Will Sabel Courtney
To fight monsters, we created monsters. That was the tagline for the delightfully silly movie Pacific Rimbut that may just as well have been the mission of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (now Stellantis) when it came to creating 2022 Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer.
Ford, General Motors, Toyota, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, BMW – full-size SUVs have grown out of the abyss in ever-increasing numbers and become more powerful for each new event for several years now. Still, the FCA / Stellantis were without a line of direct defense against these family-bearing kaiju. Totally damned, the Dodge Durangos and Jeep Grand Cherokees did not have the power needed to fight these giants. To fight the monster SUVs, Stellantis needed to build a monster SUV.
Enter: Wagoneern. Or rather two of them: the regular Jeep Wagoneer, made to confuse it with comparatively prolechariot three-wheeled sports-utes like the Chevy Tahoe, Ford Expedition and Toyota Sequoia; and the flagship Grand Wagoneer, which takes the same platform and equips it with a luxury car interior, a more powerful engine and enough light to dazzle radar-guided missiles. It’s the latter that we took a tour of New York City and its surroundings for our first drive.
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What is a Jeep Grand Wagoneer?
That being said, it’s the luxury version of Jeep’s full-size SUV. Its skeleton is a body-on-frame chassis that shares quite a bit with Ram’s full-size pickup trucks; however, its body is really recognizable as a Jeep.
Good too, because there is not a single Jeep brand to be found on this cargo animal: not on the steering wheel, not on the dashboard, not on the hood or tailgate, not even on the window decal or the owners’ manual. (You even have to dig deep to find them on Jeep’s website.) The presence of the American flag on each of the front doors means that, if you look at the passenger side, the vehicle’s name would appear to be “United States Grand Wagoneer” – an affiliation Jeep would probably be happy to assume.
Stellantis works hard to make Wagoneer / Grand Wagoneer stand out as something of a subtle sub-brand without becoming full of Genesis; At the moment, however, you can expect some questions, both from buyers who want to buy one (they need to find a Certified Wagoneer Ambassador at their local dealer) and from passers-by who, like the man who shouted at me from his car while I was parked at a rest stop, want to know exactly what this Jeep-who-does-not-say-Jeep is.
What’s new with Grand Wagoneer?
Basically everything. Jeep has not even been close to full-size SUV space since the Commander went off in 2010, but the Grand Cherokee-based unibody ride was far from the robust, truck-like rigs from GM and Ford; in fact, in retrospect, it’s almost easier to think of it as a predecessor to the Grand Cherokee L than an intermediate one between the new Wagoneer / Grand Wagoneer and their name who died in 1991.
When Jeep took on other big athletes, Jeep chose a design that hides this beast’s powerful footprint. Where the full-size GM and Ford seem to lean into their size, even exaggerating it with their style, the jeeps try to tone it down a bit. Which means you do not really realize they are the same size as Tahoes and Expeditions until you see yourself staring face to face with their driver.
There are some details in the design that do not gel for my eyes – how the belt line rises to meet the D-pillar feels like an attempt to trick people into thinking of the Mercedes-Benz GLS and the usual black roof means that the view from behind brings to mind Abe Lincoln’s stovepipe hat – but overall it’s a look that manages to be fresh and rewarding to the eye (the grill, for example, is a wonderfully detailed work) while still being unconsciously familiar.
How’s Grand Wagoneer inside?
Sumptuous does not seem to be too strong a word. Not class-leading either (okay, okay, it’s a two-word hyphen) – at least based on the state-of-the-art Series III model I tested. The leather and wood would make an Escalade blush with its color and quality; it looks more like the kind of thing you would get if you commissioned the people from Audi to create the inside of an American SUV. Blue leather is not often my thing, but the blue agave-inspired cowhide from my tester was unexpectedly tasty.
When it comes to comfort, it’s more or less tied to those like its American rivals – which is about as comfortable as a motor vehicle can be. The seats are adjustable in almost endless ways and flexible and supportive enough to keep you happy longer than the fuel tank (or your bladder) will support. And should you get hurt in any way, the excellent front seat massagers will be happy to loosen potential knots before they form.
Fans of screens will be torn between this and the Escalade; while the Cadillac’s curved 38-inch OLED display is more elegant, the Grand Wagoneer’s sheer onslaught of glass panels simply overwhelms. There are no less than three touch screens for infotainment and climate control mounted at the front, including the display on the passenger side – an idea developed by Ferrari but which has been scaled up here to also allow the shotgun driver to watch videos while traveling. (And don’t forget the climate control touch screen and optional dual-video dual-monitor monitors.)
Of course, no review of the Grand Wagoneer would be complete without at least a mention of its McIntosh stereo – which, in the case of the Series III, means the best 24-channel MX1375 Reference Entertainment System. which delivers 1,375 watts to 23 speakers. Much like the settings on the top shelf found in vehicles such as the Escalade and Acura MDX, it is good enough that it is difficult to estimate how good it is when using sources such as satellite radio; it requires the highest quality sound for maximum effect.
It’s incredibly spacious in there. (I may have quoted Bart Simpson’s “Wow, this is spacious “insight into the famous fictional Canyonero when I first climbed aboard.) Many three-row SUVs push the boundaries of the term by offering third-row seats that eat up virtually all cargo space, provide virtually no usable legroom, or both. Grand Wagoneer? Rather on the contrary.
When I did the old “sit behind me” test – where I set all the seats so that they are comfortable for my rank six-foot-four frame – I was amazed when I discovered that I could fit comfortably in all three rows. Sure, the third row was not exactly first-class accommodation, but I had enough space to wiggle my legs, and thanks to the secondary glass roof panel at the back, I did not feel claustrophobic either. Add the USB-C ports there to keep third-row passengers distracted by their phones, and you can easily fit six people my length in Grand Wagoneer for several hours at a time.
The picture above? It’s the cargo space behind the third row, with my rather large backpack for scale. If I had to guess, you could easily fit with at least half a dozen hand luggage in the back. Fold down the third row, and there is enough cargo space to accommodate an apartment hosting IKEA flat furniture; fold down the second and third rows, and there is enough space for even people my height to stretch out and sleep.
Like the exterior, the inside is not without flaws. The turn signal is the same plastic unit that is found in basically every other Jeep; I would not have thought twice if it were not for the fact that it feels so much cheaper than everything else that the fingers touch inside. And the electrically foldable climate control screen that acts as a protection for the phone’s storage space, annoyingly enough, does not work when the car is on accessory power – which means that if you forget to remove your phone from its intended place before turning off the car (as I did two times), you must turn on Grand Wagoneer again to reset it. Still, on the whole, it’s an exceptional effort – just the kind of thing you would expect if the people who created Ram 1500 Limited’s wonderful courage got a bigger budget to work with.
How is Grand Wagoneer to drive?
Unusually nice. Not because it is an insult; rather, it means that the engineers did a great job of making the experience discreet. It’s a Jeep, and it’s a luxury SUV for family transportation; the driving experience is meant to be lightnot fun.
You can certainly get away and think it was smaller than it is behind the wheel; it never feels awkward or too big. The 6.4-liter V8’s 471 horsepower and 455 lb-ft of torque provide a decent amount of oomph, though they have about 6,400 pounds of SUV to shoot around before you even put a soul on board; it will not win many drag races, but it should be fast enough to rush from 0 to 60 mph in under six seconds. (A little pleasure: the smooth roar that comes from the exhaust pipes when you hammer on it.)
The standard air suspension helps this heavy best to ride smoothly; That said, there will still be a bit more noise and vibration than I expected. My guess: do not blame the shock absorbers and dampers, blame the 22-inch wheels, whose powerful diameter means that the tires have to live with thinner side walls that transfer more of all kinds into the cabin.
How much does Grand Wagoneer cost?
Well, it has Big in the name, so do not be surprised that it is not cheap. Grand Wagoneer is available in four trim levels, known as Series I, Series II, Obsidian and Series III; the “simple” (but still very well-equipped) Series I starts at $ 88,995 by destination, while the top shelf Series III goes for $ 105,995, with the other two ending up in between. My loaded Series III tester – equipped with the powerful traction package, rear seat entertainment system and more expensive wheels – called the register with an Andrew Jackson under $ 110,000.
What are the main alternatives to Grand Wagoneer?
If that sounds like a lot of money to a Jeep … well, you’ll probably start to understand why Stellantis does not put any Jeep brands on this thing. Stacked against the competition, however, it fits in quite well. A four-wheel-drive Cadillac Escalade starts at $ 80,840 and goes up over $ 117,000 with all boxes marked; a 4WD Lincoln Navigator starts at $ 81,315 and shoots up to around $ 105K with all options. If a difference of five thousand is enough to break the bank for you, you probably should not buy cheap SUVs with house prices.
The big question, though, is – are Grand Wagoneer worth buying in front of domestic enemies? Well, the Cadillac and Lincoln are perhaps a little more fun to drive, if you’re the odd variety that prioritizes it, especially in its three-row luxury SUV. On the flip side, Grand Wagoneer really is appearance more luxurious inside, which could give it a leg up with some. But all three offer roughly equal levels of space, comfort and capacity.
Ultimately, the decision between the three largest American luxury SUVs will depend on personal preferences; each one offers a slightly different vision of what a giant fancy sportute should be, while doing everything that people ask for such beasts. It may sound like Jeep failed by not delivering a knockout blow, but that’s hardly the case. Kaiju case not easy; Jeep simply managed to build jaeger it needed to go toe to toe with them.
2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer
Base price / price tested: 88 995 $ / 109 980 $
Driveline: 6.4-liter V8; eight-speed automatic; four-wheel drive
Torque: 455 lb-ft
EPA fuel economy: 13 mpg city, 18 mpg motorway
Seats: Seven to eight
Is the Cadillac Escalade the perfect roadtrip vehicle?
If you need to log long miles, it’s hard to beat Cadillac’s luxury mammoth.
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