On the Road Review: Jeep Wagoneer Series III

Way back in 1963, Jeep changed the family wagon market with the very first Wagoneer — a truck-based family hauler with real off-road cred. For 2022, Jeep hopes to catch the genie in the bottle again with an all-new Wagoneer, plus its more expensive sibling, the Grand Wagoneer.

Aimed directly at GM’s top-selling family of full-size SUVs named Tahoe, Suburban, Yukon and Escalade, as well as Ford’s Expedition and Navigator duo, the Wagoneer comes in six trim levels starting at $59,995 for a rear-drive Series I, while climaxing at $88,665 for the top Series III Off-Road Premium edition. The Grand Wagoneer starts at this point and can then be optioned up to $110,000.

The Wagoneer is not only the most expensive Jeep ever sold, but it is easily the largest. Overall length is between the Tahoe and Suburban, atop a wheelbase of 123 inches that bests the Tahoe by 2 inches. Weight comes in at just over 3 tons, while both rear-drive and four-wheel-drive models can pull up to 10,000 pounds of trailer.

Ample power (392 hp) comes from the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 backed by an E-torque 48-volt mild hybrid boost in peak torque, as well as a cylinder deactivation program meant to improve fuel economy. Running through a smooth eight-speed automatic, EPA ratings are 15/20 mpg, with a realized 18.5 mpg during its mild fall visit.

The Grand Wagoneer uses the corporate 6.4-liter Hemi, with 471 hp.

Our Series III Premium, $85,970, carried a host of the tech features buyers crave today, as well as gobs of comfort. Configured for eight passengers (middle row buckets are available), our Bright White wagon came with power-folding second- and third-row seating, up and down, which creates a huge, flat load deck when reclined.

With three different 4WD systems available, all full-time, you can also select an air-ride suspension, which adds over 3 inches of ground clearance if you feel the need to go off-road with those shiny 22-inch wheels, plus selectable drive modes. The Wagoneer proved sure-footed and composed when hustling around our local secondary roads, delivering a ride that did not upset occupants. Highway travel was placidly serene.

The list of features stretches the class. Up to five screens are available, including for the front passenger, with the new U-Connect 5 system that uses a 4G LTE Wi-Fi system than can program Alexa and Amazon TV. There are both parallel and perpendicular parking assist, intersection collision prevention assist, drowsy driver protection, a 360-degree surround camera with trailer-hitch zoom, power running boards, a 19-speaker McIntosh stereo system, plus not one, but two massive sunroofs.

Hits and misses: the heads-up display is a nice play, but the expansive dashtop is too much plastic that looks like it was borrowed from a Grand Cherokee. The center console is huge, and offers lots of storage, but it dominates the front cabin and is arrayed with too many haptic buttons that should produce real tactile feedback so you don’t have to stare at them to use them. The power liftgate can be conveniently activated with the keyfob, a button inside or your waving leg, however, the rear wiper seemed tiny for the expanse of glass that it works on. Maybe two wipers are needed?

The heated and cooled leather seating proved all-day supportive, yet it lacks the massaging action that Ford and Lincoln offer — at lower price points — as well as any thigh adjustments. The lusty-sounding Hemi counters the odd-sounding turbo-sixes Ford uses, but you will pay for that aural reward at the pump, as our gingerly throttle use might not reflect how a family actually uses this big wagon in the suburbs.

The handsome exterior stays true to Jeep’s design emphasis, while the big wheels match the rest of the segment for boldness. The Wagoneer’s puddle lamps, with the logo of course, will please owners, yet the overall premium look is a point or two below Denali and Escalade.

Even Jeep muddies the waters a bit here, too, with a new three-row Grand Cherokee L that is 10 inches shorter overall, but only 1 inch shorter in wheelbase — where the ride dynamics originate. The Grand Cherokee L, with seven-passenger space, available Hemi V-8 and higher EPA scores, also starts at a cool $17,000 less.

The Wagoneer is a serious premium SUV offering, with numerous bits and pieces that will entice buyers who embrace the brand’s off-road ethos. The Wagoneer offers great comfort and capabilities. It will be worth watching how many buyers ante up to Jeep dealers for this new full-size luxury/premium family of big SUVs.

Tim Plouff

Tim Plouff

Columnist at The Ellsworth American
Tim Plouff has been reviewing automobiles in the pages of The Ellsworth American weekly for nearly two decades.
Tim Plouff

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