Will Sable Courtney
Turn on an NFL game (or whatever form of mainstream network television you still watch) anytime in the latter half of 2021, and odds are good it wouldn’t be long before you caught one of those super-patriotic, quasi -the jingoistic ads for the new Jeep Wagoneer / Grand Wagoneer twins. You know, the ones about how “the best things America does are the things America does out here” and how the flag on the passenger side isn’t facing backwards, it “turns this way because it’s moving forward just like the men and women who carry it their uniforms.”
But, like most SUVs, these all-American mega-Jeeps won’t spend much of their lives climbing purple mountain majesty or traversing the glittering sands of diamond deserts, much less getting into battle with Stars and Stripes refrains. (Though, to be fair, I think Patton probably would have loved to drive across Europe in one of these beasts.) No, most Wagoneers and Grand Wagoneers will spend their lives performing more proletarian but no less important tasks: taking kids to and from school, bringing home loads from Costco and Ikea big enough to qualify for C-17 airlift, taking long vacations to see long-awaited destinations (maybe with a camper trailer in tow).
And, of course, drive to see family on vacation. Which is exactly what I ended up using the Grand Wagoneer for.
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The Grand Wagoneer’s size is its strength (at least when you’re not in a city)
My first run with the Wagoneer / Grand Wagoneer was spent traversing the urban jungle and suburban streets of New York City, where its full-size truck proportions felt like a disadvantage on many occasions. (It was very nice to be able to both look over and scare my way through the traffic.)
For the second round, I drove it through and around greater Detroit — a country largely friendlier to old-fashioned, big, big American iron. On the wider lanes and straighter roads, this Canyonero feels just as at home as I imagine it would driving past Monument Valley.
The flexible suspension makes it easy to drive; I even briefly felt nostalgic for my airlines avoiding road trips to and from Michigan in 2020, wishing for a moment that I had driven the Grand Wagoneer there from New York instead of dealing with hours of mask-wearing and the indignity of being recessed into a seat intended for smaller men. And while the sky remained clear of precipitation while I was there, trust me, knowing that this giant Jeep’s four-wheel drive system and great ground clearance could make sure we made it to my partner’s house no matter what nastiness the Midwest winter threw at us.
It’s the Grand Wagoneer’s interior that really sets it apart
My tester was the penultimate Obsidian trim, which fits somewhat awkwardly between Series II and Series III trim levels. The differences between it and the other models are marked – perhaps unsurprisingly for linguists – largely by black trim, both inside (on the roof panel) and outside (the grille and other otherwise shiny details, such as the badges). The Series III has seemingly nicer upholstery – it’s got quilted Palermo leather, versus just plain ol’ Palermo leather – and regular 22-inch wheels, along with standard night vision and the option to add Level 2 highway technology for driver assistance.
But whether you choose the Series II, Obsidian or Series III, the cabin remains impressive. (“I really like this car,” said my partner’s father—a former executive of a major automaker—from the passenger seat after a drive around town.) Even on second go, the screens still manage to impress, but the fact that essential smartphone accessories (the wireless charging pad, USB port for CarPlay and Android Auto) sit behind the lower touchscreen for climate and seat remains frustrating, especially when you forget to grab them on your way out of the car and have to turn it back on to pull back the screen and grab them. The seats are comfortable like La-Z-Boys, and the massage function works better than in most cars. (Kudos to Jeep for having fun with that, too; I’m not sure a massage mode called “Rock Climb” counts as an Easter egg, but it made me smile regardless).
As in the Ram 1500 Limited that inspired it, the attention is to detail
And the volume of the interior space is still remarkable. We were able to make a pre-Christmas delivery just by using the space behind the third row of seats; with them folded down and the SUV’s four-seat configuration, we could have taken half a grocery store home with us.
It may not be environmentally friendly, but it does the job well
Sure, it’s not perfect. Fuel economy remains a weakness, even for this class; based on my experience with the Grand Wagoneer, owners will rarely, if ever, see gas mileage numbers climb out of the teens, given this rig’s bulk, blockiness, and very old-fashioned 6.4-liter V8, which has remained basically unchanged for a decade. At 15 mpg combined and with a need for premium gas, folks in California will need to drop $100 into the tank every 300 miles.
Still, until the automotive world finally rolls out full-size EV SUVs—and serves up plenty of places to charge them on the go—a beast like this remains one of the best ways to carry four to six people over long distances and unexpected challenges, be it bad weather, bad roads, no roads or whatever new hell 2022 and beyond choose to follow up 2020 and 2021 with.
Starting price: $101,845
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