2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer First Test Review: Fashionably Late

It’s not fair, really. Within days of driving the new 2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer, we had occasion to sample the 2021 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge. There simply was no comparison. The British luxury SUV couldn’t hope to compete in terms of spaciousness, but neither was it the Jeep’s match for features. Sure, the Rolls had a Shooting Star headliner, power-closing coach (rear-hinged) doors, a motorized picnic set, and umbrellas in the doors, but it lacked basic amenities like four-zone automatic climate control, Active Driving Assist, Apple CarPlay, and rear-seat entertainment, not to mention a 23-speaker McIntosh Reference Audio System (the Rolls’ Bespoke Audio setup makes do with 16 speakers). And don’t get us going on USB plugs (Jeep: 22, Rolls: 3).

Ride quality and interior sound levels proved to be surprising similarities between the four-times-pricier Rolls and the 2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer. Both vehicles smother the road like few others, including the Grand Wagoneer’s peer group, the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator. And while some MotorTrend staffers found the Jeep’s suspension to become a little busy on certain highway surfaces, most applauded its rolling-sofa ability to absorb the effects of our long-neglected roadways. You know, the way all American luxury cars once did before someone declared a firm “European” road feel was the only acceptable way to tune a suspension.

Can You Handle It?

No one expects nimble autocross handling from an 18-foot-long, 6,368-pound three-row SUV, but the 2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer feels reasonably sure-footed, right up until the driver awakes its parochial-school nun of a stability nanny. At the merest whiff of understeer, she knuckle-raps the brakes, kneecapping our every effort to obtain meaningful lateral-g or figure-eight performance numbers.

The best thing we can say is, Jeep’s system is less intrusive than the Escalade’s, permitting 0.65 g of lateral grip before pulling the plug versus the Caddy’s 0.60 g. Our only clue as to how the 2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer’s ultimate handling grip might compare comes from its stopping distance from 60 mph. At 134 feet, it trails the Lincoln and Cadillac by 9 to 12 feet. But while driving a twisting road quickly yet judiciously enough to avoid the nanny’s wrath, we found it’s a handful to hustle, but you can hustle it surprisingly well.

Full Speed Ahead

In terms of straight-line performance, the 2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer stands at the head of the class, its lusty 6.4-liter (that’s 392 cubes in American) charges to 60 mph in just 5.7 seconds and on through the quarter mile in 14.1 seconds at 99.1 mph. The lighter, torquier twin-turbo V-6 Lincoln—which matches the Jeep’s 13.5 lb/hp weight-to-power ratio—trails by two-tenths to 60, a gap that nearly doubles by the quarter. The Caddy trails by another tenth or two. And in case you’re wondering: The 6,242-pound V-12 Cullinan is way out in front at 4.7 seconds to 60 and 13.1 seconds at 109.6 mph in the quarter.

Comfort Matters

Of course, none of the above is as important to this class of vehicle as interior space and comfort. In this regard the 2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer slots between the short-wheelbase versions of the Escalade and Navigator with somewhat less passenger volume than both in the front seat, somewhat more in the middle row, and a third row that splits the difference. (Note: This indicates savvy package engineering because front- and middle-row legroom are determined with the front seat set to whatever position the manufacturer declares to be the 95th percentile male seating position. So even with a smaller official front-seat legroom number on paper, the seat can often adjust farther aft, so taller drivers can still make themselves comfortable.) Case in point, our gentle-giant, 6-foot-10 associate online editor Alex Leanse, declared: “The second and third rows are enormous. I could ride in any seat comfortably for hours.”

In terms of comfort, we can declare the Jeep’s front-seat massage feature to be superior to that of the Rolls-Royce, with greater selection and intensity of massage programs. The seats themselves are all comfortable, and the lane-centering Active Drive Assist system is second only to Cadillac’s Super Cruise in terms of relieving driver fatigue, with both using capacitive sensors to determine whether the driver’s hand is on the wheel. Add in superior visibility from every seat, and you have a marvelous road trip machine.

On the cargo front, the Jeep’s 116.7 cubic feet of all-seats-down space bests its domestic competition by 7.6 to 16.4 cubic feet, but only if you opt for the second-row bench seat—the fixed console reduces the total to 94.2. There’s more space behind the second and third rows, too. And remember, a long-wheelbase version is coming.

The biggest question the market is yet to answer is whether any Jeep can lure luxury intenders the way a Cadillac or Lincoln can—not that you’ll find a “Jeep” wordmark anywhere on the vehicle. This question calls to mind a time around 1990 when I was a lowly Chrysler engineer shortly after the company acquired the Jeep brand. I took part in a call-the-customer program where we were instructed to ask new buyers how they liked their vehicle, suggestions for improvement, what other vehicles they owned, and what if any trouble they were having with their new car. Those new SJ Jeep Grand Wagoneers were almost always sharing garage space with Mercedes, BMW, and other high-end luxury cars, yet their owners were generally pleased with their purchase.

Buyers are undoubtedly pickier today, but the 2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer is infinitely better equipped to satisfy them than that faux-wood-paneled buggy dating to 1963 ever was.

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