2022 Grand Wagoneer First Drive Review: A Lavish Living Room on Wheels
Don’t call it a Jeep because it’s here to take on the Escalade and Navigator. But it’s better to be driven in than to drive.
We're well into the age of bringing back beloved, storied nameplates as modern-day SUVs. The Land Rover Defender, Ford Bronco, and Chevrolet Blazer are but a few examples, and you can count the 2022 Grand Wagoneer among them as well. It's bigger and more luxurious than ever. And, wow, did I mention big? Just don't call it a Jeep; the Grand Wagoneer is basically a brand unto itself now, probably because some focus group said it sounds more luxurious that way.
Following the new Jeep Grand Cherokee L, Jeep and Stellantis' upmarket push with the Grand Wagoneer is even more obvious. The 6,300-pound truck's got a V8. Fancy air suspension. The interior is nice. And it's got enough screens to rival a Best Buy. Is this all enough to take on the Grand Wagoneer's rivals—the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator—and finally put Jeep in the pantheon of True American Luxury? Mostly so, except that means it's a better truck to be driven in than to actually drive.
2022 Grand Wagoneer: By the Numbers
- Base price (as tested): $88,995 ($110,575)
- Powertrain: 6.4-liter naturally aspirated V8 | 8-speed automatic | 4-wheel drive
- Horsepower: 471 @ 6,000 rpm
- Torque: 455 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm
- Curb weight: 6,340 pounds
- Seating capacity: 7 or 8
- Towing capacity: 9,850 pounds (when equipped with towing package)
- Cargo volume: 27.4 cubic feet
- Off-road angles: 25° approach | 24° departure | 22° breakover
- Ground clearance: 10 inches
- EPA fuel economy: 13 mpg city | 18 highway | 15 combined
- Quick take: A hulking behemoth of an SUV you'd rather ride around in than drive yourself.
All in the Details
I'll cut to the chase: There will be no wood exterior paneling. Sorry. There's plenty on the inside, though!
Looking at the 2022 Grand Wagoneer, I frankly don't see many similarities between it and the 1984 Grand Wagoneer. Not that I expected it to. And despite it missing all the "Jeep" badging, the new truck looks like a modern Jeep: it has the instantly familiar seven-slot grille, a boxy greenhouse, extremely upright B-, C- and D-pillars, and makes use of straight lines and right angles wherever its designers could. I don't think it's the most elegant design in the world (the aesthetic balance is too rear-heavy for my liking) and there's a bit too much glitzy trim on the grille and surrounding the windows and lights.
Small visual cues differentiate the very fancy Grand Wagoneer from the slightly less fancy Wagoneer: Grand Wagoneers have a black roof, "Grand Wagoneer" lettering, a slightly angled front grille design, different LED lights, fender flares, and retractable running boards. Wagoneers (meant to compete against the Chevy Tahoe and Ford Expedition feature "Wagoneer" lettering, an upright grille, and LED headlights.
Sitting atop the Jeep totem pole, both the three-row Grand Wagoneer and Wagoneer are built on a dedicated platform found in no other Stellantis vehicles, a Jeep rep confirmed. Both use an eight-speed automatic transmission, though the Wagoneer comes standard with a 5.7-liter, naturally aspirated, 392-horsepower Hemi V8 with a mild-hybrid assist. Besides that last part, it's a pretty old-school powertrain setup when you think about it, but it's proven. You can get rear-wheel drive on its lowest trim and opt for four-wheel drive with its upper two trims.
The Grand Wagoneer comes standard with a 6.4-liter, naturally aspirated, 471-hp V8 and four-wheel-drive as standard across all three trims. There's no mild-hybrid system here but there is cylinder deactivation, however.
The Grand Wagoneer seats seven as standard with second-row captain's chairs but you can also option it with a second-row bench seat to fit eight total. The Quadra-Lift air suspension system also comes as standard on all trims. It includes five different modes that total 3.6 inches of lift.
The inside of the Grand Wagoneer is, in a word, resplendent. The top-trim test car I drove was covered in soft, quilted leather and wood trim (Satin American Walnut, according to the press release). It had 24-way seats! The start/stop button sits in its own leather cradle that rises out of the dash and the rotary gear selector surround features a cool, raised texture.
Then there are the plethora of screens. In addition to the 12.1-inch center infotainment screen, the 10.25 climate and seat control screen (that flips up to reveal USB ports and a wireless charging pad), and the 12.3-inch driver information cluster, you can also option your Grand Wagoneer with a 10.25-inch screen for the front passenger, dual 10.1-inch screens for the two rear passengers (with Fire TV access), and a 10.25 climate display for the rear passengers as well.
Jeep's Moving Castle
In person, the Grand Wagoneer is incoherently large. Pictures do not do it justice. The test car came with 22-inch wheels and they still looked small compared to the rest of the body. Merely moving from the driver's seat to fetch something from the trunk requires stepping down from the running board and walking the entire length of the truck, an act that takes a noticeable amount of time.
The truck embodies that "rolling living room" ethos completely. During the three or so hours I spent behind the wheel, sitting in the driver's seat was my favorite part of the entire experience. It's rare that I can position a car seat where I have zero complaints and am completely at ease, but I was able to pull it off here. The suspension absorbed all the bumps and cracks the West Side Highway threw at it and all that made it up to me were some barely perceptible thumps.
The climate controls were especially easy to use since the most immediate things you'd want to change (fan speed, temperature) are still operated through buttons. Once the cabin reached a comfortable temperature, I settled back in my seat and enjoyed the McIntosh 23-speaker sound system. I was almost annoyed that I was the one doing the driving, as the Grand Wagoneer is definitely something to be driven around in rather than something you drive yourself.
Steering remained light and effortless to use, though in this case, I do wish the engineers worked in a bit more steering feedback because operating the Grand Wagoneer in tighter places takes a bit of getting used to and I wanted to be armed with as much front-end information as possible. Figuring out where the truck ends will test your depth perception to the max; bless those lane-change assists. Thankfully, though, rear visibility isn't bad because the windows are so tall.
There is no getting around how massive the thing is. You'll feel it in the turns, during acceleration, and under braking. It leans under any directional change and the weight will be present in everything you do. The big V8 is tuned on the lazier side; pickup is adequate yet it's happiest while cruising at a constant speed. Sounds cool on startup and idle.
I get it, though. Being behind the wheel of a vehicle this gargantuan can be empowering. Sitting in traffic and being able to see over pretty much everyone and everything is a neat feeling. Taking up as much road as you possibly can with a three-ton shed on wheels is as much a flex as it is your right as an American.
But it's not just for you. It shouldn't be.
In this regard, the Grand Wagoneer takes your other passengers into account. Every single seat—and I sat in all of them—is comfortable and thronelike. Yes, even in the third row. Headroom isn't compromised back there and neither really is legroom. The seats themselves are plush as well; they don't feel like cardboard jumpseats that reek of afterthought.
When I was a kid, we used to fight over the front seat. But those second-row captain's chairs? They're worth a separate fight. Supportive and coming with their own optional entertainment system, those are arguably the best seats in the house.
Casting a Wide Net
Besides the V8, automatic transmission, four-wheel drive, and air suspension mentioned above, base Grand Wagoneers come with a powered sunroof, 20-inch wheels, 24-way adjustable, heated, and ventilated front seats, second-row captain's chairs, 12-volt power outlets, a 115-volt outlet, perforated Nappa leather-trimmed seats and Nappa leather bolsters, a 360-degree surround-view camera, adaptive cruise control with step, active lane management, hill-start assist, and front and rear park assist. Base price comes to $88,995.
Grand Wagoneers come in three official trims: the base Series I, the Series II, and the top-tier Series III, which is how the test car was outfitted. Series III trucks include a head-up display, the McIntosh sound system, a front console cooler (that fits exactly six of those square Fiji water bottles), a two-speed on-demand transfer case, an electronic rear limited-slip differential, and a front-axle differential with disconnect. Then there was the $995 customer preferred package that included the tow package, chrome tow-hooks, and a removable rear tow-hook. The $1,995 rear-seat entertainment package added those second-row screens. Total vehicle price came to $110,575.
That's a lot for a Jeep, probably hence that sans-Jeep "Grand Wagoneer" badging to separate all that fanciness from a bare-bones Wrangler or subprime-special crap like the last-generation Compass. This is a very different animal—and as it's targeting those luxury car buyers (and profit margins)—it works very hard to prove itself.
There was no doubt in my mind I was driving something with flagship status. Jeep says the 1984 Grand Wagoneer represented the dawn of luxury SUVs. You can certainly draw a direct line from that thinking to the 2022 version. There's just one problem: Everyone else is making luxury SUVs, too.
The Grand Wagoneer, Cadillac Escalade, and Lincoln Navigator are all luxurious, powerful, expensive, American, and almost too big to be allowed. But tech-wise, the Cadillac offers the objectively great Super Cruise feature, and the Lincoln Navigator's 3.5-liter, twin-turbocharged, 450-horsepower V6 with the 10-speed automatic are a pair that's tough to beat. At 16 mpg in the city, 21 on the highway, and 18 combined, the Navigator gets slightly better gas mileage than the Grand Wagoneer, too. I do wish there was another engine offered other than only the archaic, naturally aspirated V8.
But overall, the three trucks are pretty similar. And when you get to this level of luxury and price, I suspect buyers don't care about stats as much as they care about features, quality, and how the truck makes them feel. That's highly subjective stuff and it's also why Jeep stuffed the Grand Wagoneer with a ton of luxury features and gave it towing capabilities. It can cast a wider net that way.
The rebirth of the Grand Wagoneer name can't hurt, either. Nostalgia is one hell of a drug, and it's even more potent a marketing tactic.
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