I get where Jeep is coming from, with the Wagoneer. I can picture, in my mind’s eye or whatever, CEO David Stellantis (not a real name) sitting at his desk, glaring enviously at all those Escalade profits. I can see him reading the news about Cadillac refocusing on EVs, a smile beginning to dawn on his face — there are luxury buyers who won’t go EV, so they’ll have to go to another brand. This is his chance, his opportunity to seize those customers he’s so desperately wanted. Build an Escalade competitor, slap a Wagoneer badge on it, and call it a day.
But that badge is where the whole operation starts to fall apart. There are two names, Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer, so how do you divide those? Do you follow Chevy, with the Tahoe and Suburban denoting short-wheelbase and long-wheelbase versions of the same car? Of course not, you idiot, you rube — you make Grand mean Expensive. That’s the top trim now, only it’s not a trim, it’s an independent model, because god will personally smite David Stellantis if his customers confuse the luxury three-row with the entirely identical base model. This all makes sense, of course.
But, y’know what, those long wheelbase versions do seem like a good idea. Let’s put those in the mix too. Only, damn, what do we call them? Cadillac uses ESV for its biggest Escalade, but that’s just so many letters. We’re Stellantis, for christ’s sake, we can simplify this. Just one letter: L.
But, Wagoneer and Wagoneer L are too close in name. Hm. We can’t have two independent models whose names only differ by a single letter. Well, there’s only one clear solution to this problem: Make the long wheelbase version a trim level, not an independent model.
So now Stellantis has two identical cars, the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer, each of which have a trim level that is physically different in size and appearance. This is absolutely absurd, on its face, but the company that brought you a special edition Challenger meant for key parties can do better. Go further. Be more wrong.
Wagoneer, as a full-fledged Jeep sub-brand, needs an EV. But, clearly, it can’t be an EV that has literally anything in common with the existing Wagoneers. It can’t be big or boxy, it can’t be the same size, and don’t even think about sharing styling cues between the two. It has to be entirely unrelated, but also still a Wagoneer, because Stellantis hates you, specifically.
So now we have the Wagoneer S, which is the size of a Grand Cherokee, and has nothing in common with the other cars in the lineup. We have the Wagoneer, which is available in short and long wheelbase configurations, and then we have the Grand Wagoneer, which is the same thing but fancier. This is truly astonishingly dumb, but at least it will confuse consumers when they try to shell out five or six figures on a Jeep. That’s good, for complicated and meaningful reasons.
What Jeep could have done was make all short-wheelbase models the Wagoneer, and all long-wheelbase models the Grand Wagoneer. The company could have reused the Summit branding from the Grand Cherokee for its top-tier three-row, turning it into a badge like GMC’s Denali. This would even make the Wagoneer lineup roughly align with the Yukon in price, and we all know the Yukon Denali is the old-money favorite anyway.
Then, for the Wagoneer S, it could have actually shared one (1) styling cue with its bigger siblings. Literally any cosmetic feature. I feel like that’s not asking a ton, here, but it would bring the S in line with the rest of the Wagoneer family — making it earn that name. Then, you’re in a Bronco/Bronco Sport situation, but with the Wagoneer S-for-sport standing out more than the baby Bronco by virtue of its electric powertrain.
Stellantis had all the tools, it could have made a perfectly sensical and functional brand out of Wagoneer. Instead, for reasons unknowable, it just decided not to. I weep, for what could have been.