By Derek Price
Jeep is reaching into loftier territory — both in terms of luxury and sheer size — with an all-new vehicle: Wagoneer.
It’s actually an old nameplate that Jeep put into storage for decades, then polished up to create a premium sub-brand for its truck-based vehicles in 2022. The goal is to create a more upscale experience for luxury buyers, both in the vehicles themselves and in the service owners get at the dealership.
While I can’t vouch for the customer service — Wagoneers are just now arriving at dealers, if you’re lucky enough to find one — I can describe what it’s like to drive after spending a week behind the wheel.
Three words sum it up: roomy, supple and silent.
The Wagoneer is noticeably bigger and portlier than the three-row Grand Cherokee L that I tested a couple of weeks ago. It’s about six inches wider and 10 inches longer, which makes the cabin feel downright cavernous in comparison.
It also feels more substantial from the driver’s seat. The true, truck-based frame gives it more heft than the lighter, car-based, unibody Grand Cherokee, which makes the Wagoneer feel portlier over the road but also helps it tow up to 10,000 pounds.
A 5.7-liter HEMI V8 makes 392 horsepower and 404 pound-feet of torque, enough to do a good job pulling all that weight.
The downside is the same demon that haunts all truck-based SUVs: fuel economy. My tester was rated for 15 mpg in city driving and 20 on the highway.
Wagoneer’s mission isn’t efficiency, though, but comfort, and it’s absolutely spectacular at that job.
This is one of the smoothest, silkiest luxury SUVs in the world, matching and even surpassing established contenders like the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator.
Part of my tester’s smoothness came from its optional air suspension, which not only raises and lowers the vehicle for loading cargo or driving off road, but also smooths out bumps on the pavement for a cotton-candy experience on highways.
I also wonder how much its 18-inch wheels helped with the ride. You can get it with up to 22-inch wheels, which are popular and trendy, but it’s my experience that those giant rapper wheels completely wreck the ride on luxury SUVs. The 18s on my tester felt supple and still looked sharp — even more so on a vehicle ostensibly built for off-road driving.
The interior of the Wagoneer is nice, even luxurious, by normal-car standards. Fit and finish are better than the last Navigator and Escalade I drove, although the materials and design aren’t quite as flashy.
If you want something flashy, you have to step up to the Grand Wagoneer, which might be the most opulent cabin ever installed in a domestic-brand vehicle. It seems to be covered entirely in a mixture of digital screens, real wood and soft-touch leather.
The Grand Wagoneer also comes with a bigger, 6.4-liter engine and price tag to match, starting about $30,000 more than the Wagoneer’s $57,995 base price.
Realistically, the Wagoneer is an alternative to the Chevy Tahoe or Ford Expedition, while the Grand Wagoneer competes with their luxury-brand cousins from Lincoln and Cadillac, along with a host of European and Japanese products.
It’s also priced accordingly. A Wagoneer with four-wheel drive starts at $70,995, while the fancier Grand Wagoneer starts at $88,190 and tops out uncomfortably close to $110,000.
At A Glance
What was tested? 2022 Jeep Wagoneer Series II ($70,995). Options: Advanced all-terrain group ($2,295), convenience group ($3,295), heavy-duty trailer tow package ($795). Price as tested (including $2,000 destination charge): $79,380
Wheelbase: 123 in.
Length: 214.7 in.
Width: 94 in.
Height: 75.6 in.
Engine: 5.7-liter HEMI V8 With E-Torque Hybrid Assist (392 hp, 404 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 15 city, 20 highway
Why buy it?
It’s a premium SUV with the look and rugged reputation of a Jeep. A silky-smooth ride and quiet, well-executed cabin make it stand out.