On the Road Review: Jeep Wagoneer Series III

Back in 1963, Jeep changed the family wagon market with the very first Wagoneer – a truck-based family dumper with real off-road capability. For 2022, Jeep hopes to catch the genie in the bottle again with an all-new Wagoneer, plus its more expensive sibling, the Grand Wagoneer.

Aimed directly at GM’s best-selling family of full-size SUVs called the Tahoe, Suburban, Yukon and Escalade, as well as Ford’s Expedition and Navigator duo, the Wagoneer comes in six trim levels starting at $59,995 for a rear-drive Series I, while that culminated at $88 665 for the top Series III Off-Road Premium Edition. The Grand Wagoneer starts at this point and can then be optioned up to $110,000.

The Wagoneer is not only the most expensive Jeep ever sold, but it is easily the largest. Overall length is between the Tahoe and the Suburban, atop a 123-inch wheelbase that outpaces the Tahoe by 2 inches. Weight comes in at just over 3 tons, while both rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive models can tow up to 10,000 pounds of trailer.

Ample power (392 hp) comes from the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 backed by an E-torque 48-volt mild hybrid boost in peak torque, as well as a cylinder deactivation program intended to improve fuel economy. Driven through a smooth eight-speed automatic, EPA ratings are 15/20 mpg, with a realized 18.5 mpg during its mild fall visit.

The Grand Wagoneer uses the company’s 6.4-liter Hemi, with 471 hp.

Our Series III Premium, $85,970, had a host of tech features that buyers crave today, as well as loads of comfort. Our Bright White wagon is configured for eight passengers (middle row buckets are available), and came with power-folding second- and third-row seats, up and down, which create a huge, flat cargo deck when folded back.

With three different 4WD systems available, all full-time, you can also opt for an air suspension, which adds over 3 inches of ground clearance if you feel the need to go off-road with the shiny 22-inch wheels, plus selectable drive modes. The Wagoneer proved safe and composed as it trundled around our local secondary roads, delivering a ride that didn’t upset occupants. Freeway travel was peaceful.

The list of functions spans the class. Up to five screens are available, including for the front passenger, with the new U-Connect 5 system that uses a 4G LTE Wi-Fi system capable of programming Alexa and Amazon TV. There’s both parallel and perpendicular park assist, intersection collision avoidance assist, drowsy driver protection, a 360-degree surround camera with trailer zoom, electric running boards, a 19-speaker McIntosh stereo system, plus not one but two massive sunroofs.

Hits and misses: the heads-up display is a nice touch, but the expansive dashboard is too much plastic that looks like it was borrowed from a Grand Cherokee. The center console is huge and offers plenty of storage, but it dominates the front cabin and is dressed with too many haptic buttons that should provide real tactile feedback so you don’t have to stare at them to use them. The electric tailgate can be easily activated with the remote control, a button inside or your waving leg, but the rear wiper seemed small for the glass surface on which it operates. Maybe two dryers are needed?

The heated and cooled leather seats proved supportive throughout the day, but they lack the massage function offered by the Ford and Lincoln — at lower price points — as well as any thigh adjustments. The funky Hemi counteracts the odd turbo-sixes that Ford uses, but you’ll pay for that sonic reward at the pump, as our careful use of the throttle may not reflect how a family actually uses this big wagon in the suburbs.

The handsome exterior stays true to Jeep’s design tones, while the large wheels match the rest of the segment for boldness. The Wagoneer’s puddle lights, with the logo of course, will please owners, but the overall premium look is a notch or two below the Denali and Escalade.

Even Jeep muddies the waters a bit here, too, with a new three-row Grand Cherokee L that’s 10 inches shorter overall, but only 1 inch shorter in the wheelbase — where the driving dynamics originate. The Grand Cherokee L, with room for seven passengers, the available Hemi V-8 and higher EPA ratings, also starts at a cool $17,000 less.

The Wagoneer is a serious premium SUV offering, with many details that will attract buyers who embrace the brand’s off-road ethos. The Wagoneer offers great comfort and capacity. It will be worth watching to see how many buyers are waiting at Jeep dealerships for this new luxury/premium family of large full-size SUVs.

Tim Plouffe

Tim Plouff has reviewed cars on the pages of The Ellsworth American every week for nearly two decades.

Tim Plouffe

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