with a Kahuna such as this.
What you’ve got here is more Grand Wagoneer.
Almost exactly a foot more – in terms of length (226.7 inches vs. 214.7 for the standard wheelbase version) and more space (for cargo) behind the third row, which increases to 44.2 cubic feet vs. 27.4 in the standard-wheelbase Grand Wagoneer.
Total available cargo capacity in the L is 112.9 cubic feet (vs. 94.2 in the standard-wheelbase Grand Wagoneer.
This is not as much space as some of the others in the class, including most notably the long-wheelbase version of the Cadillac Escalade, the ESV – which boasts 142.8 cubic feet of total capacity. But then, the ESV is essentially a Chevy Suburban – not that there’s anything wrong with that. And while the ESV has more space, it also has only 420 horsepower, 4WD isn’t standard, it can’t pull more than 8,000 lbs. and you have to pay extra to get massaging seats.
But what make this Jeep grand is the passenger space you’ll find in the third row, including 36.6 inches of legroom, which is comparable to the second row legroom typical in most mid-sized luxury cars. There’s space for your head, too – 38.5 inches – which means all but the over-six-footers won’t need to sit hunched over. Most of the SUVs in this class tout 7-8 passenger capacity but this one has capacity for 7-8 adults.
With the second and third rows down, you can also fit a 4×8 sheet of plywood in the back.
You do not pay extra for four-zone climate control, power adjustable pedals or those massaging seats. The handful of options include a rearseat entertainment system, a front passenger touchscreen and whether to swap out the standard second row captain’s chairs for a three-across bench.
If you visit the Stellantis media site (Stellantis is the corporation that owns the Jeep, Dodge, Ram and Chrysler brands) you will notice information about the Wagoneer is listed separately, away from Jeeps. And if you look at the Wagoneer, you will notice there are few indications – via badging – that is a Jeep. Not that there’s anything wrong with Jeeps. But the Wagoneer is, well, grand – and so it stands apart.
Stellantis apparently intend to do exactly that with this ultimate Jeep – this Kahuna – by establishing Wagoneer as a luxury sub-brand, to reflect the fact that by any standard, it is just as grand as any luxury-branded large SUV.
The Bottom Line
There are some other large SUVs.
But this one’s the Kahuna.
. . .
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