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2022 Grand Wagoneer Review: What I Learned in 2,600 Miles

The Drive logo The Drive 1/22/2022 By Kristin V. Shaw, The Drive

In a splashy return to the market, Jeep launched its 2022 Grand Wagoneer in March of last year. There was (and is) some confusion about what to call it; you'll read about it as "Jeep Grand Wagoneer" more often than not, even though the brand has given the Wagoneer lineup its own pedestal. The first time I saw it in pre-production form was with a group of Texas-based journalists who couldn't stop gaping at it. This SUV makes a big statement. It looked like a brand-new leather-clad cigar lounge wrapped in fresh paint, and I started dreaming about taking it on a long road trip.

I spent two weeks in and put 2,600 miles on the massive Grand Wagoneer. I can tell you from experience that Stellantis was smart to harness the nostalgia factor of the GW. At nearly every stop to fill up the 26.5-gallon gas tank between Austin, Texas, and Fort Myers, Florida, someone wanted to ogle it, talk to us about it, and ask questions about it. The buzz is real--its looks are familiar yet new, and the Wagoneer name is splashed all over it like a sea of entwined Gs on a Gucci bag. There is a family resemblance to the new Grand Cherokee, but the Grand Wagoneer's front end is bulkier and gets in your face more. It's also several inches wider and longer than the Grand Cherokee.

This is not an inexpensive SUV. But don't let that be the only thing you learn about the Grand Wagoneer, because there's a lot more to it than a six-figure price tag and a reborn nameplate. Is it worth it? Let's delve into that question.

© Kristin Shaw

2022 Grand Wagoneer Series III 4×4 Specs

  • Base price (as tested): $104,845 ($110,430)
  • Powertrain: 6.4-liter 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: The Grand Wagoneer was bestowed with a big name for a reason: it's the next best thing to an RV for family trips in terms of comfort and road manners.
  • Score: 8/10

Born-Again Family SUV

The "Wagoneer" name plays on a reputation of blending off-road capabilities with luxury that spans decades. Stellantis resurrected the nameplate last year and it's clear the truck does its best to glow up from its 1993 predecessor. The makeover isn't just on the surface; Jeep added muscle and bulk, and the 2022 SUV can tow almost twice as much as the 1993 version. Your mom's Wagoneer, this is not. The automaker wants to make that more clear by separating "Wagoneer" from the Jeep name altogether--to establish it as a luxury arm to show its autonomy as a stand-alone brand, like the Toyota to Lexus leap. 

Today's Grand Wagoneer is bigger in every way, with a standard 6.4-liter V8 making 471 horsepower, a length of 214.7 inches, and it's 83.6 inches wide. That means it's slightly wider than a Chevrolet Suburban but not quite as long, and its wheelbase is two inches longer than the Cadillac Escalade's. If this were a hippo beauty contest and size was a factor, all of these gems would be impressive side by side. And there's a curb weight to the tune of 6,420 pounds. Maybe it's the miles of screens (seven, in total) across the front two rows that add the weight. Or it could be the modified Ram 1500 chassis. The Grand Wagoneer tows up to 9,850 pounds, just in case you're hauling a couple of elephants or moving your kid into their new apartment in college.

© Stellantis

While its less-expensive sibling, the Wagoneer, has a 5.7-liter V8 paired with a 48-volt eTorque hybrid motor, the Grand Wagoneer uses cylinder deactivation and variable camshaft timing to reduce the number of stops to the pump. In case you're counting fuel economy as a factor, the SUVs are comparable: the Wagoneer averages 17 miles per gallon combined and the Grand Wagoneer 15 miles per gallon combined. The Wagoneer is happy with mid-grade fuel and the prima donna Grand Wagoneer requires premium. Honestly, though, I have a strong suspicion that most people paying six figures for a vehicle are not paying attention to gas costs.

And though it no longer wears the name, the Grand Wagoneer still apparently benefits from Jeep's off-road-capable reputation with three 4×4 systems with active low range and rear electronic limited slip differential. Jeep says the GW can ford water up to 24 inches, and front tow hooks are available with the $995 towing package. 

While most people probably won't take this upscale SUV joyriding in the dirt, it's nice to know that you can. It's not quite the mountain goat that is the updated Grand Cherokee, but Jeep did a nice job on the suspension on the Grand Wagoneer and it's confident and comfortable, even on rocky roads. Oh, was that a speed bump? Pshhh. That was merely a pebble. 

Air springs allow the bulky body-on-frame SUV to raise and lower up to 3.6 inches, and the power running boards add a little extra help to climb inside. My five-foot-tall mother is 76, and she clambered into the third row easily with the step-down. I only had to shove her from behind a little (I kid, Ma, I kid). As a sandwich-generation mom myself with a tween and golden-age parents, I appreciate that the second-row seats fold forward with one button. No one had to climb over them unless they really wanted to (and my 12-year-old did, of course).

As for the shape--sure, it's squared off in the back. That, my friends, is how it gives the third-row passengers a roomier ride than many other SUVs claiming to be seven- and eight-passenger chariots. I sat in each row to check them all out, and each has its advantages. The driver's seat is the prime spot because I like to be behind the wheel. Second place goes to the shotgun position because it has massaging/heated/cooled seats and a screen. That optional passenger-side screen was less interesting than I thought it would be, because I had visions of a full-spectrum touchscreen like those in the second row. And instructions were not included in the paper manual or online, so it wasn't intuitive to figure out how to use it to its full potential. The map function, however, is handy; I located a Moe's Southwest Grill for dinner and navigated there while the main map was set to a Shell gas station.

The second and third rows weren't forgotten in all of the hoopla up front. Each second-row passenger gets their own screen (also an option), on which Netflix and a bunch of other streaming services are integrated. It's a simple matter of sharing a screen with the mirroring option, and you and the other second-row passenger can watch a movie together. We chose to watch the football movie Greater, which I'm not recommending. It was terrible. Still, it was fun to sit back and watch a movie on the second-row screens as though I were on an airplane and not in a car. 

Even the third row feels roomy and is nicely spaced. The USB port placement in the back row makes sure everyone is happy, and there are cupholders sprinkled liberally throughout. (Jeep should rethink USB port placement in the front row, however. The only way to access them is in the rolltop console above the cooler, and it was awkwardly positioned.)

© Kristin Shaw

The Exterior? Fine. But the Interior? Whoa

The truth is, if you're going to travel for two days straight with your loved ones crammed into a space that's smaller than your first apartment, you're going to want it to be comfortable. No offense to the sedans of the world, but most of them aren't made for road tripping long distances. Even the body of a Lexus LS, Genesis G90, Mercedes-Benz S580, or a Rolls-Royce Ghost will start closing in on you after a few hours. The massive interior of the Grand Wagoneer felt like a whole dorm room on wheels. 

When I think of comfortable seats, two vehicles come to mind immediately: the Chrysler Pacifica and the Nissan Rogue. The former are upright, chair-like seats and the angle makes it feel like you're driving a recliner on wheels. The latter's patented Zero Gravity seats are balanced at 14 points to take the pressure off your body. The leather-wrapped Grand Wagoneer seats? They adjust 24 different ways, for crying out loud. Between the massaging feature and the drowsy driver alerts, I wasn't going to be sleepy on the road. Just really, really pampered. And I could simply reach into my handy-dandy console cooler where I was keeping an ice-cold iced coffee ready to report for duty as needed.

© Kristin Shaw

Layered on top of the console is Stellantis' updated Uconnect 5 audio system, which is tied to the same 12-inch vertical screen Ram launched in its trucks a few years back. A 19-speaker McIntosh system comes as standard on certain Grand Wagoneer trims, and an upgrade adds four more for a total of 23 audio points. During development, it was none other than Sergio Marchionne himself who wanted McIntosh to provide the audio system for upper-level trims of the Wagoneer and Grand Cherokee models. It's a 1,375-Watt, 24-channel amp and 23-loudspeaker system that sounds stellar with snoozy jazz or banging heavy metal.

As the CEO of McIntosh Jeff Poggi told me last summer, "The number one place people listen to music is in the car. If you're going to spend that much time in a vehicle, you might as well have good audio quality." Amen, brother. I also like the behind-the-steering-wheel placement of the volume and tuning levers that give me the option to surf channels without taking my eyes off the road. In my opinion, it's the smartest set of audio controls out there.

Grand Wagoneer: The Road Trip

So what insight did I glean about the Grand Wagoneer over the course of 2,600 miles? A lot. And when it comes to road trips, I'm no novice.

I grew up on a steady diet of family road trips. Every summer, we drove 12 hours each way from Indiana to visit family in New Jersey, and every Christmas we spent with my grandmother in Florida. We always had one small car that my mom drove to work: a Honda Accord that was the first and only non-General Motors vehicle my parents owned. A 1981 Chevrolet Citation was the other daily driver we had for a long time. The other vehicles were SUVs, wagons, and vans--like a big blue Chevy converted van, an Oldsmobile Bravada, and a Chevy station wagon adorned with wood trim along the flanks. The Grand Wagoneer sadly no longer wears any wood on its exterior, but it made for a pretty excellent road trip partner. 

In her first drive review, Kristen Lee opined that the Grand Wagoneer is better for passengers than drivers. She has a point: If a party bus (awash in ambient light, of course) had a baby with a day spa, this is what you'd get. Riding in the Grand Wagoneer offers a lovely experience as a passenger, because then you can play with the seat massage functions, DJ the music, and navigate using the extra screen right in front of you.

But don't discount the strapping throwback 6.4-liter V8 under the hood, which powers this three-tons-of-fun SUV easily when merging onto the highway or passing. In fact, I was surprised and delighted to discover how powerful it felt. Imagine an elephant on the moon wearing upscale speed skates. There you go. I appreciated that the GW includes pedal adjusters so I could access the accelerator and brake without stretching onto my tippy toes. I'm five-foot-five and found this amenity to be practical for women, as we are typically shorter and more petite.

I didn't get that "oh-dang-this-vehicle-is-too-big-for-me" feeling that I expected. The onboard cameras provide stellar angles, filling in the blanks where blind spots might be and acting as emergency eyes in the sky when I needed them most. In fact, I drove a new Ram 1500 Rebel G/T this week and it was definitely in need of a front camera to see over the huge, rounded hood. Maybe I'm just spoiled, but cars are getting harder and harder to see out of and you need those cameras. 

I took the opportunity to put the Grand Wagoneer through a number of exercises on a variety of roads during my lengthy trip, driving it in hard rain, on rutted Louisiana roads, and dodging iPhone-reading drivers on Interstate 75. I found that I really liked the combination of truck chassis and SUV interior, because the Grand Wagoneer was planted and steady. When not using lane-keep assist, the power steering felt nicely balanced and responded to input easily. Plus, the noise inside the cabin was minimal, meaning I had all of that power and still felt that I didn't have to raise my voice to be heard by my family. 

© Kristin Shaw

Letting the System Decide

The terrain between Central Texas and South Florida is also mostly flat, which gave us the chance to put cruise control to the test. That's where I found a few chinks in the armor. Stellantis says the Grand Wagoneer's Active Driving Assist is "hands-on-wheel and eyes-on-road automated driving using lane-centering with adaptive cruise control." Multiple sensors help the truck determine its placement on the road. Basically, it's a fancy cruise control system with titillating language like "Level 2 autonomous driving" thrown in. (Quick reminder: There are no self-driving or autonomous cars currently for sale.)

That's not to say it doesn't work; on the contrary, it works quite well. Maybe even a little too well for drivers who like to feel in control. The active driving assist technology took over a bit more than I wanted; lane-keeping assist was aggressive, pushing us back away from the lines more forcefully than necessary. When you're running parallel with semis pulling two and three trailers, you need to make sure you have your space and can move quickly without having to arm wrestle the car.

At one point, the GW threw up its figurative hands and locked me out of the cruise control entirely because I somehow pushed the wrong sequence of buttons. And a few times it warned us the curve was too tight and it was relinquishing control back to the driver. 

© Kristin Shaw

Furthermore, the night vision setup with pedestrian and animal detection is cool tech, but the stream of flashing pop-ups can be distracting, which somewhat negates the benefits. Our vehicle also seemed to turn up frequent "night vision sensor blocked" messages, which added to the melee. You don't want to hit a deer or a pedestrian, of course; you also don't want to look away from the road to check out the digital screen for random notifications. It's a tough balance.

But the other aids worked well and as intended. Standard on the Grand Wagoneer (and optional on the Wagoneer) is intersection collision assist. This tech helps detect vehicles approaching from both sides of the driver when nearing a crossroad, and it's stellar. The system uses four radar sensors and one camera to calculate the risk of a collision, and it let me know loud and clear with both audible and visual alerts. If you're not paying attention, the SUV will activate its brakes automatically. 

Also much appreciated was the digital rearview mirror, which removed blind spots and was especially helpful at night to keep the glare from other headlights out of my eyes.

© Kristin Shaw

Worth It? Yes.

The Grand Wagoneer is the head of the brand's luxury line, starting at close to $90,000 (including a hefty $2,000 destination charge). Work your way to the top trim that the test car came in, Series III, and you're looking at $110,430 after options such as the rear-seat entertainment package for $1995. But it's unlikely the price will scare buyers away. The three-row SUV market is hot, and I don't expect sales of the Wagoneers to be an exception. 

For all of the talk about the cost, the Grand Wagoneer is actually on par with the Lincoln Navigator and Cadillac Escalade. Most of the time, you're going to see Grand Wagoneers where you see Suburbans and Tahoes: in the pickup line at school, in the parking lot at football games and tennis matches, and heading to the grocery store. Where it really shines is as a long-distance vehicle. For comfort, it's incredible, and it easily accommodates passengers of all ages with wide seats and thoughtful seating arrangements.

Clearly, it's going to cost you some coin out of pocket for gas. I found it could go at a good clip for at least four hours without having to fill up, so if you're good at holding your water for that long you might only have to stop twice in a 12-hour day of driving. By the end of the trip, the Grand Wagoneer was a little sandy from the beach and a little dirty from the road, but it was still as cushy and comfortable and impressive as I expected it to be. If you're going to drive across several states and log a few thousand miles, this is the way to do it. 

Got a tip? Drop a comment below or send a note to kristin.shaw@thedrive.com.

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