Updated: Apr 1, 2022
Once upon a time (fall, 1962), Jeep, only 16 years into its existence as the maker of civilian vehicles, took a big step, introducing the Jeep Wagoneer.
The ad doesn't exaggerate. Everything up to that point had been some variation on the old World War II Jeep. The Wagoneer was the first vehicle with the Jeep name to go in a new direction, while still being built like a tank and running on all four wheels. And it worked. The Wagoneer was a success.
By the fall of 1965, Jeep saw the opportunity to push a bit further. Wagoneers weren't cheap to begin with---people with money were buying them, so why not go after people with even more money?
And so, the 1966 Jeep Super Wagoneer was born---bucket seats, floor console, wood trim, vinyl roof, custom wheels---all the signifiers of automotive luxury in the mid-60s.
The original Wagoneer lived a long time---28 years. The Super Wagoneer only lasted a few seasons, but there was always some version of a luxury trim in the mix---and from 1984 until its discontinuation in 1991, the only way you could get a Wagoneer was as the Grand Wagoneer.
It was amazing at the time that people were shelling out the equivalent of 60 grand or more in today's money for a 20 to 30 year old SUV retrofitted with luxury stuff, but they were. More amazing is what happened after the Grand Wagoneer ended its run. Old ones went up in value. An industry was created in restoring old Grand Wagoneers and selling them at premium prices. I'm linking here to the leader in that field, a Texas company called Wagonmaster. This is their inventory page, and that inventory will have changed, depending on when you're reading this---but as I write this, they have nine Grand Wagoneers for sale, ranging in price from $98,000 to $136,000.
Knowing all that explains why the Grand Wagoneer is back for 2022. The only real question is why they waited so long. If people will drop six figures for 30-40 year old examples, then why shouldn't Stellantis, (which also owns Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Maserati) be raking in the cash for a modern version? Of course, to tap into that kind of money, you can't sell an inexpensive product, so the new Grand Cherokee parachutes into the luxe SUV wars going head-to-head against the Cadillac Escalade and the Lincoln Navigator, with a base price of $88,590. Understand---that's for the lowest trim level---Series I. Series III, like our tester? That starts at $104,845.
Styling is subjective. It's so tall and so slab-sided that from some angles, especially from the rear, it's like looking at van that just happens to have a really long hood.
Frankly, I'm not sure where you would start if you tried to create a contemporary version of mid-20th century genteel country-club luxury, so I don't suppose I can criticize Stellantis for not even trying. They just found a setting between "stun" and "kill" on their phasers and have come into the market blasting.
The 2022 Grand Wagoneer is 214 inches long. It weighs 6,420 pounds. To move all that, there's a 6.4-liter, 471 horsepower V8 with 455 pounds per foot of torque and an eight-speed automatic transmission. And move it it does---overcoming intertia and hitting 60 in (give or take, depending on conditions and who's doing the driving) six seconds flat.
Fuel economy? 13 city/18 highway is the EPA estimate, but in a week of mixed city street/urban freeway and rural backroad driving, I couldn't crack 14.0. Beyond that, you do sit up very high in this---but the hood is so long, so wide and so blocky that it's hard to judge just how much room you have when pulling into parking spaces or coming around a curve on a narrow backroad. But I'll bet this thing absolutely rules on a day-long interstate cruise. Even if you only did 16 mpg instead of 18, the 26.5-gallon fuel tank makes for 424 miles of cruising range (and $120+ fill-ups in California).
That slab-sidedness and overall length does pay off in interior room. I've had smaller apartments. My high school might have had a smaller gymnasium.
If you feel like you're seeing a lot of screens here, you are. 75 inches of total screen display is available, and I'm thinking our tester had every inch. The front instrument panel alone accounts for 45 inches (No, I didn't measure---Stellantis includes this under "Highlights" in the press materials). Where the original Grand Wagoneer was a rugged SUV with some luxury appointments, the new one is a luxury car that just happens to be built on the platform of an SUV.
You may have noticed that the last time I used the word "Jeep" was in referring to the old Grand Wagoneer. That's because Stellantis has chosen not to put the word Jeep anywhere on the Grand Wagoneer, nor on its window sticker, nor in its press materials.
You buy it at a Jeep dealer. You can see it on the Jeep website, but it's not shown in the full-line photo of Jeep vehicles. You have to go to a drop-down menu where "Wagoneer" and "Grand Wagoneer" are set off as their own sub-brand. I mean, okay, the Ford name doesn't appear anywhere on the new Bronco, either---nor for that matter, on the Mustang or the Mustang Mach-E,and it seems to be a new branding trend to break iconic models out from the parent's identity, but there's also a school of thought that says Stellantis doesn't want the rugged Jeep name on its ultra-luxe big SUV. Stellantis, if you're in this game because people are dropping six figures on 1980-something Jeep Grand Wagoneers, Jeep is a four-letter word you should be using a LOT---at least until the new Grand Wagoneer establishes itself. Just my two cents. Speaking of money, the price tag on our 2022 Grand Wagoneer Series III sorts out like this: $104,845 base, $995 for the heavy duty trailer towing package (trailer brake control, chrome tow hooks, trailer hitch line-up assist, trailer hitch zoom, removable rear tow hook and heavy duty engine cooling), $1,995 for the rear seat entertainment group and $995 for 22-inch machined aluminum wheels with black noise pockets. So, with $2,000 destination charge, the as-tested price of the 2022 Grand Wagoneer Series III is $110,830. As shocking as that may seem, it's $340 cheaper than the as-tested price of the 2021 Cadillac Escalade I reviewed in April of last year.
Will the 2022 Grand Wagoneer develop the cachet of its ancient ancestor among the moneyed set? Should the segment-leader in sales (by a long shot) Cadillac Escalade be nervous? Is the Grand Wagoneer too much 1969 Chrysler Imperial and not enough Jeep? Time will tell.