Back in 1962, the wood-panelled Jeep Wagoneer was like driving a pair of blue jeans, a symbol of folksy Americana and the rugged, outdoorsy aspirations of suburban families. It was also a pioneer of what was then an automotive niche but is no longer niche at all: the Sport Utility Vehicle.
Now, after a 30 year hiatus, Jeep is reviving its original SUV with the opulent new Grand Wagoneer. To be clear, this isn’t a Jeep, it’s a sub-brand known as just the Wagoneer. And while Jeep may have a long pedigree when it comes to making SUVs, times have changed with the luxury SUV market booming during the past three decades. That means competition is fierce. But after driving the all-new, range-topping 2022 Grand Wagoneer, we can confidently say it’s not only worth its six-figure price tag, but it more than lives up to its legendary predecessor.
Here’s what you need to know.
It costs six-figures — and for good reason
“If you’re going to raise the bar, it has to be done right; it has to be perfect,” says Mike Szymkiewicz, the man in charge of planning the brand’s products in Canada. He has personally worked on the Wagoneer project for the past couple of years, and is well aware that the 2022 Grand Wagoneer only has one shot to make a first-impression on a discerning audience who, quite rightly, have high expectations given the fact the Grand Wagoneer starts at $100,995. Prices rise to over $120,000 for the range-topping Grand Wagoneer Series III. This may be new territory for the brand, but you’d never know it when face-to-face with these imposing machines.
It cuts a striking silhouette
Parked outside one of Canada’s top restaurants — the spectacularly modern black barn that is The Restaurant at Pearl Morissette — the full-size Grand Wagoneer is a monolith of its own, with a square-edged silhouette that evokes its predecessors, even without the wood panels.
Across the doors and rear hatch are raised letters that read “Grand Wagoneer” in two-tone copper and chrome. Walk around to the front and you’ll notice a grille with paint-over-chrome laser-etched rings, reminiscent of the knurled metal finish of a good diving watch.
Its interior is exceptionally well considered
The cabin on the Grand Wagoneer is really what blew us away. Even by the luxury SUV market’s high standards, the Grand Wagoneer stands apart. Once you open the Grand Wagoneer’s doors — which are hefty, like the doors to a bank vault — you’ll find an interior that is a cabin in every sense of the word, with an ambiance like a refined, luxury hunting lodge. A wing-shaped shelf made of Satin American Walnut — as you’d find on old motor yachts — runs the width of the cabin and down the centre consoles. Light streams in through the enormous glass roof and windows. There’s room to stretch out in each of the seven or eight seats. The things you touch all have a lovely feel, like the gear selector, which feels as if it was machined from a single metal ingot.
If that’s not enough to keep passengers entertained on a journey, the cutting-edge in-car technology will. There is over 75-inches of total screen real estate in the cabin. A dedicated co-pilot screen for the front passenger can be used to enter navigation destinations and swipe them over to the driver’s display. This is the first vehicle that we’ve seen with built-in Amazon Fire TV streaming capability, so thousands of movies and shows are available on-demand. No joke, the Grand Wagoneer even has a “relax” mode, that turns this SUV into a calming, spa-like environment for when you need a little escape.
It can go anywhere
Given Jeep’s heritage, you’d expect the Grand Wagoneer to have more off-roading chops than most of its rivals — and it does. It’s built on a true body-on-frame architecture, just like the legendary Wrangler, and there are no less than three 4×4 systems on offer, plus air suspension and a terrain management system. The latter can automatically set up the SUV’s many systems for whatever terrain you encounter, from snow to mud to rocks. While we didn’t take this truck too far off the beaten path, it did handle brutal gravel roads with supreme confidence and comfort.
The massive 6.4-litre Hemi V8 that, while hardly frugal, offers seemingly endless torque and the ability to tow nearly 10,000 lbs, which is more than enough for a large boat, some motorcycles, or a bunch of Sea-Doos.
It comes with some seriously elevated service
Jeep is well aware that playing in this price range requires an elevated level of service. That’s why the brand is offering “remote showroom” test drives for potential customers, as well as a vehicle pickup and delivery when it comes time for routine servicing. Dealerships are upgrading their showrooms with dedicated areas for the Wagoneer, and the company is also launching a special customer concierge line called “Wagoneer Client Services”, which will be available 24/7 to offer whatever help a Wagoneer owner might need.
As Mike Szymkiewicz said, “If you’re going to raise the bar, it has to be done right.” It’s abundantly clear that there were no shortcuts taken with the 2022 Grand Wagoneer.
All images by Lucas Scarfone.