“Good luck, and don’t. ***. it. up.”RuPaul Charles
There are two vehicles in the Stellantis family that the company simply cannot screw up. Stellantis, the conglomerate that owns Dodge, Chrysler, Ram, and Jeep – among others – owns the ongoing development of the Chrysler minivan and the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Both vehicles more or less defined their segments when first introduced, and now roughly 30 years later, the 2022 Grand Cherokee L has evolved into its next iteration.
Model year 2022 marks a first for Jeep. While the brand flirted with a three-row SUV in the mid-aughts – the well-received but short-lived Jeep Commander – this year they offer three vehicles with three rows of seats. Larger body-on-frame Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer are the “halo” models, sort of. But there’s an all-new platform for this WL Grand Cherokee, and Jeep stretched it to offer the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee L with, yes, three rows of seats.
I spent a week with a nearly-loaded 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve. The company hasn’t screwed it up – quite the opposite. In fact, I think it’s the better Grand Wagoneer than the actual 2022 Grand Wagoneer. Shooketh? Sure. Let’s dig in.
What Is It?
This is a 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve. An an all-new “WL” platform bows, finally ditching the ‘WK” platform that shared bits of W164 Mercedes-Benz ML and underpinned the previous Grand Cherokee from 2005 onward.
The “L” designation indicates five extra inches of wheelbase and 11.4 inches more Jeep overall, giving room for the all-important third row of seats and a bit more cargo room. Don’t need the space? The two-row 2022 Grand Cherokee also exists and is more or less a shorter variant of the same formula.
Jeep offers two engines in the Grand Cherokee L, both of which are old standbys. The corporate 3.6 liter Pentastar V6 is offered across every trim level, augmented by an optional 5.7 liter Hemi V8 on higher trims. My Summit Reserve, despite being loaded otherwise, was equipped with the Pentastar V6, producing 293 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. It’s class-competitive, but Jeep saddles the Grand Cherokee L with hardware to be capable off-road, adding extra weight.
Three all-wheel drive systems are offered, depending on the trim you choose. The most basic Quadra Trac I system is a full-time all-wheel drive setup with fixed front-to-rear power split and open differentials. Quadra Trac II adds low range gearing and a clutch pack in the center differential, allowing variable power split front or rear.
My Summit Reserve had the most advanced system, called Quadra Drive II. Quadra Drive II augments the center differential’s clutch pack with limited-slip differentials on front and rear axles, which means the Jeep can apportion power left or right, not just front or back. Quadra Lift four-corner air suspension is included with Quadra Drive II, allowing up to 10.9 inches of ground clearance (without, you still get 8.5 inches) and two feet of water fording capability.
The Pentastar V6 – and Associated Tow Rating – Conundrum
Crossing the scales at 5,086 pounds, the Grand Cherokee L is almost 750 pounds heavier than a 2022 Kia Telluride and 440 pounds heavier than a 2022 Nissan Pathfinder. Nobody is calling any of these large three-row unibodies “sprightly,” but that extra weight makes a difference when your V6 makes similar power and torque to the competition.
The Pentastar V6 works fine in the Grand Cherokee L, but it is always working. Jaunts to four and five thousand RPM are common on even small hills with just the driver on board. As a result, fuel economy suffers, and I think real-world economy between the V6 and V8 may be closer than the EPA implies.
While Jeep does rate the V6 Grand Cherokee L to tow 6,200 pounds – and I have no doubt that it would do it – I’d be inclined to recommend the V8 if you want to pull any sort of car trailer or bigger camper. Jeep adds another thousand pounds of capacity to those Grand Cherokee Ls with Hemis, for a total 7,200 pound rating, but the V8 adds 64 horsepower and another 130 lb-ft torque, which’ll make everything a bit more relaxed, towing in particular. Payload is roughly the same with either engine, around 1,200 pounds.
A V8-powered Grand Cherokee L would have enough wheelbase, at 121.7 inches, to tow my 20-foot enclosed trailer with probable grace. Should we get another in the DC area with a V8, I’ll be sure to give it a try.
Building a Better Grand Wagoneer
Writing this feels a bit like a therapy session, something I have to get off my chest. Plenty of automotive media either like or love the 2022 Grand Wagoneer. I… do not. I spent a week with one and it just doesn’t land, between its proportions and what it brings (and doesn’t) to the table. It’s “the best” on paper thanks to a never-ending race of spec sheets, fueled partially by journalists who think “more” means “better.” And as a result, it’s not cohesive.
By comparison, the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee L is sumptuous. In 1992, the Grand Cherokee was positioned as a replacement for the Grand Wagoneer. Jeep literature called it “designed for independent-minded, urbane individuals who desire the best of both worlds – sophisticated luxury and proven Jeep durability.”
That formula between the Grand Cherokee L and Grand Wagoneer is much the same – supple leather everywhere, massaging front seats, high-end McIntosh audio systems, comfortable second rows, and big-enough third rows, all atop a refined air suspension.
Yet somehow, the unibody Grand Cherokee L just works where the Grand Wagoneer doesn’t. It’s right-sized, feeling nimble with precisely zero inkling of being “sporty.” You sit with an excellent view of the road ahead, thanks to a low dashboard and door sills. Despite the industry’s pointless rush to cover every square inch of interiors in pixels, my Grand Cherokee L only offered two – one used kinda-well for gauges, and another for UConnect 5 (fantastic, except every time CarPlay disconnected) between the front seats. Buttons and knobs still exist for frequently-used controls, a nice touch.
The “O.G.” Grand Wagoneer was unabashedly An Jeep – a very nice one, but sold and positioned as a Jeep. In 2022, we’re told to call “Wagoneer” its own sub-brand, a notion reinforced by no fewer than seventeen badges on the most expensive not-Jeep reminding you it is G R A N D W A G O N E E R. If you have to be reminded so much, is the new one really an authentic evolution of the old?
Meanwhile, the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee L sits in a Jeep showroom, with a few Jeep badges stuck to it. It’s tremendous inside, a cohesive effort that comes from a team of people who know they cannot *** this up. It feels more the part than the actual thing, which I find remarkable.
Engine offerings are the only element of this Jeep that feel outdated. I’d love to see electrification and/or forced induction added in a future iteration. If rumors are to be believed, there’s a turbocharged inline-six mild-hybrid engine heading Jeep’s way, and that’ll be the one to have. In the meantime, I’d pick the Hemi.
Good cars meet your needs, are safe, and last a long time. Great cars make you feel some kind of way when you look at them, drive them, park them, and walk away from them.
Between the 2022 Grand Wagoneer and 2022 Grand Cherokee L, I only looked back at one of the two. It sounds a bit ridiculous for yet another three-row unibody, but it is truly that good.