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Wagoneer vs Durango vs Caravan

by David Zatz on

2017 Jeep Wagoneer

A new Jeep Wagoneer is rumored to be scheduled for 2017 — around the time the next Durango refresh is due.

Meanwhile, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has told us that there will be a single minivan in the next generation, probably assigned to Chrysler, with one brand (probably Dodge) getting a crossover version.

That means that, if Durango continues, there will be two large SUV/crossovers at Dodge — Durango and Caravan — fairly similar in size; and three Grand Cherokee derivatives (Grand Cherokee, Wagoneer, and Durango).

That’s a lot of internal competition, but Fiat has generally not had a problem with model and name proliferation; in some ways they are the opposite of Honda, which tends to cover any particular U.S. segment with a single vehicle. It’s cheaper and perhaps better for quality to have fewer vehicles covering more spots, rather than niche-ing one’s product line to death, and it’s certainly easier for the brands you have to become well known; but sometimes you miss customers who want an ever so slightly different version of a car (which is why we have Challenger, Charger, and 300C, and in the olden times, Concorde, LHS, Intrepid, and 300M).

Many believe that, in 2016-2017, the Durango will disappear, and the Wagoneer will take its place; Wagoneer would be very similar to Durango, except (obviously) with Jeep styling and (less obviously) with the need to conform to Jeep standards, which means at least one Trail Rated model, presumably named Trailhawk. The Grand Cherokee suspension style is likely to be used rather than the on-road-focused Durango version.

That said, we expect that Durango and (let’s call it) the Voyager crossover will be very different — and perhaps Chrysler is capable of doing both. Our speculation now is based on the idea that the minivans are being developed on a unique platform and architecture, but — and this is a key but — it’s also possible that they are being based, perhaps loosely, on the Durango/Grand Cherokee.  In that case, the differences we are assuming would not be valid. That said…

A vehicle designed from the start to be a minivan would not need any towing capacity to speak of; Durango, on the other hand, has best-in-class towing, having been designed to replace a traditional pickup-derived SUV. The Voyager is likely to be larger than Durango inside, is almost certainly going to max out with a V6 engine, and will be front wheel drive. Really, Dodge could keep both the rear-drive, tow-happy, high-load-capacity, V8-capable Durango and the front-drive, comfort-biased, low-cargo-weight, V6-only Caravan, and find enough customers for both.

The decision to keep Durango and Caravan will likely be made by customers. If sales and transaction prices rise, — that is, if they sell more Durangos with fewer incentives and price breaks — I think we will see new Durangos for 2017, despite Wagoneer’s launch, especially if production can be boosted.

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