The trip from Detroit to Chicago isn’t long, at least not on the map, but if you’re making the journey in February you’re well advised to be prepared for the worst. So, I was reminded earlier this month when making the round trip to the Windy City for the Chicago Auto Show. The drive in was easy. Not so the trip home, a midwinter storm delivering some hairy moments including 50 miles of on-and-off white-out conditions.
As an auto writer, that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, however, the storm providing an opportunity to truly test out the new 2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer. I’d spent a day in the big behemoth last August out on the East Coast during decidedly different weather conditions. Add it all up and I now can offer a more complete image of what the new Jeep flagship has to offer.
Jeep fans have long waited for the return of the Wagoneer nameplate and, for 2022, Jeep is offering it in two forms: the base Wagoneer and the decidedly more opulent Grand Wagoneer package. (It will expand the line-up even more in the months to come, with stretch versions of both models in the works.)
There’s no question the Stellantis off-road brand needed the Wagoneer. It’s been three decades since the last models to wear that badge were pulled from production. In the meantime, we’ve seen the arrival of a diverse list of full-size premium SUVs from brands like Lincoln, Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus 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.
Was it worth the wait? Without question. And Jeep has clearly done the right thing by offering two different three-row models sharing the same underpinnings. For now, I’ll focus on the Grand Wagoneer — in particular, the fully loaded model I spent a full week with.
On the whole, it was an enjoyable experience and most everything met or exceeded expectations, though there were a few hiccups. My test vehicle had a handful of temporary electrical glitches pop up. The tire pressure warning sensor on one wheel would occasionally drop out, triggering a warning. And as I prepared to head back from Chicago, the navigation system got completely lost, a problem solved by shutting the Jeep off and restarting it. The biggest complaint, though? A mere 14.6 miles per gallon during the week I had it.
There are those who find the whole Wagoneer package a bit over the top. It’s certainly an intimidating design. But, there were plenty of folks who couldn’t wait to talk about it, typically layering on the compliments.
Both 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. And the tailgates and license plate holders have been differentiated.
The two models also feature different hood designs, though the most obvious difference is immediately apparent: the gloss black roof on the Grand Wagoneer. On the whole, Jeep designers did a great job telling you which model was more exclusive.
“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 doesn’t even include the optional head-up display.
The focus on precision and detail is notable. Consider just the way the Grand 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 both the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer models deliver. The seats are not only comfortable but offer near business-class roominess. Even an adult of my 6’2” stature can sit comfortable in the third row. But fold the second or third rows down and you’ll get nearly 95 cubic feet of cargo space. Grand Wagoneer comes standard with eight seats.
Both 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 off on a serious off-road adventure.
While Jeep did add cylinder deactivation — which temporarily idles some of the engine’s cylinders when torque needs are low while cruising — 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. Of the nearly 900 miles I logged during the week, more than 700 of that was on the highway. Now, I admit to having a heavy foot, but an average 14.6 mpg was still painful to the wallet — especially considering the Grand Wagoneer requires at least 91 octane.
There’s potentially good news coming. Jeep has some big announcements to make in the months ahead, brand CEO Jim Morrison confirmed during a recent conversation. While he wouldn’t offer specific details he also didn’t deny reports on TheDetroitBureau.com that a long wheelbase model is coming. And he just smiled when asked about a plug-in hybrid for the Wagoneer family. Smart money suggests a 4xe model could show up as early as the 2023 model year.
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 over to the central navigation display.
Add another screen on the center stack to control functions like climate and seating, as well as two videoscreens 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.
With only a couple notable exceptions, the technology worked perfectly. As noted earlier, the tire pressure monitoring system on one wheel would occasionally drop out, triggering a warning until it reset. More annoying was the way the onboard navigation system glitched as we began the journey back to Detroit. Oddly, the voice guidance worked perfectly, but the screen was another matter. It couldn’t find the road and kept trying to send us off in the wrong direction. I shut the Jeep down for 30 seconds and, once restarted, the system worked flawlessly the rest of the trip.
Jeep also claims to have designed in a total of 120 safety features, from an array of airbags to some of the 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, 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. You clearly feel its 3-ton mass going into a sharp corner, but it holds the road surprisingly well compared to some of its key competitors. And it exhibited far less body roll than most full-size competitors, and tracked right where I pointed it.
That proved especially true as I headed east along Interstate 94. The stretch from Benton Harbor to Niles, Michigan is known for unpredictable winter weather. And it lived down to its reputation on the return trip, a winter storm, compounded by lake-effect snow, delivering a series of white-out conditions and snowfall the plows couldn’t keep up with.
At one point, a trio of cars suddenly appeared out of nowhere, their drivers slamming on the brakes and sliding all over the road. I was forced to maneuver onto the shoulder, the left wheels on frozen grass, the right on icy pavement. It was a tailbone clenching moment, especially with an 18-wheeler coming up on my rear, but with only a slight lurch, the Grand Wagoneer retained its composure, letting me weave my way out of the near disaster.
The big SUV The 6.4-liter V-8 delivers an incredible amount of grunt, though one becomes well aware of the fuel it’s sucking down after gassing up for the first time. 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.
2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer Obsidian 4×4 specifications
After having several opportunities to drive 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 Lincoln, Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz 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.
2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer Obsidian 4×4 — Frequently Asked Questions
The new Grand Wagoneer starts at $86,995 and tops out around $104,000 before options.
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.
The Wagoneer Concept made its debut last fall. The Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer are in showrooms now.