First Drive Review of the 2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer: Jeep's Big Luxury SUV Play
Stellantis has grown tired of watching from the sidelines as Lincoln and Cadillac reap the rewards of selling ultra-plush, high-buck versions of their respective pickup platforms wrapped in a sport-utility shell. As a result, it's resurrected the Jeep Grand Wagoneer name and slapped it on a truck-based SUV of its own, one that aims to match its cross-town rivals in terms of luxury while elevating the Jeep brand to an equally-lofty price point.
Just as Ford has done with the more affordable Bronco, it's also decided to spin off the Wagoneer into its own family of vehicles, leaving the Jeep badge by the wayside and working hard to create the same kind of mystique that surrounds mainstream premium haulers like the Escalade. Along the way, Jeep has also had to abandon its commitment to trail-rated off-road capability, for while the Grand Wagoneer features Ram-tough bones and a choice of four-wheel drive systems, this full-size, three-row monster is much more at home plying boulevards and back country ski roads than it is mud pits or rocky trails.
It's an aggressive strategy that could pay serious dividends for the Stellantis mothership, which currently lacks a true luxury presence. After driving the new 2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer along the rural Quebec roads I grew up on, it's safe to say that the formula for success is there—if customers can be convinced to pony up the cash.
Inside, Outside, On-Side
Jeep has long had the ingredients required to build a high-end sport-utility vehicle: a customer base that's been steadily swallowing price increases on the ultra-popular Wrangler and Grand Cherokee models, a brand with worldwide recognition, and access to a parts bin that includes Ram and Dodge's engines, chassis, and interior designers.
Pile all of those factors on top of each other and what emerges is the new Jeep Grand Wagoneer. Decidedly different than its predecessor (the original full-size Jeep that ran from the early 60s all the way to 1991), the new sport-utility casts heritage aside in favor of embracing the trends defining the current state-of-the-SUV-art.
From a design perspective, that meant trading old school wood paneling and an upright greenhouse for a bulky collection of sheet metal curves that line up with what we've seen recently on the slightly smaller Grand Cherokee L, including a similar grille treatment. In some ways the Grand Wagoneer's exterior styling could be taken as a 'greatest hits' of existing luxury truck cues, but it manages to come together in a pleasing package that attracts surprising amounts of attention to its acres of steel and glass.
That being said, the Jeep's cabin presents a much more intriguing prospect. Richly detailed, it features a perfect mix of soft, intricately-stitched leather and a veritable forest's worth of felled trees providing a soft brightness, all framed by brushed metal. It's hard to think of another similarly-sized SUV that presents a more appealing interior. The Grand Wagoneer's trim level stretches all the way to the 'Series III' model I drove (with an MSRP of $103,995), so while not all versions of the vehicle are so well endowed (with the base Series I starting at $87,590), the top tier certainly makes a lasting impression.
It's also worth mentioning that regardless of how much you spend on the Jeep, you get the same cavernous cargo and passenger capacity. There are just over 94 cubic feet of storage inside the Grand Wagoneer behind the first row, and when it comes time to transport friends and family even those shunted to the rear of the trunk will find surprisingly decent accommodations await them.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the screens. Oh, the screens. The Series III I drove had no less than four LCD displays up front (including the gauge cluster) with another three dedicated to second row riders. These panels fold down from the center console, dangle from the headrests, and even disappear into the darkness of the dashboard where one would normally expect the glove compartment to reside.
Big Hemi Power
For such an enormous vehicle, the Jeep Grand Wagoneer puts on an impressive show out on the road. Major credit goes to its 6.4L V8, which generates 471hp and 455 lb-ft of torque—numbers that are necessary when dealing with the SUV's incredible 6,000 lbs of curb weight. An eight-speed automatic transmission handles the shifting duties, with gear changes doled out smoothly and on-time to best take advantage of the truck's acres of torque.
The Grand Wagoneer prefers cruising to crushing apexes, but it does possess a stately pass-at-will character when dealing with slower traffic. A standard air suspension and Jeep's Quadra-Drive II 4x4 system are also along for the ride, and in combination with its independent rear suspension setup (a welcome addition to its Ram-sourced frame), the SUV remains calm across a wide range of road surfaces. Its ability to ensconce passengers inside a low-event bubble is well in keeping with expectations in this slice of the market, and the Grand Wagoneer's ride is every bit the match of a modern Lincoln or Mercedes-Benz in terms of insulation.
It's worth noting that the Jeep is not trail-rated, but it's also necessary to point out that this is fairly meaningless given the Grand Wagoneer's demographic. While the upcoming Wagoneer (more affordably priced at around $68,000) might be occasionally deputized to tackle a muddy field, its Grand sibling is intended to bring its extra traction to bear on wintry roads or rain-slicked boat ramps rather than head off onto an all-terrain expedition. To wit: roughly 10,000 lbs of trailer capacity, you'll be far more likely to see the Jeep towing down the highway than traversing a rocky stream.
In retrospect, it seems strange that Jeep waited so long to expand its SUV prowess into the modern luxury space. The 2022 Grand Wagoneer is certainly worth the wait for fans of massively-endowed, do-everything daily drivers, as it easily tucks alongside the Navigator, the Escalade, and the Infiniti QX80 in the parade of upscale land whales that sit at the pinnacle of their respective builders' sport-utility pyramids.
Jeep won't have any trouble convincing existing customers to swap Cherokee for Wagoneer to get their upscale Grand fix when the next promotion comes down the line. Separating the Wagoneer stable from standard Jeep fare could also prove to be a winning move, as long as the automaker can offer the kind of dealership experience that six-figure shoppers expect. Jeep's next frontier for the Grand Wagoneer doesn't lie over the next ridge, as it has with past models, but rather in the hearts and minds of Americans looking for school bus-sized comfort in a familiar package.