The 2022 Jeep Wagoneer Series III Arrived Too Late To Win SUV of the Year

The Wagoneer by Jeep is divisive. Some SUV fans love its retro styling, luxury features, and 4WD capabilities. But some Jeep fanatics says it’s entirely too large and too heavy to be a true, off-road-ready Jeep. MotorTrend tested the 2022 Wagoneer Series III by Jeep, and this mid-trim model was even in the running for SUV of the year. But in the end it lost out to the Jeep Rubicon 392. Here’s why.

The all-new 2022 Jeep Wagoneer Series III, by the numbers

A gray Wagoneer by Jeep driving along an off-road course, a ridge line visible in the background.
2023 Jeep Wagoneer | Kevin McCauley of Capturing the Machine

Wagoneer is a sub-brand of Jeep, but the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer borrow just as much technology from Ram trucks as they do from Jeep SUVs. These full-size SUVs both ride on a full Ram chassis and come with two sizes of powerful HEMI V8.

The Wagoneer engineers improved on Ram’s technology. They swapped the live rear axle for independent suspension. They also added the eTorque mild hybrid system to the largest HEMI V8. Some even more advanced features, such as full-time 4WD and four-corner air suspension are optional on the Wagoneer and standard on the Grand Wagoneer.

The affectation of an off-roader, but with three full rows

2023 Jeep Wagoneer | Kevin McCauley of Capturing the Machine

The Jeep Wagoneer Series III, as tested by MotorTrend, weighed in at 6,230 pounds. That makes it the heaviest vehicle MotorTrend tested in the segment. Despite this, it gets to 60 MPH in 7.43 seconds, handles relatively well, and is surprisingly sure-footed on slippery off-road terrain. These attributes are engineering marvels considering its size. But its size still limits it.

During MotorTrend‘s tests, they couldn’t take the Wagoneer Series III on trails other Jeeps handle with ease, for fear of banging the luxury SUV up. Even though it has skidplates, it sits close to the ground. When the testers took it on the track, they found its smooth handling fell away at high speeds, leaving test drivers a bit concerned.

People love full-size SUVs with a third row of seating. And there’s nothing wrong with Stellantis entering this market segment. Jeep engineered the Wagoneer Series III with enough room for tall adults–in any of its three rows. It has excellent cargo space and a very comfortable interior. This SUV is a well-engineered tool for a specific job. But despite its Jeep heritage, that job is not off-roading or racing around a track.

Oversized SUV with an oversized price

2023 Jeep Wagoneer | Stellantis

The Wagoneer Series III that MotorTrend tested is pretty far from a Jeep Wrangler–and even a Grand Cherokee. It has a nearly six-figure price tag and the heft to match. But the team at MotorTrend were not testing whether the Grand Wagoneer is a good Jeep. The publication is deciding whether to name it the SUV of the year.

As SUVs go, the Grand Wagoneer has a lot to offer. Its infotainment system is top-notch. Its style is eye-catching. And it’s certainly not going to get stuck if you need to park it on the lawn.

The full-frame, truck-based SUV segment has been around for decades and can always benefit from some innovation. MotorTrend often chooses its vehicles of the year based on innovative engineering. I suspect that had Jeep released the Grand Wagoneer Series III even three years ago, it would have won SUV of the year handily.

Today, SUVs such as the Rivian R1S and Tesla Model X have raised the bar for innovation considerably. Motortrend ended up giving its four-wheel-drive SUV of the year award to the Wagoneer’s plug-in hybrid cousin: the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe. We’ll just have to wait to see whether the Wagoneer 4xe gets similar accolades when it arrives.

Next, see how the plug-in hybrid Wagoneer 4xe could transform the market segment or watch MotorTrend test the Wagoneer Series III in the video below:

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