Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: January 2, 2022
Supra, Aviator, Bronco - these are just a few automotive names that have recently resurfaced from the history books, and if you haven’t already noticed, nostalgia sells, and it sells well. The hype they build is uncanny and unprecedented, banking on the childhood dreams and inspirations of a prior generation. Jeep also realized this and as a result, they brought back the Grand Wagoneer moniker for their largest, eight-passenger SUV.
Jeep has never had a proper Escalade or Navigator rival in the modern era. If you wanted a spacious seven- or even eight-passenger SUV, you would have to hop to its American truck rivals, or even into the Infiniti QX80, Mercedes GLS, or BMW X7. So this Grand Wagoneer is finally bookending their model lineup. Jeep also sells a less-grand Wagoneer SUV which looks pretty much identical, but comes with less upscale features and amenities. Think of the Wagoneer as a Tahoe, and the Grand Wagoneer as an Escalade.
But whichever Wagoneer you choose, you can’t deny that it looks spectacular, harking back to the classic Grand Wagoneers but with a modern twist. Sticking to their roots, it’s unmistakable Jeep with a clever injection of retro design, from the colour-tinted glass windows with chrome outlining, to the font of the badges and the iconic 7-slot grill that just looks mega in this application. The Grand Wagoneer is just dripping in road presence because of it, and I haven’t had this many looks and headturns since I piloted that smoking red Lamborghini Huracan STO.
You won’t find a Jeep badge anywhere on the Grand Wagoneer either, and that was on purpose. Like the Ford Mustang Mach-E that doesn’t have any blue ovals, it’s like they want to create a premium sub-brand that branches out to a different type of upscale buyer. We think it’s working.
But it’s the interior that blows us away. This is how you do proper American luxury. Cadillac could learn a thing or two here with the integration of upscale materials, and a clean mix-match of colours and shapes. Leather meets wood accents and chrome trim, and it’s all married together with convincing hard plastics. The two-spoke steering wheel is beautifully crafted, with a cut-out bottom half like in the new Genesis models. Small buttons still flank the back where paddle shifters would normally sit, which control the volume and audio tracks, but like the signal and wiper stalks, easily feel like the cheapest touchpoint of the entire vehicle.
But the screens. Gosh, the screens. The Grand Wagoneer hosts oodles of them, four massive ones to be exact, and that’s just in the front. There are three more in the second row. The driver’s instrument cluster is bright and clear, but the center two take the spotlight. Crisp, reactive to inputs, and lag-free, it’s a tech haven for the latest features and creature comforts. The bottom screen is mainly delegated to seat functions and massage, but the trick up its sleeve is that you can retract the screen at the push of a button and unveil a hidden storage cubby behind, much like they used to do in GMC Yukons and Cadillac Escalades. It adds to the army of clever storage areas and optional cooler box under the armrest.
The haptic buttons on the side of the main screen aren’t very responsive, and the heated seats would aggravatingly shut off after a few minutes, and wouldn’t let us turn it back on - never experienced that in a vehicle before. The heated steering wheel function would soldier on, though. And like Ferraris and Porsche Taycans, there’s also a passenger-side display, which is lower quality of course, but handles all the media functionality so they don’t have to fight for center screen rights. Too bad it doesn’t show a digital speedo, but then again, nobody likes a backseat driver.
Jeep didn’t forget to add the latest tech either, and it’s decked out with the latest roster of equipment like a McIntosh 23-speaker system with 1,375-watt amplifier and subwoofer, Night Vision with pedestrian and animal detection, and the ability to stream and download your favourite shows with Amazon Fire TV to the two 10.1-inch rear-seat entertainment screens.
Admittedly, the Grand Wagoneer doesn’t feel as cavernous as its rivals but I still can’t reach the passenger side door without flopping over like a fish out of water, and the Jeep’s cabin design is certainly more grand. Roll credits. It comes standard with seven-passenger seating too, with an optional eight from the second row center. The massage seats are stronger than the ones in the Audi A8, Range Rover, and even the Escalade. The seating position is excellent, high up enough that you feel like you are towering the road, but you feel integrated into the SUV rather than feeling like you’re just sitting on top of it.
The Grand Wagoneer is the smoothest Jeep we have driven in recent memory. The standard 6.4-litre naturally aspirated V8 was been massaged out to deliver 471 hp and 455 lb-ft through an 8-speed automatic, but it’s gentle, polished, and delivers oodles of torque without any rough patches in its powerband. Makes a thrilling howl under ignition and throttle as well, almost like they wanted you to know it’s the same basic engine that underpins the Dodge Charger SRT. The clever 8-speed automatic shifts completely behind the scenes too and never makes its presence known - exactly what you want from a transmission catered towards hauling and cruising duties.
That said, our Grand Wagoneer averaged a poor 18.0 L/100km over a mix of both city and highway. The Cadillac Escalade Diesel on the other hand gave us a friendlier 12.2 L/100km, and even the Lincoln Navigator with its smaller V6 yielded 15.6 L/100km, so those extra conscious about their fuel expenditure should steer clear - such is the tradeoff of a big displacement HEMI V8.
For such a substantial SUV, body roll is somewhat kept in check but it’s still like managing like a boat around corners. Such are the constraints of a durable, body-on-frame construction. Slow in and fast out is still the best approach, but manueverability will always be this SUV”s weak point. Doesn’t help that the steering is numb and vague as well, but it’s not an excuse to shrug away when a similarly sized BMW X7 handles as well as it does. The Grand Wagoneer rides on the same platform as the RAM 1500 with a four-corner air suspension, and it delivers a wonderfully soft and supple ride quality that’s superior to that of the Escalade and Navigator. It’s definitely more composed on the road and when crashing into deep potholes, but it’s not as grounded or as stable as a Mercedes GLS.
Jeep has brought back the Grand Wagoneer at an opportune time when big SUVs sell like hotcakes, but they haven’t just resurrected the nameplate and called it a day. They instead backed it up with proper style and substance. The Grand Wagoneer is one of the most comfortable three-row SUVs we have driven this year and while it doesn’t handle as well as its unibody-constructed rivals, nor does it yield very appealing results on fuel mileage, the V8 powertrain is undoubtedly a smooth operator, and we love the exhaust noises that it makes. Add to that the charming interior and distinctive looks, and it appears that Jeep has not only nailed the nostalgic factor, but have created a winner in the three-row SUV space.
Model: 2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer Series III
Paint Type: Velvet Red Pearl
Base Price: $120,995
Price as Tested: $127,675
Engine: 6.4-litre V8
Horsepower: 471 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 455 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, 4WD
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 18.0