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Big, posh SUVs are long-lived, with the successful nameplates of the species largely having killed off the pretenders ages ago. So when a new competitor crops up to face established names like — well let’s face it, this is basically the Cadillac Escalade class — we’re all pretty interested. And when the competitor revives a name from the history books like the Jeep Grand Wagoneer, interest and scrutiny get even more intense. As does scoring scrutiny for our star ratings.
If you watched Clint Simone’s excellent video review above (and you should) and are now ready to read my prose below (great idea), you’re going to notice a few differences of opinion. That’s ok. Here’s a dirty secret, dear reader, we argue about cars all the time. Hell, we love it.
So, for this review, I’m going to call special attention to the areas where I had a different take than both our First Drive of the Grand Wagoneer and the recent video review. In the end, we all agree on more than we don’t, but it’s a useful exercise to think through where our scores diverge. Especially with a vehicle so new, and important to many enthusiasts and SUV shoppers.
A vehicle’s verdict is relative only to its own segment and not the new-vehicle market as a whole. For more on how Motor1.com rates cars, click here.
Gallery: 2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer Series III
- Exterior Color: Diamond Black Crystal
- Interior Color: Tupelo/Black Leather
- Wheel Size: 22 Inches
That the Grand Wagoneer is suitably grand inside, and less fab outside, is something the whole Motor1.com review staff can agree on.
Let me start with the positive: This cabin is exceptionally well done. Large expanses of wood trim are historically not an area of strength in American vehicles, but Jeep has pulled it off with these elegantly formed, matte finished pieces. Combined with the unexpected flash of copper sprinkled about – on seat stitching, metalwork on the vents – and the golden “Tupelo” quilted leather, the vibe is something of a smoking lounge from a 1977 issue of Architectural Digest.
Unfortunately the big, blocky exterior of the Grand Wagoneer is a lot less subtle and far less pretty. The Jeep is less slab sided than it is flab sided, with the bodyside of the vehicle ballooning away from the glasshouse in a sort of squared-off paunch. The strange shapes of the windows are highlighted in oddly tacky chrome, and the whole package seems utterly reliant on gigantic wheels to give it any cool factor.
- Seating Capacity: 7
- Seating Configuration: 2 / 2 / 3
- Cargo Capacity: 94.2 Cubic Feet
Overall ride comfort is where I diverged the most from our original scoring of the Grand Wagoneer. My fellow editors found the ride quality to be borderline unacceptable for this class of premium SUV. After putting over 2,000 miles on my test vehicle – driving over a huge diversity of terrain on a trip from Ann Arbor, Michigan, to a rural part of Maine in the White Mountains – I can’t agree.
In our First Drive of the Jeep, Brandon Turkus had this to say about the ride:
“Bigger bumps reverberate through the body while low-amplitude hits still send an unpleasant shudder directly to your backside. It’d be a catastrophe on rough roads were the steering not so well isolated.”
That simply wasn’t my experience at all. The roads don’t get much rougher in and around rural Maine, where there isn’t a flat piece of land on which to pave a strip of asphalt, and where weather conditions are perfect for developing frost heaves. Still, even riding on big, 22-inch wheels, I found the air suspension soaked up the worst of any uneven surfaces I encountered. So what gives?
The Grand Wagoneer doesn’t “waft,” it’s true. I suspect that this particular difference of opinion comes down to expectation. I anticipated the ride quality of the big SUV to be good enough that it simply wasn’t distracting, especially as the miles added up. My fellow editors were hoping to be spoiled with the kind of magic carpet ride that often comes with six-figure price tags and is seemingly standard equipment on the Escalade. Certainly driving across the country with a 2-year-old and an infant, one’s tolerance for small annoyances increases almost immediately.
One more note on the driving with kids front: While the Jeep’s cabin is spacious, don’t expect to use it as a minivan. The large and protruding touchscreen for rear-seat climate controls was a huge pain in the ass when combined with a couple of car seats. Despite there being loads of leg and head room in the second row (and the third), doing any kind of “east-west” maneuvering is almost impossible because of the jutting screen.
My wife was ready to crack the damn thing off as we entered hour 30 of driving, but your results, especially with older kids or no kids at all, will certainly vary.
Oh, in the meantime, I found the massaging front seats to be the best I’ve ever encountered in a car, period. It’s fair to say that I might have missed a few competitors over the last couple of years, but I’m more than happy to put in the research to validate my claim.
- Center Display: 12.0-Inch Touchscreen
- Front Passenger Display: 10.3-Inch Touchscreen
- Wireless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto: Yes
If you absolutely, positively, simply must have all of the screen real estate, look no further. A swath of highly resolved pixels runs across the front of the cabin like manifest destiny for the digital revolution. In the back, beautiful, twinned 12.0-inch touchscreen displays (a $1,995 option) stand at the ready to entertain second-row occupants for hours.
Leave your wires at home, Jeep tells me. The charging pad would keep my iPhone topped up while it wirelessly connected via CarPlay (or Android Auto if you’re a contrarian) to the head unit. And I was excited to hear that whoever was sitting shotgun would be able to keep the toddler occupied by mirroring our tablet to the rear screen. Technological perfection, right?
Not exactly. While I’m still very comfortable giving the Grand Wagoneer a 9 out of 10 for the potential of all this tech, in the torture chamber of traveling with kids it didn’t always hold up. Or, at least, the system proved to be very dependent on your own home ecosystem of devices and media.
Here’s a big one: Screen mirroring in the Jeep doesn’t support Apple products. That’s a bigger issue for folks with small children, who aren’t able to navigate the rear seat entertainment options all on their own. Turning on Finding Nemo on the iPad would’ve kept toddler Jack happy for hours (the kid could watch that movie 20 times in a row), while keeping Dad or Mom in control of the display.
No worries. Media can also be fed into the various screens by way of an old fashioned HDMI cable. Except, it didn’t work (or didn’t work easily).
Knowing that much of our drive route would be through mountainous areas with spotty wifi coverage (so no streaming), I grabbed an HDMI to Lightning adapter so we could play downloaded movies for the kid. I tested this out on my iPhone 13 with the Disney+ app, and it worked great. However, when we attempted to use the same setup with the cord going to our iPad, all we got was a black screen. Weird.
Now, if you’re not an Apple family. Or able to regularly use the very handy baked-in streaming apps in the Uconnect 5 system, you’ll be just fine. But bear in mind there’s a ton of complexity in this Jeep’s digital offering, and be sure you know how to use your critical devices before you drive off the lot.
- Engine: 6.4-liter V8
- Output: 471 Horsepower / 455 Pound-Feet
- Transmission: 10-Speed Automatic
Finally, a place where everyone agrees. It’s hardly surprising, but the well-known 6.4-liter Hemi V8 has found another happy home in the Grand Wagoneer. This is a big, heavy vehicle, so output figures of 471 horsepower and 455 pound-feet of torque are actually pretty necessary for getting the giant Jeep out of its own way. But you get a rorty exhaust note when you floor it – not a SRT snarl but not completely silenced by the muffler, either – for your trouble.
The 10-speed transmission was almost invisible while driving around the flatlands of the midwest. Kickdown felt adequately quick when I stepped on the accelerator, and there were few, if any, unexpected shifts to be had.
In the mountains of New England, the trans wasn’t quite so out of the way. With ten ratios it’s almost impossible not to do a bit of hunting when driving over hill and dale. But with the nature of the terrain considered, the shifting around felt minimal and unobtrusive.
For the same reasons outlined above when talking about ride quality, I feel the Grand Wagoneer’s handling is just a hair closer to “average” than the “below average” rating box ticked by the rest of the team. Sure, the Jeep handles in a way that doesn’t belie its three-ton weight (6,400 pounds if we’re getting specific), but nothing in this class is likely to incite dreams of canyon carving. The GW felt no worse than numbly capable, even when snaking through some really great winding roads.
One quick nota bene on the tow rating here, too. Currently our star rating system isn’t flexible enough to incorporate towing prowess in the final score, or here in the Performance section where it belongs for trucks and big SUVs (we’re working on it). With that said, the Grand Wagoneer’s maximum towing capacity of 9,850 pounds (when properly equipped) outguns the Escalade’s max of 8,200 significantly.
- Driver Assistance Level: SAE Level 2
- NHTSA Rating: Not Rated
- IIHS Rating: Not Rated
We’re likely to get the results of NHTSA and IIHS testing sooner rather than later for the Grand Wagoneer, and expect that the combination of active and passive safety systems will stand it in good stead.
Jeep enumerates a remarkable 120 standard and available advanced safety features for the Grand Wagoneer, which is a nice big number to reassure family types (like me) that they’re making a smart buy. And not for nothing, but on a super long road trip, active assists like adaptive cruise and a well-realized hands-free system do good work in spelling driver fatigue. Same deal for the HUD, full marks.
I found the drowsy driver assist and the night vision system slightly less useful over the course of my week-plus-long loan. The drowsy driver bit certainly works, lighting up the cabin with a chime if your wheel crosses a lane line somewhere. But with a big vehicle on narrow roads there were dozens of times when I found myself yelling at the dash “I did that on purpose!” As for the night vision, I’ve just never understood how I’m supposed to use this feature when it’s only visible in the instrument cluster… Surely it’s safer to not look away from the road in the pitch black?
- City: 13 MPG
- Highway: 18 MPG
- Combined: 15 MPG
The good news/bad news here is pretty straightforward. Bad news: with a rating of 13 miles per gallon in the city and 18 on the highway, the Grand Wagoneer is just as thirsty as you’d expect and less efficient than trucks from Cadillac and Lincoln. Good news: Even when averaging speeds well above the posted limits on turnpikes and interstates throughout Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York, I was observing just a tick under 17 mpg on the highway.
Honestly, I think that if one is a bit careful on the throttle and pins that excellent adaptive cruise to 65 or 70 mph on a highway, it wouldn’t be tough to beat the EPA rating. In fact, even taking into consideration the much slower, more winding highways through Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, I think my trip average of 16.6 mpg is really respectable.
More bad news: At the end of the trip I’d spent about $430 on the required premium fuel in the Jeep. That is considerably less than the cost of three plane tickets, but only if you conveniently ignore the huge amount of time driving takes, and the cost of hotels you’re forced to get because the damn kids won’t sleep in the car.
- Base Price: $88,440 + $2,000 Destination Charge
- Trim Base Price: $106,845
- As-Tested Price: $109,435
Here we go. Yes, the very idea of a six-figure Jeep kind of blows people out of the water. But this is an expensive vehicle segment (and getting more expensive all the time), and it’s important that we’re comparing fully loaded apples to fully loaded apples.
Taking a look at all-in prices for the top trims of all the three-row, 4×4, luxury SUVs on sale, and you’ll see the Grand Wagoneer Series III is expensive, but not “out of their damn minds” expensive. The only bargain in this bunch is the seductively named Infiniti QX80 Sensory 4WD at $86,730 including destination. If you require anything newer than that, frankly ancient technology, you’re basically shoving up to a hundred large.
Ok, ok, the Lincoln Navigator Black Label just sneaks under at $99,595 if you can figure a way to get your dealer to pay the sales tax. From there you jump about $7,000 to the Series III Grand Wagoneer at $106,845 with destination, or another two Gs for the $108,740 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Premium Luxury Platinum. You might also consider a highly specified Mercedes-Benz GLS 450, which sits around $103,000 when you add up enough options to make it comparable to the Jeep and the Cadillac.
For overall style, refinement, and advanced driver assistance tech, the SuperCruise-enhanced Caddy is probably the way to go if you’re willing to spend at the top end of the segment. On the other hand, the Jeep (and the Benz since the options are more readily available on an individual basis) might make the most sense in the lower/middle trims with ten grand more in your pocket.
Grand Wagoneer Competitor Reviews:
- BMW X7: Not Rated
- Cadillac Escalade: 8.8 / 10
- Lincoln Navigator Black Label: 8.5 / 10
- Mercedes-Benz GLS 450: Not Rated
- Infiniti QX80: Not Rated
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