Bringing back a beloved model and nameplate when it’s been gone for the better part of three decades can be a dangerous game. BMW did it with MINI, Land Rover with the Defender, and now Jeep with their original entry into the luxury SUV market (which they claim to have pioneered back in the 1960s). Not only are Jeep toying with a generation’s memories and expectations, but they are then also trying to impress and appeal to a newer, younger population whom they hope will drop the dollars at the dealership.
Do we think Jeep’s toed that fine line enough to appeal to both? Almost. And here’s why.
Gone are the Wood Panels
At least on the outside, anyways. And in our minds, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Not that the old woody Wagoneer was ugly, it would just look …. dated on today’s roads. Without the exterior wood inserts, the 2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer doesn’t have much personality on the road, if we’re honest. The exterior design might be the worst part of the entire car. Especially in silver.
The saving grace for the Wagoneer’s exterior look is the rear. From the back, Jeep gave a nod to the original design with the rear window’s overall shape and position above/between the taillights. When parked beside a 2021 Cadillac Escalade, the Jeep has a gentler, less angular look that makes the Caddy seem immediately dated.
One of the more interesting parts of Wagoneer’s overall design is how many times “Grand Wagoneer” and “Wagoneer” appear written on various spots on the vehicle -- we counted 11 in total, but may have missed one! From above the front grille to the door sills (and the side of the seat just above it) to the gauge cluster screen and the main HMI screen upon start-up; it’s hard to believe the owner of the Wagoneer needs that much of a reminder about what they are about to drive.
That aside, Jeep cleverly brought all that woody goodness to the inside of the Grand Wagoneer with gorgeous oak wood inserts across the dash, in the steering wheel, and even on the doors. The effect is something quite classy and, dare we say, even a little modern. Especially when paired with gorgeous dusty blue, diamond-quilted leather.
Wagneering into the Future
If there’s one thing the Wagoneer has it’s plenty of technology. There’s no denying that the luxury SUV market is one of the segments most heavily loaded with gadgets, mainly due to keeping those rear-seat passengers entertained on long drives, but for the first time in my auto journalist career, I experienced a front passenger entertainment screen, and it was pretty cool.
Mounted on the dash on the passenger side is a screen that can display HDMI-connected entertainment like a FireStick and all its apps (Disney+, NetFlix, etc.) or CarPlay/Android Auto, or even navigation. And the fascinating thing is that when in the driver’s seat, it’s impossible to see said screen. It simply looks like a piano-black finished dash. This is to prevent the driver from being distracted by whatever the passenger is watching/doing.
As amazing as all the technology in the Wagoneer is, I found myself yearning for the ease of the Chrysler Pacifica Pinnacle. Unlike the minivan, there is no DVD player, no onboard games, and no easy way to connect to your FireTV, unless you’ve paid for onboard wifi in which case you can log in to your various streaming apps.
Oddly enough, the Grand Wagoneer does feature Chrysler’s FamCam which is uber useful for parents with younger children o help keep track of their backseat antics, even in the third row.
For the first time in my auto career, I also experienced a McIntosh sound system and I have to say, it has what it takes especially in a vehicle as large as the Wagoneer. Sound is crisp, clear, and full-bodied in all rows. And moving sound from front to back when needed is easily done with the swipe of a finger.
Big Engine Big Gas Bill
Now, as lovely as it is to drive a vehicle with a 6.4L V8 with over 400 horsepower, what’s not pleasant is the trip to the pumps. Of course, if you’re in the market for a vehicle that costs over $120k, there’s a good chance paying $2/litre (and it has to be premium always) won’t be an issue. But for yours truly, it was a rude awakening when filling up ¾ of a tank cost over $150.
In terms of performance, the Wagoneer feels stable albeit large on the road. And while the Cadillac is more comfortable in terms of suspension, the Jeep holds its own and we prefer it over the feel of the Lincoln Navigator. Plus, the available drive modes mean the Wagoneer can handle itself on multiple surfaces and in a myriad of weather situations.
Grand in Every Way
There’s no denying that the 2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer is grand in size, in amenities, and the drive. The large, three-row SUV market entered a revival period just before COVID hit, and it seems that trend has only grown stronger over the years. The Wagoneer offers a solid option in the segment and will give the front-runners a proper fight for first place.