CAUGHT: 2021 Jeep Wagoneer Mule Tow Testing In Death Valley:

Jeep's New Full-Size SUV, Coming Along...

There is no doubt that one of the most highly-anticipated vehicles in the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) portfolio is the upcoming 2021 Jeep Wagoneer (WS). The new full-size Ram-based SUV will be entering a segment that the company has been out of since 1993 in the United States and Canada. While we have seen Wagoneer mules testing at the company’s headquarters and most recently on the west coast near Los Angeles, California, our spy photographers have caught the new Wagoneer mules doing some hot weather tow test in Death Valley this week.

2021 Jeep Wagoneer Mule. (Spiedbilde).

While a lot of people may think that these Ram looking prototypes are a regular cab version of the new 5th generation Ram pickup or simply “that’s a Ram”, our sources have stated that these are in fact chassis dynamics mules which are used for engineering test on a new platform. The Ram 1500’s chassis has been cut down to the same length as the upcoming 2021 Jeep Wagoneer, while the cab and bed look to have been welded together and reinforcements have been added with the roll bar to ensure rigidity throughout the chassis. 

2021 Jeep Wagoneer Mule. (Spiedbilde).

According to our sources, the new Jeep Wagoneer will feature an independent rear suspension (IRS), which will set it apart from the current Ram 1500. In the photo above, you will notice the angle of the wheel as it is traveling over the harsh gravel road surface, showing the proof that IRS is present.

2021 Jeep Wagoneer Mule. (Spiedbilde).

While this particular Wagoneer mule is towing a trailer of weights, which we expect the Wagoneer to have best-in-class towing numbers and payload capacity in the full-size segment. The 2020 Chevrolet Tahoe features a towing capacity of 8,100-pounds on its 6.2-liter V8 Premier 4×2 models, while the 2020 Ford Expedition and it’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 has the current best-in-class towing capacity of 9,300-pounds when equipped with its Heavy-Duty Trailer Tow Package. Currently, the 2020 Ram 1500 features 12,750-pounds of towing capability with the 5.7-liter HEMI V8 with eTorque, so we expect the 2021 Jeep Wagoneer to be pushing the 10,000-pound mark when equipped properly.

2021 Jeep Wagoneer (WS) Mule. (KGP Photography).

Our sources are also indicating that the new vehicle will also feature an optional four-corner air suspension system for optimal ride and aerodynamic performance. This is will be the same system used on the Ram 1500 and will feature load-leveling capability, which automatically detects the load on the suspension from a trailer or payload and then pressure increases until the vehicle reaches its normal ride height. This levels out the vehicle and improves the ride. The air suspension will also be beneficial off-road where it will be able to raise the ground clearance of the vehicle while tackling obstacles. The current Trail Rated Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk also uses air suspension for improved off-road capability. 

2021 Jeep Wagoneer (WS) Mule. (KGP Photography).

The Wagoneer should offer many of the powertrain options from the Ram 1500. A standard 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 with eTorque, 5.7-liter HEMI V8, and 5.7-liter HEMI V8 with eTorque are planned for the lineup. But we still haven’t heard any concrete evidence that the upcoming small turbocharged inline-six-cylinder (GME-T6) or the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 will be offered in the lineup. What we do know is, that all of the transmission choices will be ZF-sourced 8-speed automatics.

5.7-liter HEMI V8 with eTorque. (Ram).

So what will the Wagoneer look like when it comes to production? Our sources have indicated that the Wagoneer will feature a much more modern design with hints of Wagoneers from the past. We expect the profile to be more upright than sleek. The grille will be more upright than Jeeps of the recent decade, while the tail light design should be similar to what we have seen on the Chinese-spec 2019 Jeep Grand Commander that wraps around the vehicle and into the rear hatch. Our resident in-house artist, DarkSky Designs images came up with this idea earlier this year.

2021 Jeep Wagoneer Design. (DarkSky Designs).

The return of the Wagoneer has been in the works for a long time. Former FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne, first mention that the nameplate would be revived for the 2013 model year, back at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan in 2011. Since then the Wagoneer has been pushed back several times, but will now make its official debut in 2021. The 2021 Jeep Wagoneer is expected to be manufactured at the Warren Truck Assembly Plant, alongside the current Ram 1500 Classic. We should find out more details, once the current UAW and FCA contract negotiations are completed.


Mike Volkmann

Michael Volkmann, a mechanical engineer in the steel industry, autocrossed and road-raced Neons. Michael has drag raced his 1971 Duster 340, 2015 Dodge Charger SRT392, 2009 Challenger R/T, and Neons, of which he’s owned seven — one SRT4, three ACRs, and three Sport Coupes.

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