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Jeep has been out of the full-size sport-utility market ever since 1991 when the original SJ-platform Grand Wagoneer was retired, but it’s clear that they used the time to make this one count. The three-row, seven-or-eight passenger SUV doesn’t boast much in the way of headline-grabbing gimmicks and instead focuses on the fundamentals: vast amounts of space, high quality materials, and a veritable laundry list of luxury features.
Unsurprisingly, that focus on tradition comes with the traditional compromises. It’s positively massive on the road and the big Hemi has a thirst to match, but it also masterfully blends its posh vibe with legitimate off-road capability. It’ll cost you, though: Our loaded Series II, which includes more than $12,000 in options, commands an MSRP of $109,025 with destination. And that price tag doesn't even reflect the top spec available.
But as we learned during our journey from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back, Jeep doesn’t want the Grand Wagoneer to be an also-ran in the segment. It justifies its lofty price tag with a dizzying array of technologies and well-executed creature comforts, and in turn it makes a convincing play for Cadillac’s crown as the top dog of American luxury SUVs.
The Obsidian appearance package equipped on our tester includes the black 22-inch wheels, black trim, and black roof section. The package also includes interior upgrades like ventilated second-row seats, an upgraded audio system, and refrigerated storage in the center console.
The Grand Wagoneer’s exterior design isn’t exactly head turning, and the lack of any aesthetic reference to the much-beloved original SJ Wagoneer – which was produced with stunningly few changes for nearly thirty years – seems like a missed opportunity. The new Grand Wagoneer’s proportions are a bit ungainly from certain angles, but it is understatedly handsome in general, emphasizing the customary seven-slot Jeep grille as one of the SUV’s few truly disguising features.
Our tester includes the Obsidian appearance package, which brings in not only amenities like ventilated rear seats and the positively banging 23-speaker McIntosh audio system (a 19-speaker McIntosh system is standard on Series II models), but also the black exterior accents and two-tone paint treatment. Though a bit anonymous for our tastes with the Silver-Zynith paint, the combination does give the big machine a tangible air of class.
The air suspension allows the Grand Wagoneer’s ride height to be raised by up to 3.6 inches or lowered by half an inch from its default setting.
Under the hood is Stellantis’ tried and true 6.4-liter Hemi V8, here belting out 471 horsepower and 455 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to all four wheels as standard across the Grand Wagoneer line through an eight-speed automatic transmission. Several different 4WD systems are available, though: This Series II-trimmed example includes a two-speed transfer case, an electronically controlled rear differential, and Jeep’s Selec-Terrain off-road driving modes as part of the deal, along with an adjustable air suspension system that can raise ride height by up to 3.6 inches or lower it by half an inch from its default position. It might not look like it judging by the exterior bling, 22-inch wheels and road-focused tires, but we’re willing to bet that this sport-utility is very capable where the pavement ends, though its sheer size will likely limit the number of trails that it can comfortably traverse.
The interior is where the Grand Wagoneer really stakes its claim. It’s positively swank, here outfitted with high quality materials from top to bottom and no less than seven displays throughout the cabin, four of which are up front. Along with the 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, there’s a 12-inch touchscreen for infotainment as well as a 10.25-inch touchscreen below it that’s exclusively for climate controls and seat adjustments, the latter of which can fold itself up into the center console to reveal a wireless charging pad as well as three USB-A ports, three USB-C ports, an HDMI port, a 3.5mm audio jack, and a 12V DC plug. The Obsidian package also includes a fourth, 10.25-inch display exclusively for the front passenger which can beam in content from Amazon Prime Video or grab it from the aforementioned ports, and the same goes for the two optional 10.1-inch screens that are outfitted for the second row passengers.
Grand Wagoneers that are geared up in Series II trim come with a two-speed transfer case, an electronically controlled rear differential, and Jeep’s Selec-Terrain off-road driving modes.
The infotainment runs on an iteration of the Uconnect 5 software, and as we noted in our drives of the Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat and Jeep Grand Cherokee L, it’s one of the best systems available today, delivering sharp graphics, fast response to inputs, tons of customizability, and a wide array of features that include wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility as well as the requisite stuff like built-in navigation and Sirius XM.
It all equates to a machine that’s built to eat up the miles in total comfort, which made it the perfect candidate for the four-hour drive out to Las Vegas for LS Fest West 2022.
The Grand Wagoneer offers as many as four different displays up front, all of which are outfitted here. Along with the customizable digital gauge cluster, there’s a 12.0-inch touchscreen running Uconnect 5 to handle infotainment duties as well as a 10.25-inch display dedicated to HVAC and seat controls, along with another 10.25-inch display that’s exclusively for the front passenger entertainment.
Before hitting the highway for Sin City, we spent some time with the big Jeep around LA and in the hills of the Angeles National Forest. Its size can be source of consternation initially, but Jeep wisely outfitted the truck with a 360-degree surround-view camera that makes judging its dimensions a much easier task, particularly in tight parking situations.
The air suspension does a great job of soaking up road imperfections, allowing the Grand Wagoneer to do a solid impression of a four-wheeled couch in everyday driving situations. That compliance does come at some cost, though – even hunkered down in Sport mode there’s ample body roll up in the hills, and the ultra-light steering only adds to the vagueness of the handling. It’s clear that performance isn’t really a priority here, a point that’s driven home by the conspicuous lack of paddle shifters on the steering wheel and the SUV’s 6400-pound curb weight. But it’s worth noting that the big Hemi still gets this beast to 60 mph from a standstill in about five and half seconds on its way to a low 14-second quarter mile, which makes it quicker than both the Lincoln Navigator and the Cadillac Escalade, the Grand Wagoneer’s two closest rivals.
This SUV was built to dispatch long-haul drives like the trek from LA to Vegas in total comfort. Although its 6,400 curb weight makes for lazy handling, there’s ample passing power on tap thanks to the 471 horsepower 6.4-liter Hemi V8 under the hood.
The trek to Vegas gave us a chance to really get to know what it’s like to live with the Grand Cherokee. That kind of seat time reveals the idiosyncrasies – like how that lower screen for HVAC and front seat controls is responsive and looks great, but in practice it also makes using the wireless charging pad that’s hidden behind it more cumbersome.
But on the whole, Jeep’s tech-heavy approach here is definitely to the Grand Wagoneer’s benefit. Functions like well-sorted adaptive cruise control and active steering assistance system allowed us to feel genuinely relaxed on the drive. The various front seat massage options and sonorous tunes from the 1375-watt audio system further aided that mission as Google Maps pointed the way to our destination, but it’s nice to know that the truck will issue warnings if it detects that you’re getting so relaxed that you’re starting to dose off.
The Grand Wagoneer's optional 23-speaker McIntosh audio system will keep any audiophile entertained. A 19-speaker McIntosh system is standard on the Series II models.
Even under the ideal conditions of a traffic-free Interstate 15, the fuel economy rarely crested 17 mpg, and often times it was significantly worse. That’s to be expected to some degree, but it also illustrates why the 6.4-liter V8 is likely to be a one-year-only powerplant for the Grand Wagoneer, as a new 510hp 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six cylinder mill is poised to replace it next year. Those who love that Hemi rumble as much as we do (and are willing to pay for it at the pump) would be wise pick one up while they are still available.
As for the rest of what the Grand Wagoneer offers, Jeep has hit the bullseye here. But out-classing the Escalade definitely doesn’t come cheap.