Much has changed in the three decades since the original Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer models were pulled from production. SUVs not only have gone from niche to mainstream, but buyers today expect all the technology and high-line features they’d find in comparable sedans.
Ironically, Jeep has been slow to capitalize on the latter trend, leaving the market for large, luxury SUVs to a diverse list of competitors like Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, Lincoln and Cadillac. It’s not that Jeep officials haven’t been aware of where the market has been heading. It’s been a full 10 years since the late Sergio Marchionne, the former head of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, promised to bring back the Wagoneer name. Jeep even released a teaser image in 2016.
It would take another four years before a near production-ready Grand Wagoneer Concept would make its debut, however. But the production version is finally ready to roll into U.S. showrooms later this month.
There’ll be two distinctly different versions of the three-row SUV going on sale for 2022, the “base” Jeep Wagoneer and the more luxurious Jeep Grand Wagoneer. And they set the stage for what will become a new “sub-brand” promising to bring even more Wagoneer-badged products to market in the coming years.
The full-size SUVs share the same, body-on-frame underpinnings and much of the same exterior design, though Jeep stylists have done a reasonably good job to visually differentiate Wagoneer from Grand Wagoneer, both inside and out. They get different lighting designs, revised grilles and even different hoods. The more expensive model adopts a distinctive gloss black roof and, of course, far more technology inside, including the first-ever touchscreen specifically meant for front seat passengers. Wagoneer, meanwhile, comes with standard seating for eight, the Grand Wagoneer for seven.
The two new SUVs also get different powertrain packages, a 5.7-liter Hemi for the more plebian Wagoneer, a 6.4-liter V-8 for its more lavishly outfitted sibling. Both, however, are eventually expected to be offered with fuel-stingy plug-in hybrid options.
During a visit to New York last week, I had the opportunity to check out both of the new Wagoneer models. But, short of a brief stint off-road, I spent virtually all my time in the new Grand Wagoneer, and that’s what this review will focus on.
The 2022 Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer clearly pick up on some of the original model’s classic design cues, including the upright side pillars and positively massive windows. There’s also the familiar Jeep seven-slot grille. Both models present an imposing presence. I found slower drivers quickly pulled out of my way when I came up on them during the day’s drive.
What is significant to note, however, is the effort Jeep designers took to differentiate the two new models. True, casual observers likely won’t be able to tell the difference until they see the badge, but there are enough unique design elements to give Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer their own identities. These start with different headlight and upper grille finishes — black on the base model, knurled chrome on the Grand — but the bumpers and lower grilles are even more distinctive. Even the tailgates and license plate holders have been differentiated.
The two models also featuring different hood designs, though the most obvious difference is immediately apparent: the gloss black roof on the Grand Wagoneer.
“It’s all in the details,” goes the old mantra, and here’s where the new Jeep models stand out — and also differentiate themselves from one another.
A casual viewer might pick up some design elements from the newly redesigned Jeep Grand Cherokee, but the Wagoneer siblings take things to a new level of refinement. The instrument panel has a wide, horizontal layout, with a wing-like chrome strip supporting it. Depending upon model, the choice of materials varies quite a bit. The Grand Wagoneer is clearly the most refined, with plenty of wood, with chrome and leather accents.
The two-spoke steering wheel is easy to grip and gives you fingertip access to key vehicle controls, including the infotainment system. One surprise was the lack of paddle shifters for the transmission, Jeep opting, instead, for a toggle switch on the steering wheel cluster.
While there are plenty of classic luxury touches, the interior is clearly designed to emphasize the Grand Wagoneer’s high-tech nature. There are a full 45 inches of video screens on the instrument panel, at least if you get the optional touchscreen for the front passenger — an industry first. And that measurement doesn’t even include the optional head-up display.
The focus on precision and detail is notable. Consider just the way the Wagoneer’s knurled Start button stands proud, with a surround combining leather and piano black.
Full-size buyers, of course, are looking for plenty of room, and here the Wagoneer models deliver. The seats are not only comfortable but offer near business-class roominess. Even an adult of my 6-foot 2-inch stature can sit comfortably in the third row. But fold the second and third rows down and you’ll get nearly 95 cubic feet of cargo space. Grand Wagoneer comes standard with eight seats.
Both Wagoneer models deliver solid acceleration and hauling power. The base line powered by a 5.7-liter Hemi. The Grand Wagoneer takes things up a notch with Jeep’s first use of the parent company’s 6.4-liter V-8. It puts out some impressive numbers that, until recently, you might have expected only from an exotic sports car: 471 horsepower and 455 pound-feet of torque.
Of course, you can use all that muscle, especially when you’ve got the Grand Wagoneer fully loaded up, a trailer of up to 10,000 pounds in tow. The big SUV already comes with a welded-I Class 4 hitch, incidentally.
The engine is mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission and delivers power to all four wheels. There are also three different transfer cases available, depending on whether you expect to spend your time on-road or might expect to take the big bruiser out for a serious off-road adventure.
While Jeep did add cylinder deactivation — which temporarily idles some of the engine’s cylinders for cruising, which is when torque needs are low —– the big V-8 is a thirsty engine, the 2022 Grand Wagoneer getting an EPA rating of just 13 mpg in the city cycle, 18 on the highway.
Though Jeep officials wouldn’t comment about future plans, global brand boss Christian Meunier recently announced that all products will be getting some form of plug-in hybrid system in the future. I’d be surprised if it doesn’t become available in the next couple years, especially since officials dodged the question with a smile during the vehicles’ virtual introduction earlier this year. And, much as we’ve seen with the Wrangler 4xe, it likely will boost performance, as well as mileage, while also offering some all-electric driving range.
Safety and Technology
The Grand Wagoneer is a technological masterwork featuring a number of firsts. That includes the first automotive use of Amazon’s streaming Fire TV technology, as well as the first in-car application of a McIntosh sound system. That’s a name that should quickly resonate with true audiophiles and, with up to 23 speakers, it can deliver all the sonic nuances of a violin concerto but, with up to 1,375 watts of power, do justice to a live rock concert. And you can even simulate the look of an original McIntosh analog volume display on the central touchscreen.
Speaking of screens, the 2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer can come with a lot of them, as many as seven, if you wish. That includes not only the 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster and 12.1-inch infotainment touchscreen, but another big, optional display blended into the instrument panel in front of the right-side passenger. And they can use it not only to watch streaming video but search for a destination that can then be sent to the central navigation display.
Add another screen on the center stack to control functions like climate, as well as two video screens for the second row and another for the third row. If all that isn’t enough, the Grand Wagoneer also offers a 10-inch head-up display.
Jeep also claims to have designed in a total of 120 safety features, from an array of airbags to advanced driver assistance systems, such as forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automated emergency braking. It also features an automated parking system that many buyers may find especially useful considering the sheer mass of the Grand Wagoneer.
There’s also satellite radio, along with wireless smartphone charging and, depending upon options, more than a dozen USB A and C plugs.
From a more practical and mechanical standpoint the Grand Wagoneer comes standard with the Quadra Lift four-corner air-suspension system. If features semi-active damping that can smooth out your ride on even the roughest roads, while reducing body roll during aggressive cornering. The system also can rise up while off-roading, while also lowering 1.5 inches to make it easier to enter or exit the SUV.
The Quadra Lift system can be operated independently, though it will adjust, as needed, when a motorist switches between five distinct driving modes. That system controls a number of other vehicle functions, including the all-wheel-drive system, throttle response, steering feel and transmission shifting.
Despite their impressive mass, Jeep engineers set out to make the Wagoneers handle like much smaller vehicles. And, for the most part, they do. No, you won’t confuse the Grand Wagoneer for a sports car, but I was impressed the way it took corners while winding my around back country roads in rural New York State. The big SUV exhibited far less body roll than most full-size competitors, and tracked right where I pointed it.
The 6.4-liter V-8 delivers an incredible amount of grunt, though one has to be aware of the fuel it’s sucking down each time your right foot hits the floor. The Grand Wagoneer’s brakes did a great job of reining the beast in, as I discovered when a car I was following almost missed its turn and did an emergency stop.
Give plenty of credit to the Quadra Lift air suspension, which managed to smooth out the rough pavement of New York City while keeping things balanced on back roads. It proved equally effective when I switched over to a Wagoneer for a short off-road loop. It might have been brief, but it was a challenging route that would have overwhelmed many of the other full-size models on the market.
Overall, the 2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer showed itself ready to handle pretty much anything you could throw at it.
After driving the 2022 Grand Wagoneer, the most immediate question is what took Jeep so long to bring the nameplate back to the market? Once the flagship of the brand, Jeep left a gaping hole in its line-up that, during the last three decades, competitors like Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, Lincoln and Cadillac were only too eager to exploit.
Then again, the two new Wagoneer models are so well executed one might say it was worth the wait. They don’t come cheap. The Wagoneer comes in at $57,995 for its base trim and pushes up towards $80,000 fully loaded and with all-wheel drive. The 2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer starts at $86,995 and tops out around $104,000 before options.
There are some other things to give caution. The Wagoneer siblings are positively massive, and you’ll likely need their auto-park feature if you spend time in the city or more crowded suburbs. Fuel economy is another concern, especially at a time when gas prices are climbing fast.
But, for those who need or want a truly roomy and attractive full-size SUV that offers an array of features, plenty of options, lots of pulling power and surprisingly nimble on-road manners, there’s no question that Jeep’s two new full-size offerings should be on your shopping list.
2021 Jeep Grand Wagoneer — Frequently Asked Questions
How much does the 2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer cost?
The new Grand Wagoneer starts at $86,995 and tops out around $104,000 before options.
When can I buy a 2022 Jeep Wagoneer or Grand Wagoneer?
The Wagoneer Concept made its debut last fall. However, officials revealed the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer will be in showrooms by the end of this month.
Is the Wagoneer replacing the Grand Cherokee?
No. The Grand Cherokee just debuted with a third row, the Grand Cherokee L. Stellantis officials revealed plans to create a new Wagoneer sub-brand, starting with these two new models.