It’s always exciting to drive a new vehicle, and when Jeep unveiled its Grand Wagoneer concept last year, we eagerly awaited the day we could crawl inside and take it for a spin. And then drive up the side of a mountain with it. Then wade the Grand Canyon. After going mudding in the Everglades. Before I chase polar bears across Alaska’s frozen tundra. Jeep was kind enough to leave us a white Grand Wagoneer Series III to play with and chase those fantasies.
The Series III is the ne plus ultra of the Grand Wagoneer range. It sits at the top of the line and comes loaded with almost every conceivable option known to man. That’s where we at GT Spirit like to be.
The first thing we noticed about the Grand Wagoneer was how BIG it was. I mean, it’s HUGE. Pulling up behind a new Suburban at a stop light made the Suburban look modest. But it’s also an attention grabber. Lots of people asked about it and we caught even more checking it out when they didn’t think we were looking. The front chrome grille retains Jeep’s signature 7-bay design language, although it’s a new interpretation that we also saw on this year’s Grand Cherokee and Grand Cherokee L. In my opinion, it looks sharp and complements the brand. The roof is black, which gives it another touch of elegance. Jeep has chosen to further differentiate its new SUV from all other cookie-cutter SUVs by rounding the bottom of the side windows and pushing up the top of them. This is the only questionable design choice in my opinion, but it helps the Grand Wagoneer stand out from the crowd while providing large windows for better visibility.
The inside is both spacious and made of very high quality materials. The first time you climb into the Grand Wagoneer and sit in the comfortable driver’s seat, you will be impressed by the quality of the leather and the colored fittings and stitching throughout the interior. The real and natural wood accents give a warm, rich feel. And you’re looking out at multiple screens of crystal clear tech luxury magic. For its price tag, you can expect the Grand Wagoneer to offer every luxury under the sun. And it does. The latest version of Uconnect, the Chrysl – sorry – Stellaris infotainment system includes a larger touchscreen, a sub-screen and even a passenger screen – over 75” of usable screen space. From these screens, almost everything in the vehicle is accessible and adjustable. The seats are heated, ventilated and (at least in the front) have built-in massagers. With FIVE pre-programmed massage routines. There was so much technology packed into the vehicle that I found myself looking for something to blame them for.
“Ah ha! No heads-up display! No, wait…it just turned off….”
Ah ha! No automatic windshield wipers! No, wait…they ARE automatic, there’s just no automatic setting for it.”
There’s even a “Fam Cam” that the front-seat passenger can use to check on middle and third-row passengers, and it’s aimed in such a way that it can see infants in rear-facing child seats. Someone on the design team thought! Approach the vehicle with the remote in your pocket and the lights come on, the side mirrors cast a welcoming pool of light on the ground under the door (“Wagoneer”) and the rocker panels quietly (obediently?) fold down to reveal that the back is actually a step to help you get into the vehicle. It seems silly to admit it but it makes you feel like someone special and I admit I really started to like it.
But in my opinion, the coolest single feature (besides the massage seats) is the infrared night vision that appears in the gauge cluster and not only highlights heat-emitting sources, but can also identify human pedestrians and will highlight them in an orange (green? ) box. From this cool engineering marvel I learned that tires, exhausts and rear differentials are the hottest parts of cars. And sometimes people through the windows. Cool huh? We’ve seen this before on some Cadillac models but it’s nice to see it here in the Grand Wagoneer as well. Especially during deer season in Michigan.
Wagoneers come with a 5.7L V8 making 392 hp and 404 lb-ft of torque and Grand Wagoneers come with a 6.4L Hemi V8 making 470 hp and 455 lb-ft of torque. Using its 8-speed automatic transmission and Jeep’s incredible Quadra-Trac II 4×4 system, there’s no place you won’t be able to take your Grand Wagoneer. The driver can choose from different specific driving modes designed to handle sand/mud, snow, rock, normal and sport. You might think that Sport mode is the most unusual driving mode for a Jeep (unless you’ve driven the stunning Grand Cherokee Trackhawk), but once you select it, the Grand Wagoneer is launched down the road and uses the big V8 to move the vehicle in 3 tone with more speed than it has a right to. It works. I think I surprised quite a few people by stepping on the gas and running away from the scene – whatever scene I was a part of. The Grand Wagoneer has a maximum towing capacity of nearly 10,000 lbs. Capable? Quite.
Chassis movement and roll is kept in check by the Quadra-Lift air suspension system. It keeps the ride soft and smooth but not floaty. During our week with the Grand Wagoneer, we never felt like the chassis movement was too squishy or too fluid or conversely too firm. It’s comfortable yet controlled, offering a ride with characteristics similar to the magnetoheliological shocks found on many high-end vehicles. Which is to say that riding is perfect.
2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer Series III
The steering is light (but not too light) and the turning radius is surprisingly tight. Pulling the big truck into tight parking spaces is much easier than you can ever imagine. Just turn the steering wheel and the Grand Wagoneer seems to sense what space you’re trying to fit into and do it for you. It’s not at all like a big pickup truck that you have to back up and try again at least three times to fit into that tight spot in the Taco Bell parking lot. It fits first time, every time. At highway speed it tracks straight and true and the steering feels very intuitive.
While I’m not a luxury car guy or an SUV guy unless it has a great engine in it or it’s designed to perform in a track environment, I quickly grew fond of the Grand Wagoneer. Plus, it’s technically flattering and WOW! factor, it is a remarkably comfortable and spacious vehicle. If I had a family, THIS is what I would want them to ride around in. It would be my absolute first choice for taking a road trip across America, family or not. It effortlessly devours miles and miles of freeway travel without tiring or fatiguing you…driving around with the heated seats on, massaging your tired muscles, enjoying the scenery through the large windows and multiple skylights while music blasts through the McIntosh sound system with 23 speakers help focus your mind. After a week of driving, I found that I really wanted to drive it up the side of a mountain, go down the Grand Canyon, go muddy in the Everglades, and then chase polar bears across the Alaskan tundra. And just enjoy the drive between events.
Fuel efficiency was surprisingly good for such a large vehicle with a big V8. I mean, it’s not supernatural but it’s way better than I expected it to be. I only had to fill the 26-gallon tank once a week that I drove it. The Durango SRT Hellcat required two fill-ups.
The only weird thing is…there is literally NO mention of the Jeep brand anywhere on it. There is not a single Jeep badge anywhere on the body. Inside, there’s no Jeep emblem or symbol either. Even the owner’s manual in the glove compartment doesn’t have “Jeep” on the cover. Each badge says “Grand Wagoneer” or “Wagoneer”. No “Jeep” anywhere. We found it odd on a vehicle from a company that usually splashes its logo over every surface it can find. Although … none of us really felt like we were driving a Jeep because the Grand Wagoneer felt more like … a VERY advanced Chrysler product. Or Maserati-class product. Or something much, much larger than a pedestrian Jeep.
According to Jeep, this is because they feel they have the mainstream SUV segments covered by current Jeep products. They see the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer as an elite extension of the Jeep brand, designed to appeal to people who want something MORE luxurious and MORE capable than the Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Part of the luxury elite touch is the Wagoneer Client Services team. It was created to help owners with personalized services – everything from choosing the right Wagoneer, to remote assistance when you lose your fob, to scheduling a vehicle pickup for service so it doesn’t intrude on your schedule. It’s a special personal touch for Wagoneer owners. Dealers must complete certification to sell, maintain or service Wagoneer products and each service will return your Wagoneer to you with a full tank of fuel and a wash – some things you don’t get with a regular Grand Cherokee. And honestly, after spending a week with the Grand Wagoneer, this particular service fits perfectly with our experience. It’s the next logical step to luxury car ownership and if the Grand Wagoneer feels so special to the driver, with all its unique technology and luxury touches, special service will pamper the owner positively and potentially help keep them in the Jeep.
Of course, this doesn’t come cheap. The Wagoneer starts at $69,440 and the Grand Wagoneer starts at $88,440. As tested, our fully loaded Series III Grand Wagoneer came in at $109,000.
We look forward to other Wagoneer products down the road, but for now we’ll focus on getting our own Grand Wagoneer in the garage.