Eleven point two. Yes, 11.2 miles per gallon is what I achieved after one week and 320.3 miles of driving the 2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer. Granted, half of those miles involved towing, and many of the others came from city driving. But the fuel economy I managed from the latest, biggest, throwbackiest Jeep-not-Jeep to hit the market really sets the tone for what this 2022 Grand Wagoneer is – and isn’t.
I am an unapologetic fanboy of the old Grand Wagoneers. As a child of the 80s and 90s, we had several family friends who had them. Michelle managed the local taco joint and had a beat-up maroon Grand Wagoneer, Andrea used a nicer navy blue one to shuttle my friend and his sister around. They did, and still do, ooze style and elegance, a timeless design that evolved from “big go-anywhere machine” to “luxury via options and ability.”
Romanticizing aside, the old Grand Wagoneer was kind of shit. They rusted badly, even in dry climates. The AMC V8 engine made a wheezy 144 horsepower from 5.9 liters. Even in perfect condition, they’ve got sloppy steering and underwhelming brakes. They were made of a mishmash of parts from AMC, General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler. They were beautiful disasters of machines that somehow still tug at my heart.
For better or worse, the new 2022 Grand Wagoneer is not the old “FSJ” Grand Wagoneer.
What Is It?
The 2022 Grand Wagoneer is “not a Jeep” according to Stellantis PR, but rather “a premium extension of the Jeep brand” as a sub-brand. Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer are both pictured on the Jeep website and will be sold and serviced at traditional Chrysler, Dodge, Ram, Jeep dealerships, but with an elevated experience. So they say.
Both the 2022 Wagoneer and 2022 Grand Wagoneer use fully independent suspension and ride on a modified version of the Ram 1500 platform. They’re the same size, sharing a 123-inch wheelbase and offering seating for seven or eight depending on second-row configuration. Differences are found in engine, suspension, and four-wheel drive offerings, plus visual and trim changes.
Every Grand Wagoneer is powered by a turnt-up variant of the Ram 2500’s 6.4-liter V8, making 471 horsepower and 455 lb-ft of torque, sent to all four wheels with Quadra-Drive II all-wheel drive. It’s a full-time all-wheel drive system with selectable low range and an electronically-controlled limited-slip differential out back. Four-corner air suspension is also standard.
The not-Grand “regular” Wagoneer, by comparison, is powered by the 5.7-liter V8 with eTorque. A four-corner steel-spring suspension is standard, as is Quadra-Trac I, a full-time all-wheel drive system with no low range. Quadra-Trac II adds selectable low range.
My test car was a Grand Wagoneer Series II, which was very well-equipped but sat below the even-ritzier Series III or black-on-black-on-black Obsidian. I had the $3,600 Convenience Group, which added the FamCam backseat camera and night vision with pedestrian detection, but this car did not have the $4,000 Premium Group, $2,000 Rear Seat Entertainment Group, or $1,200 front passenger display. Jeep claims the Grand Wagoneer offers “up to 75 inches of screens” and I was honestly relieved to not have most of them, though bummed to not experience the 23-speaker McIntosh sound system that comes in the Premium Group.
Where the Wagoneer competes against more “plebian” offerings like the Ford Expedition and Chevrolet Tahoe, the 2022 Grand Wagoneer is aimed at the luxury market, just like the O.G. In this case, Jeep is targeting the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator as their chief rivals. MSRP of my not-loaded Grand Wagoneer Series II came in around $102,000.
Towing With the 2022 Grand Wagoneer Series II
I had a racecar to retrieve from the paint shop, a perfect test of the 2022 Grand Wagoneer’s towing abilities over a somewhat-challenging mountain as part of the drive. Hooking up the trailer was easy, despite a plastic beauty cover hiding the hitch receiver. Three twist-lock fasteners easily removed by hand and exposed the business end of the Jeep. Er, not Jeep.
Almost immediately, I encountered a problem. Twisting the headlight switch to On made the dashboard chime and claim “Trailer Lamp Fault.” The running lights weren’t working. Pressing the brake pedal made them flicker, but only briefly. My trailer’s wiring and plug are in good shape, and I had used the trailer only a few weeks prior with no issues.
I eventually figured out the plug on the Wagoneer was either not sending quite enough voltage or not making a good enough connection to reliably connect to the trailer. My solution? Hooking up my Tekonsha Prodigy RF trailer brake controller in-line, between the Grand Wagoneer and trailer, as its plug seemed to fit more snugly into the socket.
This, of course, meant the Grand Wagoneer’s built-in trailer brake controller was disabled, and thus any sway control or other trailer-based trickery wouldn’t work (those functions rely on “seeing” the trailer brakes). Regardless, I had lights and brakes, so I hit the Tow/Haul button to enable different shift points and air suspension behavior, and set off.
On the move, the 2022 Grand Wagoneer is a good tow vehicle. With roughly 6,800 pounds of BMW and trailer, the 6.4-liter V8 had to work a bit, but never felt overwhelmed. The transmission is well-geared, even on hills, with eight nicely-spaced ratios that aren’t too long or too short. Likewise, the suspension damping and body control were excellent over road undulations and dips. Part of my journey took me on Interstate 81, a notorious route for eighteen-wheelers. The 123-inch wheelbase was long enough and suspension good enough that my 20-foot trailer wasn’t pushed around by “wind wake” coming off of those big trucks.
My only concern with 2022 Grand Wagoneer towing is in its payload. Stated payload is only 1,380 pounds – which pales in comparison to the Lincoln Navigator’s 1,600 pounds and Cadillac Escalade’s staggering 2,047 pounds. For buyers, towing at the Grand Wagoneer’s maximum rating of 9,850 pounds – and thus, a safe 10 percent tongue weight of 985 pounds – leaves just 395 pounds available for the driver, passengers, and cargo. Rivals aren’t rated to tow quite as much weight (8,300 pounds on short-wheelbase Navigator 4WD, 7,500 pounds on short-wheelbase Escalade 4WD) but leave more room in their safe, official ratings for “stuff inside.”
The New Grand Wagoneer Isn’t Like the Old Grand Wagoneer, But It Is
Subjective styling aside, the 2022 Grand Wagoneer is “nice” and “good” as big body-on-frame luxury SUVs go. Ride quality is excellent, wind and tire noise is minimal, it is by most measurable metrics An Good Car. It performed remarkably well in a snowstorm that saw countless D.C. drivers stuck on unplowed roads. And yet, it left me cold.
Inside and out, there are seventeen places where the Grand Wagoneer reminds you it is a Grand Wagoneer. Small Jeep logos are only found hidden in the mirror housings, headlamps, and tail lamps. That badging effort speaks volumes. Jeep proudly stamped their name on the nose, tail, and steering wheel of the 1991 Grand Wagoneer, and let it speak for itself otherwise. It sat in a showroom alongside the Cherokee and Wrangler. Why is Stellantis so afraid to call a Jeep a Jeep?
Back in FSJ times, there was no real competition, and every Jeep was a bit of a novelty. Now, though, Cadillac and Lincoln sell their huge six-figure SUVs through an ‘elevated’ dealership experience. Jeep’s appeal has broadened, and while the Compass and Wrangler are fine vehicles, they’re not high-end novelty at this point. Creating a “sub-brand” means the Grand Wagoneer can be sold straight-faced with MSRPs kissing $110,000.
The FSJ’s final years weren’t moving the needle much. It was the best that AMC-then-Jeep could do with the bits and budget they had, and a more modern, innovative replacement was a few years off – the ZJ Grand Cherokee. Rivals, meanwhile, were emerging with hot new advancements like coil springs and fuel injection.
The FSJ was a fine offering that sold – and still sells for high dollar via Wagonmaster and Bring A Trailer – on the throwback vibe and epic styling more than anything. Having the market mostly to itself for a long while certainly helped.
By comparison, the 2022 Grand Wagoneer stares down a saturated segment with its polarizing design. Others offer better fuel economy via turbocharging or diesel engines, or advanced driver assistance technology. The Grand Wagoneer is quite nice and is spacious for six tall people, but otherwise feels a bit late to the party, “the best of Stellantis today.” It’s a bit old school, and doesn’t necessarily innovate. It isn’t bad at all, but I found myself constantly wondering what Stellantis had up their sleeves for the future of the truck. In that way, it’s like the late FSJ, all over again.
The new 2022 Grand Wagoneer is a million times better to drive than the old FSJ. It is far safer in a crash and shouldn’t rust or be otherwise cantankerous like the old model. It is better in every “think with your head” kind of metric. And for the Mopar diehards who want the ultimate Stellantis-branded vehicle to move people and things in luxury, this is certainly the one to have.
Unfortunately, cars are also a “feel in your heart” sort of purchase, and the 2022 Grand Wagoneer – despite being just swell in lots of ways – doesn’t stir much emotion given the nameplate it attempts to revive.