By Derek Price
Between turning on the passenger-side touchscreen and reaching for an iced tea in the center-console refrigerator, it struck me.
This may be the best road-trip vehicle I’ve ever driven.
I drove the Grand Wagoneer, Jeep’s ostentatious caricature of a luxury SUV, from Dallas to San Antonio, two bodacious Texas cities that seemed charmingly provincial from my wide, electronically massaging driver’s seat.
I can’t imagine a better SUV for traversing wide-open spaces than this one, as ridiculous as its price tag and gas mileage may be.
The Grand Wagoneer is rated for 13 miles per gallon in city driving and 18 on the highway, figures not likely to bother folks who pay nearly $90,000 for the biggest, flashiest, most sumptuously comfortable Jeep ever sold. Options can push the price tag even higher, well into the triple digits, as seen on my $112,000 tester.
Interestingly, you won’t find the Jeep logo anywhere on a Grand Wagoneer. With a seven-slot grille up front and trail-conquering 4×4 system underneath, it’s not necessary.
You can get a Wagoneer, sans the “Grand,” for under $60,000, but it doesn’t have the same over-the-top swagger as this one.
A 6.4-liter V8 makes 471 horsepower in the Grand Wagoneer, a nice bump over the standard version’s 392 horses but not enough to make up for the fact that it’s a 6,400-pound land yacht. It moves like a Royal Caribbean oceanliner in parking lots.
On the highway, though, the cruise-ship feeling is heavenly.
It’s hard to decide what I like most about piloting a Grand Wagoneer for hours on Interstate 35: the cave-like spaciousness of its silent cabin, the endless parade of doodads designed to pamper everyone inside, the acres of digital screens to keep children entertained or the sheer excess of the whole experience.
If I had to pick, it would be the excess.
No one needs an SUV like this. It can ford water two feet deep, tow 10,000 pounds and lift itself up and down on an air suspension, all while practically drowning its passengers in an overwhelming sea of leather, buttons and screens.
In a world of minimalism, it’s a proud maximalist, the automotive antithesis of Marie Kondo.
A few crazy people may buy a $100,000 vehicle to go off-roading, but the Grand Wagoneer — like the Range Rover, Land Cruiser and similar luxury utes — is more about the idea that you can, not that you necessarily will.
Jeep’s rugged reputation delivers confidence in spades.
The Grand Wagoneer’s Quadra-Drive II 4×4 system includes an electronic limited-slip differential that automatically finds traction when it’s in short supply.
An electronic traction control system lets you choose the right setting for rock, sand, mud, snow and — somewhat hilariously — sport. Most drivers will find the automatic setting more than adequate, even on loose rocks or steep terrain.
I’m a huge fan of the Grand Wagoneer’s air suspension, which plays a lot of roles simultaneously. It can lower the vehicle for loading cargo or passengers, raise it higher for off-road ground clearance and seems to make potholes magically disappear on city streets, much like its Ram 1500 pickup-truck cousin.
I could write more about its 120 safety features, real walnut wood in the cabin and ability to drive itself hands-free, but I’d rather sip ice-cold tea from the refrigerator in the center console while floating across Texas like a railroad tycoon.
Pricing for the Grand Wagoneer starts at $88,640 and tops out at $107,995 for the Series III, before options.
At A Glance
What was tested? 2022 Grand Wagoner Obsidian 4×4 ($97,995). Options: Preferred Package 23T ($5,495), convenience group ($3,795), heavy duty trailer tow package ($995), rear-seat entertainment group ($2,195). Price as tested (including $2,000 destination charge): $112,475
Wheelbase: 123 in.
Length: 214.7 in.
Width: 94 in.
Height: 75.6 in.
Engine: 6.4-liter V8 (471 hp, 455 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 13 city, 18 highway
Why buy it?
The Grand Wagoneer is an over-the-top celebration of American luxury and go-anywhere capability.