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Grand Wagoneer Reemerges

Jeep’s big, capable utility squares off against Cadillac’s Escalade and Lincoln’s Navigator

Creating a large SUV, capable of transporting the entire family on and off the beaten path, perhaps while hauling a horse trailer, isn’t a new development. Suburban was introduced in 1935, and iconic four-door utilities from Land Rover to Land Cruiser made early appearances. But Jeep’s Wagoneer, putting a station wagon body on a rugged off-road chassis was a novelty in the early 1960s that captured a fair share of luxury buyers. Apparently, it seemed to Jeep marketeers like high time to go big game hunting.

Better Be Better

Launching a large luxury SUV in today’s mature market is not for the faint of heart. Cadillac has taken GM’s venerable Suburban package to lofty luxury standards in Escalade fitment and its rival Lincoln has done the same hard work with its Navigator model. Both have managed to corral a sizeable share of what has become the 21st Century “land yacht” market despite earnest competition from premium import rivals. So to compete in this six-figure MSRP group, substance is what counts.

Grand Wagoneer makes the right entrance statement with a bold, sophisticated style that captures attention without shouting its presence. Jeep’s seven element grille is there along with a subtle nod to Wagoneer’s classic front brow, but the message is clearly upscale. Could you venture off road? Why not? The rugged body over frame construction, 4 x 4 all-wheel-drive with Selec-Terrain traction management and Quadra-Lift air suspension with 10-inches of ground clearance would allow crawling around some pretty challenging landscapes, as long as the trail was wide.

The reality is that Wagoneer’s nicely designed air suspension will most often be lowered to ease cabin access, along with power-deployed side steps and I’ll bet more option money will be spent on rear entertainment than on skid plates. Of course if hauling your horses to the polo field is part of the plan, the class leading 10,000-pound towing capacity is a real benefit of largesse.

Hitting the Road

While this new entrant in the category, weighing in at a robust 6,420-pounds, may seem a bit daunting to some, once aboard and cossetted in sculptured leather seats, it’s a pretty easy critter to handle. The powerful 6.4-liter HEMI V8 and eight-speed transmission seem to carve off much of the girth while fully independent suspension works to add control of all this momentum. If you have travel money left after filling the 26.5-gallon fuel tank, this should be one great cross-country conveyance.

Our upscale Grand Wagoneer offered plenty of visual information for the driver with new graphic displays in the instrument panel and center counsel as well as screens for the front passenger and second row occupants. So each non-driving occupant could go to his or her personal entertainment or if everyone wanted a big performance, the exclusive McIntosh 1,375-watt, 23-speaker audio system is ready to rock the boat.

Although it’s a challenging time for Jeep to enter this lofty segment, they’ve clearly brought the right goods to the contest. A brand-new plant in Detroit is tasked for the job and both fit and finish were first rate. Jeep has also recognized that premium buyers expect luxury service so they’ve created a special buying and ownership experience for Wagoneer. If big and capable is on your list, this new entrant is worth a good look.

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THE FINE PRINT

2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer Series III

TYPE:  Front-engine, four-wheel-drive

ENGINE:  6.4-liter HEMI V8

HORSEPOWER:  471 @ 6,000 RPM

TORQUE:  455 lb.ft. @ 4,400 RPM

BASE PRICE: $104,845

AS TESTED:  $110,830

FUEL CONSUMPTION:  13-city, 18-highway, 15-combined