Here’s a sentence that I thought, typed out, deleted while laughing, and ultimately un-deleted upon a few minute’s reflection: “With the top trim starting at $76,220, the well-optioned Jeep Wagoneer L Series III is one hell of a bargain.”
After writing it the first time, I did a quick but thorough full body inspection to confirm that I am a regular human being and am not, in fact, made of money. Almost eighty grand is a lot of cash to most of us – family types included. It’s more money that I’ve ever spent on a new car, for sure. To confirm that I am indeed an outlier, I asked my car friends on Twitter about the max they’ve ever spent on a vehicle, and can confirm that the answers cresting even the starting MSRP of the 2023 Jeep Wagoneer L, $64,495, were few and far between.
And yet, the increasingly pricey “Large SUV” segment is doing a banging business in 2022. General Motors brands alone have combined to sell something like 170k units over its Suburban, Tahoe, and Yukon nameplates. Last year, in a weird market, close to 400k large SUVs were sold. It’s not for nothing that Jeep re-entered this lucrative playground with its Wagoneer and luxury-segment Grand Wagoneer. Americans still adore a spacious ride, and a great value, even amongst very expensive things.
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|2023 Jeep Wagoneer L Series II
|Twin-Turbocharged 3.0-liter I6
|420 Horsepower / 468 Pound-Feet
|42.1 / 85.3 / 130.9 Cubic Feet
|$62,495 + $2,000 Destination
Gallery: 2023 Jeep Wagoneer L: First Drive
A Narrow Field Of Huge SUVs
Let’s be clear: in the world of non-luxury, full-size, extended wheelbase sport utility vehicles, there are four players in the US on sale today. The Chevy Suburban, GMC Yukon XL, Ford Expedition Max, and this new Jeep Wagoneer L. Jeep’s Grand Wagoneer competes upmarket against the Escalades and Range Rovers of the world, but if you’re talking about “blue collar” big boys, that’s the list.
Of course Toyota and Nissan (and Chevy again and Ford again) make standard wheelbase offerings that are compelling. But they don’t offer the thing that you get with a stretched body and wheelbase: maximum utility.
All of the XL SUVs offer impressive space for passengers. The third row in the Wagoneer L offered me, the very largest of the Motor1 staffers at 6-foot-5, acres of space (to say nothing of a cupholder, a huge stash space on the armrest, and both USB and USB-C ports). Jeep says the interior space is best-in-class and I believe it. But the truth is that even very large people fit into the third rows of the competitors, too.
Jeep’s big point of differentiation on the space front is really the cargo space available with all three rows of seats erected. Why? Maximum utility, that’s why. If I’m spending thousands of dollars more to get one of the world’s biggest passenger vehicles, I kind of want to use all of that space at the same time. And not have to make a choice between, say Grandma or Grandma’s luggage.
To that end the Wagoneer offers a class-leading 42.2 cubic feet of cargo space with every seat intact. That’s only about half a cube more than the Chevy and the GMC, to be fair, but it’s up meaningfully on the 36.0 cu ft offered by Ford’s Expedition Max. A literally huge caveat to this point is that the GM trucks do have a lot more overall cargo space than the Jeep – 144.7 cu ft vs 130.9 – so if you typically use your SUV like a pickup truck, take note.
Storm’s A Brewin’
Normally, a long-wheelbase variant of an existing SUV wouldn’t be enough to get me to fly to Bozeman, Montana, for a test drive. Don’t get me wrong, I love the lonesome, lovely west, but I keep all of my stuff and my kids in Michigan, so testing big vehicles is kind of an at-home pastime for me.
To sweeten the pot for the auto writer corps and consumers alike, however, Jeep also pulled the wraps off a pair of new, bi-turbocharged inline-six engines dubbed “Hurricane.” (I promise you that I will be tracking the use of any variation on “Jeep Rocks You Like A Hurricane” in coverage at Motor1 competitors, so I can publicly shame them on Twitter). Available with a standard output of 420 horsepower and 468 pound-feet of torque for Wagoneer L, and a high-output flavor of 510 hp and 500 lb-ft in the Grand Wagoneer, I can attest that both powerplants are an excellent fit for their respective chariots.
Paired to a relaxed and robust eight-speed TorqueFlite automatic gearbox, the Wagoneer’s SO engine offered up crisp acceleration at speed for passes on the highway, and great pulling power away from stoplights. And in places like Bozeman and the surrounding, jaw-dropping mountains, the turbo-fed engine is doubtlessly better to live with than Jeep’s (admittedly characterful) 5.7-liter V8. When tasked with pulling the Wagoneer L’s not-inconsiderable 6,335 pounds at thin-air elevations of 5,000 feet or higher, it’s good to keep each of those horsepower fully on the job.
You’ll get a full take on the Grand Wagoneer and the HO Hurricane engine in the near future, too. Suffice it to say that the 510-hp offering makes even this long-wheelbase truck feel quick.
Jeep told me that the Hurricane engines will be roughly 15 percent more efficient than their V8 counterparts, and that the standard output Hurricane will be up 3 mpg on the highway. The 4x4 Wagoneer’s 5.7-liter V8 is rated at 15 miles per gallon City, 20 Highway, and 18 Combined, so an educated guess would put the final tallies at something like 16/23/20 (watch this space for updates when the EPA figures are released).
Ratings along those lines should help the Jeep, you guessed it, maximize its utility versus the competition, too. A comparable 4x4, 5.3-liter V8-equipped Suburban hits mpg ratings of 15 City, 19 Highway, and 16 Combined, while the new EcoBoost Ford Expedition Max hasn’t yet been rated by the EPA, but it should snuggle up closer to the Wagoneer’s numbers.
Dollars Well Spent
When the Grand Wagoneer debuted, I think it stunned most everyone with its sometimes six-figure sticker price. When you start to actually compare prices of competitors, the Grand still mostly stacks up. But after putting a pack of miles on the Wagoneer L, it’s the lower-priced model that feels like the value, especially in the more reasonable middle trims.
I drove the Carbide Package which is available on the Series II and sits just below the Series III Wagoneer L in terms of price.The black-out package includes piano black exterior trim where many other Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneers get chrome, and to my eye the more demure accents better complement the huge bodyside of the SUV.
Inside of any Series II, both driver and passenger are surrounded by leather and wood and huge outlays of bright touchscreens – but just a little less on each front than is offered on the Grand. The 10.1-inch central touchscreen display may be down two inches on the premium head unit, but the graphics were crisp and the layout reasonable to digest and use.
The $4,295 Convenience Group might be the best overall value in vaulting the Wagoneer L over its peers, offering a huge number of features that most of us still associate with true luxury vehicles. Driver assists like a head up display and a 360-degree surround view camera make driving easier, minute by minute; on road trips, around your hometown, and certainly when navigating a nearly 19-foot vehicle in tight parking lots. And nice adds like heated seats in the second row, and a cool sliding cargo management system, will doubtless come in handy in a variety of ways.
And, should your daily drives traverse especially rugged routes, Jeep is the brand to see where off-road capability is concerned, too. I can’t put too much stock in the pre-planned off-road course that the minders set up for us to drive – especially because we did so in standard-wheelbase Wagoneers – but the options list for the L does favor off-road excursions. Starting at Series II, the big Jeep can be had with off-road tires, a two-speed transfer case, an electronic limited-slip diff, the Quadra-Lift air suspension system, skid plates under everything, and more.
Not So Fast
Of course, it isn’t an unmitigated win for Jeep, at least not while the Chevy Suburban is still in the picture. In the top and middle trims, the Wagoneer L does have a $3k to $4k price advantage over the Suburban, and the Jeep wins pretty handily on in-cabin technology, seating space and comfort, and off-road ability (probably… we really need a head-to-head off-road test).
But the Wagoneer can’t compete with the Magnaride-equipped GM products where ride quality is concerned. The ride is well managed in the Jeep, but it’s nothing like as glass-smooth as the highest-optioned Chevys and GMCs. What’s more, I never quite got past how busy the steering was in the Wagoneer, especially for a vehicle of its weight and length. Even after digging through the vehicle setup menus to change the steering setting from Normal to Comfort, I was still making more tiny corrections to keep the vehicle in a straight line on the highway than I’d like. The Chevy is the more relaxing steer, by a lot.
And, of course, the Suburban is just bigger. I tried to illustrate that it’s not bigger in a way that’s particularly useful most of the time… but some people just want the big one, full stop.
There’s enough to consider in the competitive offerings that I can’t declare the 2023 Jeep Wagoneer the new class leader, at least not without more seat time in the segment stalwarts. But I can guarantee that the balance of price and utility offered by Jeep will be compelling to untold numbers of shoppers in this high-price, high-value space. After all, even at seventysomething dollars, it’s one hell of a bargain.
2023 Jeep Wagoneer L Series II