The new Grand Wagoneer is the clearest sign yet of FCA’s intention to make Jeep a full-fledged luxury brand. Some versions of this full-size SUV will cost upwards of six figures when it arrives in production form next year, and it clearly has luxury models such as the Lincoln Navigator and Cadillac Escalade in its crosshairs. While the Wagoneer might seem like a big leap for the rough-and-tumble automaker with humble roots in military vehicles, the truth is that Jeep has been pushing toward premium status for years now. And it’s working.
As Jeep sales have risen precipitously over the past decade, so have Jeep prices. And people are increasingly willing to pay extra for the prestige of the Jeep brand. According to a report from Cox Automotive from earlier this year, average transaction prices for the Jeep Gladiator pickup were $10,000 higher than the next-highest mid-size pickup truck. $50,000-plus Wranglers have quickly become the norm—and that’s just the starting point for some owners who spend tens of thousands more in the aftermarket to create customized versions of these off-roaders.
The best-selling Jeeps lately are also the most expensive Jeeps in the lineup, the Wrangler and the Grand Cherokee. And the Grand Cherokee’s broad range of models perfectly illustrates Jeep’s way of straddling the mainstream and luxury markets. Its starting price of $35,695 for a base V-6 model is in the realm of mainstream competitors such as the Honda Passport. But while the Honda tops out around $45,000 fully loaded, the Jeep is just getting started at that price point. It offers an optional V-8 engine, starting at $47,045, and its top trim level, Summit, costs upwards of $65,000 with all the goodies—that’s BMW X5 territory.
Plus, what is FCA’s expansive Hellcat-powered portfolio of vehicles if not a uniquely American take on the German luxury brands’ M and AMG in-house performance shops? Like the X5, Jeep offers not one but two performance versions of the Grand Cherokee. The 475-hp Grand Cherokee SRT has an even more powerful V-8 and starts at $70,640. Add a few options and you’re at around $83,000, close to the 523-hp X5 M50i’s $84,095 starting price. And the top-dog Grand Cherokee Trackhawk (pictured above), with an insane 707-horsepower supercharged Hellcat V-8, starts at nearly $90,000 and goes well above $100,000 with options. So the Grand Wagoneer won’t even be the first six-figure Jeep to come from the factory.
Even lesser Jeeps are priced like premium products when examined within their respective compact- and subcompact-crossover segments. The Cherokee can go well above $40,000, the Compass above $38,000, and the Renegade above $34,000—thousands more than fully loaded versions of equivalent rivals from brands such as Honda, Toyota, and Nissan. If anything, these prices are more egregious because these car-based crossovers are wholly mainstream in terms of design, driving refinement, and equipment levels. The main justifications for these high prices are their optional all-wheel-drive systems, which are admittedly more complex than many rivals’ systems, and—of course—their Jeep badges.
It seems that badge is more than powerful enough to persuade mainstream crossover shoppers to pay a bit extra, and the Wrangler and Grand Cherokee are well-established nameplates that command respect among off-road enthusiasts (and those who simply appreciate the off-road aesthetic). The return of the legendary Grand Wagoneer—which had plenty of upscale connotations in its heyday—will be the ultimate test of how high Jeep can reach into today’s upscale SUV market. But given the brand’s overwhelming success so far, we won’t be surprised if Jeep can pull it off.
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