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2022 Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer first drive review: Big, burly and full of tech

Jeep's new three-row SUVs go over the top with luxury, tech and strong V8 power.

These big boys can still do all the necessary Jeep stuff.

Jeep

Jeep is finally getting into the three-row SUV space with the revamp of its Wagoneer nameplate. But what's a full-size SUV without a fancy-pants companion? Nothing, which is why Jeep is also resurrecting the Grand Wagoneer. Originally launched in 1962, the Grand Wagoneer is often considered the first true luxury SUV, complete with its iconic woodgrain exterior trim. For 2022, the wood paneling might be gone, but the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer both look to be solid contenders in this big-time segment.

The Grand Wagoneer is like the standard Wagoneer, but with a little extra. The Wagoneer is available in Series I, II and III trims; the Grand Wagoneer gets all those plus a high-level Obsidian model. Both Jeeps have LED lighting all around, but the Grand Wagoneer also gets a black roof, unique hood and different grille. Similarly, the Grand Wagoneer is available in three additional exterior colors and comes with black trim and badging, as well as body-colored wheel and door flares. Both Jeeps can be had with 20- or 22-inch wheels.

Having said all that, I really like the way both SUVs look, at least from certain angles. I'm not a fan of the slab-sided profile view, but overall the Wagoneer is a handsome rig, with futuristic-looking sequential turn signals and a handsome rear fascia.

The good looks continue inside, and both Jeeps are packed with features. The fancier Grand Wagoneer has sumptuous leather, contrasting stitching, heated and cooled front and second-row seats, open-pore wood, a cooled center console with room for a six-pack of soda, adjustable pedals and a panoramic sunroof with a bonus mini sunroof just for third-row passengers. Five different massage settings keep me comfortable all day long, while the seat coolers make short work of a hot, humid summer day. Audiophiles will also appreciate the spectacular 1,375-watt, 23-speaker McIntosh premium audio system.

Speaking of premium, great googly-moogly there are a lot of screens in here. My tester has a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster (the Wagoneer has a smaller one) and a 12-inch center display, which runs the always-excellent Uconnect 5 multimedia system. Under that main screen is a smaller 10.3-inch display with climate and seat controls. Behind it, there's a storage cubby with USB ports and a wireless charging pad. The comfort screen is duplicated in the second row along with a pair of 10-inch rear entertainment displays, with Fire TV and the ability to mirror external devices like smartphones and tablets.

Holy smokes is this interior nice.

Jeep

The Grand Wagoneer's ultra-cool feature is the 10.3-inch passenger screen that allows shotgun riders to view navigation, exterior cameras, Fire TV or additional entertainment through either the rear seat system or an HDMI cable. The screen has a thin film over it so the driver won't be distracted. The upshot is that first and second row passengers can be immersed in their own entertainment while the driver concentrates on the road. However, when in park all the screens can display content and deliver audio through the McIntosh sound system. Mobile theater, anyone?

Uconnect 5 offers quick reactions to inputs, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and the ability to connect two phones at once. Adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, forward-collision warning with emergency braking and lane-keeping assist are all standard across all trims of both Jeeps. The available Active Driving Assist combines adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist and it works great, keeping the Grand Wagoneer centered in its lane on the sweeping turns of a New York parkway. Unfortunately, Jeep's more robust Hands-Free Active Driving Assist won't be available at launch.

There are a few other cool tech goodies that I really love. The available rear camera mirror offers incredibly crisp video images of what's behind you, although it can really mess with your depth perception. Objects appear very, very close and I have to use the standard backup camera as a supplement to know just how far I have between my bumper and the car behind me. The 10-inch head-up display is reconfigurable and offers plenty of information, and night vision with pedestrian and animal detection is available. Finally, there are up to 11 USB-A and USB-C ports scattered around the cabin, including two for the third-row passengers.

Screens aplenty inside the Wagoneer.

Jeep

Is the Grand Wagoneer spacious? You bet. At 5 feet, 9 inches tall I can easily fit into the third row, and with the way-back seats upright, there's still 27.4 cubic feet of space for cargo. Overall, the Grand Wagoneer has 94.2 cubic feet of hauling room with the second and third rows folded, which is more than what you get in the Wagoneer. However, if overall payload and towing is more important, the Wagoneer does it better with up to 1,580 pounds of payload capacity and a 10,000-pound max tow rating.

Driving the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer is almost ancillary to all the tech and features. Under the hood of my Grand Wagoneer is a 6.4-liter V8 with 471 horsepower and 455 pound-feet of torque, mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. There are no surprises here. Power delivery is immediate, shifts are smooth and I don't feel any kind of a weight penalty in terms of acceleration. In fact, Jeep says the Grand Wagoneer can sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 6 seconds, which is impressive considering its size.

Although both the Wagoneers use body-on-frame construction, they feature independent front and rear suspensions. A coil-spring setup is standard but I'm driving a Grand Wagoneer with the optional air suspension that gently raises and lowers the SUV for entry/exit and for better aerodynamics while driving. On the highway and around town, the Grand Wagoneer feels supple and comfortable, with just a hint of the V8 growl coming through. The brakes and steering both feel heavily boosted -- the steering almost to a fault -- but overall, drivers should find the large SUV supremely easy to drive.

Multiple four-wheel-drive systems are offered.

Jeep

The Wagoneer is available with two- or four-wheel drive while the Grand version puts the power to all four wheels. If you're planning on going off-road, you'll want the Wagoneer with the Advanced All-Terrain Group, which gets you skid plates for the fuel tank, transfer case and front suspension. This also adds a rear limited-slip differential with an electronic locker, a two-speed transfer case and a 3.92:1 axle ratio, allowing for an excellent 48:1 crawl ratio. The Quadra-Lift air suspension gives you the maximum off-road geometry: 25-degree approach angle, 24-degree departure angle, 22-degree breakover angle and 10 inches of ground clearance. The Wagoneer can also ford 24 inches of water. For the best off-road prowess, the Advanced All-Terrain Group also downsizes to 18-inch wheels but gets you a set of 32-inch Firestone Destination AT2 all-terrain tires.

One thing I really like about Jeep's four-wheel-drive system is that a unique clutch setup in the front eliminates any kind of wheel hop in low range. This means I can turn the steering wheel to full lock and the Wagoneer turns smoothly and easily.

A quick off-road test session features a rocky hill climb, but I don't even have to switch the Selec-Terrain system into Rock mode. The course has a 23-degree side hill, but the Wagoneer could easily tilt an extra 10 degrees before I'd start to worry. Finally, a frame twist section shows off Quadra-Drive II's torque-vectoring technology and wheel articulation. Even with two diagonally opposing wheels up in the air, the Wagoneer just keeps on trucking.

On-road or off-road, the Wagoneers are great.

Emme Hall/Roadshow

Another bonus of off-roading with the Wagoneer as opposed to Grand Wagoneer is the standard 5.7-liter V8 with an eTorque mild-hybrid system. This engine isn't quite as powerful, with just 392 hp and 404 lb-ft of torque, but the mild-hybrid system means I get an extra 130 lb-ft of twist on initial throttle tip-in, which is perfect for slow-speed rock crawling where low-end torque is king.

Should you not care so much about off-pavement excursions, Jeep's less-robust Quadra-Trac I system offers full-time all-wheel drive with a single-speed transfer case. Quadra-Trac II goes in with a two-speed transfer case, but doesn't have Quadra-Drive II's limited-slip rear differential. Still, both of these systems should get you out to your cabin and back and handle any inclement weather.

As you'd expect, none of these features come cheap. A two-wheel-drive Wagoneer starts at $59,995 including an outrageous $2,000 destination fee (the Jeeps are built in Warren, Michigan, not on Mars). A four-wheel-drive Wagoneer starts at $72,995 including destination, while the four-wheel-drive-only Grand Wagoneer starts at $88,995 including destination. A top-trim Grand Wagoneer is a staggering $105,995.

The rear fascia is nice but from the profile the Grand Wagoneer looks slab-sided.

Emme Hall/Roadshow

It remains to be seen just who will drop that kind of coin on a Jeep, even with the Wagoneer name. Those who don't care about dirt cred could consider the Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Navigator or the outlier Infiniti QX80. Drivers who want luxurious adventure could also look to a Land Rover Range Rover or possibly the Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class. The Grand Wagoneer has the goods, but luxury shoppers might be turned off by the mainstream Jeep name since it hasn't launched a premium vehicle in the recent past.

The smaller Wagoneer arguably has a better shot, competing with less-expensive SUVs like the Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon or Nissan Armada. Not only does the Jeep have better tech and more premium features than its rivals, it's much better to drive on- and off-road, as well. Look for both SUVs to arrive in Jeep showrooms later this year.