A Victory & Reseda review of the 2022 Grand Wagoneer
Let me start it off with this: The vehicle you are reading about right now evoked two historical tracts for me.
First, I’ll take you back to 1963. Jeep created the Wagoneer from their new pickup truck frame. It was designed to take families wherever they to go – preferably, anywhere. The engineers and designers at Kaiser-Jeep did not envision their big off-road wagon to be a luxury vehicle of any sort.
Fast forward to 1970 when American Motors bought the Jeep brand and their Toledo, Ohio facilities from Kaiser Industries. The smallest of Detroit’s four manufacturers had an idea: Why not expand the Wagoneer lineup? By the mid-1970s, they created a two-door version called the Cherokee. However, it would be in the 1980s that AMC (with Renault’s money) would add plush carpeting, a mix of leather and posh velour/corduroy cloth, along with the requisite fake woodgrain applique on the body to the Wagoneer. First introduced as the Wagoneer Limited, it became the Grand Wagoneer by 1984.
This development introduced the luxury SUV to North American consumers.
Some 38 years later, Stellantis finally presented another of Sergio Marchionne’s dream projects to the world – the 2022 Wagoneer. Rather, it’s rebirth to the premium/luxury SUV set.
This lineup of large luxury SUVs were made to compete in a space where style and substance rules above all else. To accomplish this, the executives at Stellantis felt compelled to market these large luxury SUVs under its own sub-brand. These are not just some mere Jeeps, though they certainly look like one…almost.
Henceforth, Stellantis wants you to call them the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer.
This brought up that second historical tract where I dive into the abyss of the Mopar brand of Stellantis’ history.
Chrysler also sold a luxury car that competed against the Cadillac, Lincoln, and Packard. The Imperial was a way for Chrysler’s loyal customers to never set foot in any of those other luxury car showrooms. The Imperial remained at the top of the Chrysler brand until 1954, when the executives at Highland Park felt compelled to spin these flagships off onto its own brand.
Until 1975, you never called an Imperial a Chrysler. That would be an affront to the heavier, more robust, over-engineered, and substantial flagship cars of the Chrysler Corporation.
The original announcement that the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer would be its ow sub-brand made me think: “Is this the 21st Century version of an Imperial?”
This large SUV fit in its role nicely. It is substantial, loaded with technology, very robust, and heavier than most products sold alongside of it.
The tester I have is an example of what a 21st Century Imperial would look like. The Grand Wagoneer sits on top of the range with its larger 6.4-liter V8 and high level of luxury. It also the merging of two legacies – including the once desirable Grand Wagoneer from the 1980s.
There are a few twists to this tester. I don’t think anyone in the last century would ever think to create the Obsidian package for the Grand Wagoneer. It sports a darkened finish affair with darker chrome for all of the bright trim. Sure, it looks cool and fits within our time, but you can still get your Grand Wagoneer with bright chrome all around.
There is no question how substantial the Grand Wagoneer is. Its presence is a mix of its boxy styling and the details it exudes from its Jeep heritage. The seven-slot grille is one tie to its heritage.
Yet, the Grand Wagoneer wants to write its own legacy with plenty of details all around. Wherever you expect the Jeep name, there is Wagoneer or Grand Wagoneer written instead. There are a few places where the Jeep name shows up, but you tend to ignore them. On each side of the front doors is an American flag badge. The passenger side shows it flying backwards – just like a military uniform or a boat in motion.
It is the details that make up for the fact that it has a slab look. It is the same subtle details that make it pop out a bit more than its competitors. The Obsidian package gives it a – I hate using the term “murdered out” – sinister feel that is very contemporary and adds another layer of cool to this tester. That also includes the 22-inch black-finished alloy wheels, along with the dark chromed grille and badging.
Step inside the Series II cabin and you get a sense of how technology and elegance can coexist. This is far from a Rolls-Royce Cullinan, Bentley Bentayga, or Mercedes-Maybach GLS. However, the Grand Wagoneer exudes a businesslike demeanor that customers want in their large luxury SUVs.
With that said, the instrument panel is an all-digital affair that is highly customizable for the type of readouts and information you want. There is a night vision screen available, in case you can’t determine what’s out there. The head-up display is large and extremely helpful to keep you on the road. There is great access to loads of controls and switches from below the beltline to the left, onto the steering wheel, on the center stack and console. They work logically and are good to the touch.
On the center stack, there are two screens. One on the console for seat and climate functions. The other is the large 12.0-inch Uconnect 5 infotainment touchscreen. That is fed through the available 23-speaker McIntosh Reference audio system. Second row passengers also get an available pair of 10.1-inch screens for the rear seat entertainment system. It is worth noting that those screens are enabled for Amazon Fire TV.
The front seats are big and comfortable. They are swathed with leather in both the front and second rows. The second row captain’s chairs are split by a center console and its own color screen for some climate and seat functions. To access the third row, press a button on top of the second-row seatbacks. It just tilts and slide for quick access.
To test the passenger capacity of the Grand Wagoneer, I was able to shuttle five other folks – yes, I know them – to a Minnesota Vikings game at US Bank Stadium. They reported being comfortable – even in the third row. They also loved the comfort and luxury of this Grand Wagoneer.
Cargo space is beyond generous. Behind the third row you start with 27.4 cubic feet of space. You can flip the switches on the side to lower the third-row seats down for an expanded 70.9 cubic feet. You can also lower the second-row seats from the same set of buttons for a maximum cargo hold of 94.2 cubic feet.
Powering the Grand Wagoneer is the 471-horsepower 6.4-liter V8. It’s a big engine offering big power. Acceleration is smooth, assisted by its eight-speed automatic transmission. This driveline is augmented by a two-speed on demand transfer case controlled by the Select-Terrain system for four-wheel drive performance.
Although the V8 has cylinder deactivation, I just wished it translated into a livable level of fuel consumption. With that said, I averaged 14.1 MPG. It also has a maximum tow rating of 9,850 pounds.
While some will remind you that this is a 6,400-pound luxury SUV built on a Ram truck platform, the Grand Wagoneer reassures you that this is a large luxury SUV. The ride quality is smooth, thanks to its Quadra-Lift air suspension. This system does its best absorbing rough roads and unplowed streets. Handling-wise, it is quite confident. The big SUV maneuvers quite well, even though there are reminders of its overall size when doing so.
The steering system certainly surprised me. With nominal play at the wheel, it does a good job keeping within the lane. Although, I wished for more a tighter steering radius on some occasions – U-turns, for example.
As for the brakes, they’re quite good. The anti-lock system helps keep the Grand Wagoneer in check on later winter stops. Otherwise, pedal feel is great and stops in normal, panic, and winter situations returned superb results.
For everything you see in this article, the sticker price will definitely shock you. How does $109,025 sound? That has been the big point made about the Grand Wagoneer is whether the price fits the vehicle. The Grand Wagoneer lineup starts at $88,440. If you’re still balking at these prices, you can get a Wagoneer from $69,440 with the smaller 5.7-liter HEMI V8 with the eTorque assist system.
Here’s another thing to consider when dealing with sticker shock: Have you priced out a comparable Cadillac Escalade or Lincoln Navigator lately? Especially one with darkened exterior elements and a high level of technology equal to this tester? Yeah…my point exactly.
Although, there have some who have messaged – and debated – me regarding the Grand Wagoneer. Some was hoping it would come with a woodgrain applique. Some did not like the boxier styling. Some wished it would be called a Jeep. In all, you were not on board with Stellantis’ entry into the larger luxury SUV segment.
Certain vehicles can polarize the masses. The Grand Wagoneer is not for the masses. It for those of us who want an SUV of its size and stature that can justify buying one.
Therefore, it is not the Grand Wagoneer that started the luxury SUV segment in the 1980s. Nor should you see it as a 21st Century Imperial. This Grand Wagoneer sets aside all of this in establishing a new legacy for itself.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Stellantis North America
All photos by Randy Stern