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Towing Through the Canadian Wilderness in a Jeep Grand Wagoneer

By meerna Jul11,2024
Towing Through the Canadian Wilderness in a Jeep Grand Wagoneer

Waubaushene, Ontario —When I arrived at Quiet Waters Sailboats on Georgian Bay from Detroit, owner Rick and I greeted each other with shouts.

“Man, you poor people pay $6 a gallon for premium gas!” I exclaimed.

“Man, that Jeep Grand Wagoneer is the biggest thing I’ve ever seen in my life!” Rick said.

I just filled the Grand’s 30.5-gallon tank of fuel (91 octane recommended) for $2.05 Canadian per liter—a total of $183 U.S. Ouch. But the Jeep mega-ute was the perfect mule to deliver a Precision sailboat from Quiet Waters to my friend’s sailing club in Charlevoix, Michigan.

The Jeep’s huge tanks and corresponding 610-mile range could cover the 447-mile route through the remote Georgian Bay wilderness without stopping for fuel. Its 9,450-pound towing capacity would easily handle the 1,350-pound boat and trailer, and its high aerodynamic drag. And the Jeep’s palatial interior would easily swallow the boat’s paraphernalia, comfortably hosting me (and passengers, if necessary) for 7.5 hours.

I opened the Grand Wagoneer’s automatic liftgate and lowered the third row of seats. Then Rick put the 9.5-foot boom into the interior. And put it in, and put it in.

“Wow, we can get the whole boom through this thing with room to spare,” Rick said as the boom slid between the second-row captain’s chairs, settling on the back of the front center console. “I think we can get All in the Jeep and in the boat nothing will shake during the trip.”

The same cannot be said about a pickup truck.

Pickup trucks move the world, but even the longest available eight-foot box on Rick’s Chevy Silverado pickup wouldn’t fit through the Precision’s boom without lowering the gate and raising a red flag. Detroit automakers figured out years ago that they could take the stout ladder chassis of their trucks, bolt on an SUV’s top hat, and offer customers pickup-like capabilities with the convenience of a covered cargo area and the family comfort of three rows of seating.

The Jeep Wagoneer and my (more luxurious) test Grand Wagoneer came into this universe late, after wildly successful fleets of Chevy Tahoes/Suburbans, GMC Yukons, Ford Expeditions, and Lincoln Navigators. Like its luxury peers from Lincoln and GMC Denali, the Grand Wagoneer is elegant, available in long-wheelbase trim, and can quickly top 100 grand.

My $120,000 Jeep was loaded with the latest tech and features. That’s a lot of money, but if the bank forecloses on your house, you could just move into The Grand. Standard features include the basics, like a tow hitch, adaptive cruise control, blind spot assist, and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. We talked to Google a lot.

Hey Google, go to Waubaushene, Ontario.

Without missing a beat or tripping over my West Virginia accent, she showed me the way. If you’re a frequent traveler (I’m guilty), I recommend the L for the extra cargo space behind the roomy third row. The entry-level Wagoneer L with all-wheel drive starts at $75,000.

We loaded the boat’s outboard, sails, and rudder into the back of the Grand—plus my suitcase, tennis bag, and computer case with room to spare. The Jeep is so big I could fit my family of four and their luggage.

I was on the road — towing a land yacht and a sailboat.

With government regulations forcing the elimination of new gas vehicle sales in the next few years, I am aware of the limitations of electric vehicles in towing trips. Halfway up Georgian Bay, I conducted an experiment.

Hey Google. Find a gas station.

In the heart of Canada’s remote pine-and-stone wilderness, Google has found four nearby forests.

Hey Google. Find an electric charging station.

The closest match? Petoskey, Michigan, 356 miles away. Oh. If I were driving my Tesla Model 3 (or Cybertruck), I could use three Tesla Superchargers on my route. But the weight and aerodynamic challenges of towing also favor gasoline-powered vehicles.

Grand was the towing champion.

Although I could have made the trip on one tank of gas, I drove to a nearby gas station in the port town of Pointe au Baril on Route 400 North. Like Michigan with its Marathon stations, Ontario’s lakeside highways are dotted with large Esso drive-thru gas stations that serve trucks and boat trailers. I was lucky, choosing a Shell station that seemed to date back to the 1950s.

My loooong boat and trailer took up all three pumps — an inconvenience that would cause a riot at an EV station, where vehicles take ages to charge. My mule quickly filled up with 5 gallons of gas (another $30 drained from my wallet). I popped into the station to use the restroom (Canadians call restrooms “bathrooms”) and was on my way within minutes.

Interestingly, five gallons would get me 75 miles—and a full tank would get me 455 miles—at 15 mpg. That’s just a 21% drop from the Grand’s EPA-claimed 19 mpg. When I towed a similar Precision from Detroit to Charlevoix with a Ford Explorer Wilderness, fuel economy dropped 65% (to 9.5 mpg from a claimed 21 mpg). Meanwhile, the Ford Lightning EV suffers a 70% drop in towing range (as tested by my friends at TFL Truck).

I kept up the pace, powering the Jeep’s 510-horsepower, twin-turbo Hurricane inline-6 ​​as I pulled the tall boat up Georgian Bay at 75 mph—keeping up with Canadians who (like Americans in the bad old days of 55-mph decree) ignore the 60-mph speed limit.

Indeed, with 500 lb-ft of torque and an independent rear air suspension, the Jeep didn’t feel like a truck-based vehicle at all. It felt more like a luxury Mercedes cruising down the highway.

That’s what the Grand is supposed to be. Forget the rugged Wrangler brand, this Jeep is on par with the world’s best luxury cars. With four digital information screens up front (including a head-up display and a passenger screen), three more in the second row, and a camera monitoring the cabin, I could live in a New York penthouse.

The center console even had a cooler—keeping my favorite Snapples cold during the trip. I crossed the majestic Mackinac Bridge and arrived in Charlevoix at 8:00 PM feeling refreshed. I unmoored the boat, unloaded my gear, and had a late dinner. A piece of cake.

Next time I might take a boat across Saskatchewan.

Next week: Hyundai Sonata 2024

Jeep Grand Wagoneer 2023

Vehicle type: Front-engine, rear-wheel drive, four-wheel drive, six- or seven-seater SUV

Engine: 3.0-litre, twin-turbocharged, inline 6-cylinder

Gearbox: eight-speed automatic

Price: $93,945 (base), including $2,000 delivery fee ($121,350 as tested)

Power: 510 horsepower, 500 lb-ft of torque

Performance: 0-60 mph, 4.7 seconds (Car and Driver); payload: 9,450 lbs

Weight: 6,704 pounds (tested)

Fuel Economy: Estimated 14 city/19 highway/16 combined (14.7 mpg observed while towing)

Report Card

Pros: Luxurious ride, luxurious interior, impressive towing range

Cons: It may not fit in your garage, not many can afford it

Overall: 4 stars

Henry Payne is the car critic for The Detroit News. Find him at [email protected] or @HenryEPayne.

By meerna

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