After over a decade of rumors, questions, consumer/customer polling, design, and engineering, the Wagoneer is here and the ripple effect it is going to create is going to be big. I was recently given a good chunk of the afternoon to get familiar with a Wagoneer Series II 4×2 and a Wagoneer Series III 4×4. The first reaction was wow, this is a nice big family vehicle.
It is more than “big”, it has a brawny shape to it that I think is unique to the class. The Expedition and Navigator have gotten smooth and without hard lines, the Tahoe and Escalade have some sharp edges, but the overall shape is mixed and both the Ford and General Motors (GM) SUVs have slab sides, similar lines, and pillar shapes. The Wagoneer, however, takes what has become the classic Jeep® shape, and creates what I see as the most unique design in the class. Stepping back, the roofline, pillars, and wheel arch shape are all distinctly Jeep and unique to the class.
While some in the competition have their grille and hoods leaned back for aero, the Wagoneer is forward. The Wagoneer wheel arches pop out to take away the slab sides and give definition to the vehicle. The grille is simple Jeep, not overstated or exaggerated. The taillights and hatch are clean and simple.
Walking around the fit and finish is great with clean and smooth gaps and doors that open and close with a solid thud. This was not a press vehicle so I took a lot of time looking for trim fitment or paint defects but could not find any. The emblems have a simple machined look, not chrome or gaudy. The American Flag is a great touch, that really fits Jeep and makes me smile. The typical Jeep details are noticeable, also with a silhouette of a Wagoneer on the windshield and other small Easter eggs here and there.
While the outside is nice, the inside is what matters to buyers in this class. Our Series II 4×2 tester had one option only, Diamond Crystal Peal paint. Priced at $71,440 after a $2,000 destination charge, this Wagoneer is directly in the heart of the Chevy Tahoe market. Standard features include 8-passenger seating, 8-way power front seats that are heated and cooled, heated steering wheel, trailer/tow group, LED headlamps, Tri-Zone climate control, Alpine 9-speaker premium stereo, GPS Navigation, adaptive cruise control, and the full line of electronic safety features that are normally optional with the competition.
The Series II standard leather interior is comfortable and is the same durable material used in other Jeep and Ram Truck products. This being a production unit; I again took a lot of time to try to find defects or issues and could not find anything on the Series II that would make me concerned. I did, however, find one issue on Series III. One of the second-row captain’s chairs had a slightly loose piece of trim that was only visible when the seat was folded. It was an easy fix on the spot and was probably caused by the pile of floor mats still in the plastic bag on the floorboard and the seat being moved around.
The interior materials are similar to what can be found in award-winning vehicles like the Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500. The fit and finish are better than many recent Chrysler Group products and not cheap feeling like those found in the GM SUVs. I’m sorry Tahoe fans, the GM interiors look and feel like they are sourced through Alibaba.
Sitting in the driver’s seat feels a lot like a Ram 1500. The wide, truck-like console is placed perfectly for your elbow. The rotary shift not is prominently centered and has a great tactical feel compared to the one found in the late model Durango or Chrysler 200 sedans. My only complaint is the shifter placement almost makes that section of the console look too plain on this entry-level model. The higher-level models with more equipment have controls and buttons that help fill the empty space.
The 10.1-inch instrument screen looks great in front of you and even in the Texas afternoon sun, it was bright and easy to read. Going through the different screens, my favorite was the navigation map filling screen and giving me road info directly in my forward line of sight. That’s a great feature in my opinion as I use mapping features when traveling. The steering wheel has the thick feel of the Ram 1500, don’t change this Jeep, it is perfect. The new rear-seat displays for the second row are surprisingly large. While they are fixed and do not fold into the seat, they can be adjusted to get the tilt right for the passenger.
On the road, the Wagoneer really does feel smaller than it actually is. Visibility is not a problem with the large mirrors and lane detection. The 5.7-liter HEMI V8 with eTorque was more than enough to get the big Jeep up to 80 mph on the highway. While my drive was only around 20 miles, it was mixed with highways, very rough back roads, and city streets. I am personally not a big fan of stop-start systems, but I will say that the engineers have done an excellent job of making it harder to detect when it is operating on the new Wagoneer. The only time I felt it was at shut off, the start-up was seamless and the Torqueflite 8-speed automatic transmission was smooth and hit every shift perfectly. The ZF-based 8-speed has really proven itself and it is fantastic, something all of us at MoparInsiders.com mentioned time after time again.
Our test vehicle had almost 60 miles (96.5 kilometers) on it when we parked it for the day. While on the highway at 65 mph the instantaneous miles per gallon were hovering in the high-20s and the average for the total 40 miles (63.7 kilometers) was sitting just over 20 mpg.
The Wagoneer was smooth on the highway with the new independent rear suspension (IRS) soaking up even the road construction bumps. On the back roads at lower speeds, you feel the bumps, but they are not jarring or hard-hitting. I did not expect the Wagoneer to “ride like a Cadillac”, nor did I want it to. If you have driven a Ram 1500, the overall drive of the Wagoneer is very similar.
While I have not driven the current Tahoe and Escalade, I have driven the recent versions of the Expedition and Navigator. I am thoroughly impressed with the Wagoneer and how it drives. The Expedition and Navigator feel huge and have a wallow feel compared to the much nimbler feeling Wagoneer. While the Navigator is certainly smoother, it’s the Jeep feel that makes the Wagoneer feel the way it does. Overall, the Wagoneer was very compliant and comfortable but still had that Jeep feel that anyone who owns one understands.
After years of thinking there is no way to justify this vehicle, I was happy to say I was wrong and very impressed. Jeep is taking a big gamble with the Wagoneer. As I have previously stated on message boards, this is a market that is nearly impossible to make ground in. The Tahoe and Escalade are the absolute benchmarks for the class and many have tried to make ground only to fade away. The Wagoneer has the potential to really shake up the full-size SUV game and I really hope it does because it will make the competition truly step up.
While the Tahoe and Escalade have become soccer mom status symbols, the timeless Wagoneer name that created the class is back and it has everything needed to be competitive. It just so happened a younger lady and her husband showed up in a four-wheel-drive GM truck to look at the Wagoneer while we were there. They specifically asked about towing, rear-seat infotainment for the kids, and room in the back with the third row down. I asked them why they were looking at the Wagoneer and not a Tahoe and her response was “everyone has a Tahoe”. She really liked the Wagoneer Series III 4×4 but wanted to wait and see the Grand Wagoneer before making a decision. Her husband was interested in the 6.4-liter HEMI rather than the 5.7-liter HEMI in the Wagoneer.
I think we will see more examples of this in the future. To all the forum members reading this, and you know who you are, I’ll take that plate of crow now… Thanks!
Special thanks to Bluebonnet Jeep® in New Braunfels, Texas, for allowing us the opportunity to use both of their Wagoneers for the afternoon.
For those who already have ordered or are going to purchase a new Wagoneer/Grand Wagoneer vehicle, be sure to join our dedicated WagoneerForums.org forums. There you can keep us with everything news, information, and rumor related to the new Wagoneer duo and even interact with Wagoneer Client Services.
2022 Jeep® Wagoneer Series II and III Image Gallery: