It’s always exciting to drive a “new-from-scratch” vehicle and when Jeep unveiled their Grand Wagoneer concept last year, we excitedly looked forward to the day when we could crawl in and take it for a spin. And then drive up the side of a mountain with it. Then ford the Grand Canyon. After going mudding in the Everglades. Before chasing polar bears across the frozen tundra of Alaska. Jeep was kind enough to drop off a white Grand Wagoneer Series III to us to play with and chase those fantasies.
The Series III is the ne plus ultra of the Grand Wagoneer line. It sits at the pinnicle of the product line and comes fully loaded with just about every conceivable option known to man. Which is where we at GT Spirit like to be.
The first thing we noticed about the Grand Wagoneer was how BIG it was. I mean, it’s BIG. Pulling up behind a new Suburban at a stop light made the Suburban look modestly-sized. But it’s also an attention-getter. Lots of people asked about it and we caught even more checking it out when they didn’t think we were watching. The chrome grille up front retains Jeep’s signature 7-slot design language, though it’s a new interpretation that we also saw on this year’s Grand Cherokee and Grand Cherokee L. In my opinion, it looks sharp and complements the brand. The roof is black, which gives it a further touch of elegance. Jeep has chosen to further distinguish it’s new SUV from all the other cookie cutter SUV’s by rounding the bottoms of the side windows and squaring the tops of them. This is the only questionable design choice in my opinion, but it does help the Grand Wagoneer stand out from the crowd while providing large windows for better view.
The inside is both spacious and crafted from very high quality materials. The first time you climb up into the Grand Wagoneer and settle into the comfortable driver’s seat, you find yourself impressed with the quality of the leather and the colored piping and stitching throughout the interior. The real and natural wood accents provide a warm, rich feel. And you gaze out upon multiple screens of crystal-clear technological luxo-magic. For it’s price tag, you’d expect the Grand Wagoneer to offer every luxury under the sun. And it does. The latest version of Uconnect, Chrysl – sorry – Stellaris’s infotainment system includes a larger touch screen, a sub-screen, and even a passenger screen – over 75” of usable screen space. From these screens, nearly everything in the vehicle is accessible and adjustable. The seats are heated, ventilated, and (at least in front) have massagers built in. With FIVE pre-programmed massage routines. There was so much technology packed into the vehicle that I found myself looking for something to fault them for.
“A-ha! No heads-up display! No, wait….it was just turned off….”
A-ha! No automatic windshield wipers! No, wait…they ARE automatic, there’s just not an auto setting for it.”
There’s even a “Fam Cam” that the front seat passenger can use to check on mid-seat and third-row-seat passengers, and it’s aimed in such a way that it can view infants in rearward-facing child seats. Someone on the design team was thinking! Approach the vehicle with the fob in your pocket and the lights come on, the side mirrors emit a welcoming light puddle on ground beneath the door (“Wagoneer”), and the rocker panels quietly (obediently?) fold down, revealing that the backside is actually a step to help you get up into the vehicle. It seems silly admitting it but it makes you feel like someone special and I confess, I really started liking that.
But in my opinion, the coolest single feature (besides the massage seats) is the infrared night vision that appears in the gauge cluster and not only highlights heat-emitting sources but can also identify human pedestrians and will highlight them in an orange (green?) box. From this cool technological marvel, I learned that tires, exhaust pipes, and rear differentials are the hottest parts of cars. And sometimes people through the windows. Cool, huh? We’ve seen this before on a few Cadillac models but it’s nice to see it here in the Grand Wagoneer too. Especially during deer season in Michigan.
Wagoneers will come with a 5.7L V8 that provides 392hp and 404 lb-ft of torque and Grand Wagoneers will come with a 6.4L Hemi V8 that provides 470hp and 455 lb-ft of torque. Through the use of it’s 8-speed automatic transmission and Jeep’s incredible Quadra-Trac II 4×4 system, there’s no place you won’t be able to take your Grand Wagoneer. Driver’s can select from different specific drive modes designed to handle sand/mud, snow, rock, normal, and sport. You may find the sport mode to be the most unusual drive mode for a Jeep (unless you drove the mind-boggling Grand Cherokee Trackhawk) but once selected the Grand Wagoneer launches down the road, using that big V8 to move the 3-ton vehicle with more speed that it has any right to. It GOES. I think I surprised quite a few people by stepping on the gas and fleeing the scene – whatever scene I was part of. The Grand Wagoneer has a maximum towing capacity of nearly 10,000 lbs. Capable? Quite.
Chassis movement and roll is held in check by the Quadra-Lift air suspension system. It keeps the ride soft and cushiony but not floaty. In our week with the Grand Wagoneer, we never felt the chassis movement was too squishy or too floaty or conversely, too firm. It’s comfortable but controlled, offering a ride with attributes similar to the magnetoheliological shocks found on many high-end vehicles. Which is to say ride is about perfect.
The steering is light (but not too light) and the turning radius is surprisingly tight. Pulling the large truck into narrow parking spots is much easier than you’d ever imagine. Just turn the wheel and the Grand Wagoneer seems to sense what space you’re trying to fit into and does it for you. It’s not at ALL like a large pick-up that you have to reverse and try again at least three times to fit in that narrow spot in Taco Bell’s parking lot. It fits first time, every time. At speed on a the freeway, it tracks straight and true and steering feels very intuitive.
While I’m not a luxury car guy or an SUV guy unless it has a fantastic engine in it or it’s designed to perform in a track setting, I quickly grew fond of the Grand Wagoneer. Besides it’s technological flattery and WOW! factor, it’s a remarkably comfortable and spacious vehicle. If i had a family, THIS is what I’d want for them to ride around in. It’d be my absolute first choice for taking a trip across America, family or not. It effortlessly devours miles and miles of freeway travel without fatiguing or tiring you…driving around with the heated seats on, massaging your tired muscles, enjoying the scenery through the large windows and multiple skylights while music through the 23-speaker McIntosh sound system helps focus your mind. After a week driving it, i found I really DID want to drive it up the side of a mountain, ford the Grand Canyon, go mudding in the Everglades, and then chase polar bears across the Alaskan tundra. And just enjoy the drive between events.
Fuel efficiency was surprisingly good for such a large vehicle sporting a large V8. I mean, it’s not supernatural but it’s much better than I expected it would be. I only had to fill the 26-gallon tank once in the week that I drove it. The Durango SRT Hellcat required two fill-ups.
The only odd thing is….there is literally NO mention of the Jeep brand anywhere on it. There isn’t a single Jeep badge anywhere on it’s body. Inside, there’s no Jeep emblem or symbol either. Even the owner’s manual in the glovebox doesn’t have “Jeep” on the cover. Every badge says “Grand Wagoneer” or “Wagoneer.” No “Jeep” anywhere. We found that odd on a vehicle from a company that usually splashes it’s logo across every surface it can find. Although…none of us really felt we were driving a Jeep because the Grand Wagoneer felt more like…a VERY high-end Chrysler product. Or Maserati-class product. Or something much, much greater than a pedestrian Jeep.
According to Jeep, that’s because they feel they have the mainstream SUV segments covered by current Jeep products. They see the Wagoneer and the Grand Wagoneer as an elite extension of the Jeep brand, designed to appeal to people who want something MORE luxurious and MORE capable than the Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Part of that elite luxury touch is the Wagoneer Client Services team. It’s been set up to assist owners with personalized services – everything from picking out the right Wagoneer, to remote assistance when you lose your fob, to scheduling a vehicle pickup for service so it doesn’t intrude on your schedule. It’s a special personalized touch for Wagoneer owners. Dealerships must complete certification in order to sell, maintain, or service Wagoneer products and every service will return your Wagoneer to you with a full tank of fuel and a wash – some things you don’t get with a regular Grand Cherokee. And frankly, after spending a week with the Grand Wagoneer, special service like that fits perfectly with our experience. It’s the next logical step to luxury vehicle ownership and if the Grand Wagoneer feels that special to the driver, with all it’s unique technology and luxurious touches, special service will positively spoil the owner and potentially help keep them in the Jeep fold.
Of course, this doesn’t come cheap. The Wagoneer starts at $69,440 and the Grand Wagoneer starts at $88,440. As tested, our fully-loaded Series III Grand Wagoneer came in at $109,000.
We look forward to other Wagoneer products down the road, but for now we’ll focus on how to get our own Grand Wagoneer in the garage.