First Look Review: 2023 Jeep Grand Wagoneer L Obsidian 4×4
Manufacturers usually launch a new car by inviting journalists to come drive it. There is a presentation before this drive, often in a hotel ballroom. Slide decks are shown. Canned speeches are given. Picture an engineering convention, but with more free shrimp.
For the Jeep Wagoneer L and Grand Wagoneer L, this event took place in Bozeman, Montana. On no less than four occasions during that pre-drive presentation, a Jeep representative said something about how these new models felt like rolling a building down the road. Like “driving my whole living room,” one said. “Like driving my whole garage,” went another.
That’s all hyperbolic, but only just. In Wagoneer terms, L means long wheelbase. Two already large SUVs, the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer, made even larger. And if they make any sense at all, it is because no country does excess quite like the good old U.S.-of-A.
Before we dive into what it’s like to put your house on a highway, a note on names: According to Jeep, Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer are “premium extensions of the brand.” These vehicles carry a few Jeep styling cues, including that familiar seven-slat grille, and their “Build Your Own” pages live on Jeep.com, but Jeep badging is virtually nonexistent. So they’re Jeeps, but they’re also not.
Clear as mud? Let’s begin.
The long-wheelbase Wagoneer’s raison d’être is simple: The Jeep’s primary body-on-frame competitors—GMC’s Yukon, Cadillac’s Escalade, and Lincoln’s Navigator—are available in similar form. Jeep reps say only one-third of those vehicles’ customers choose the long variant. The short-wheelbase Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer are each larger than commensurate models from GM and Lincoln, but Jeep believes there’s still reason to build the long ones. (Spoiler: Given what we know about the market, there is.)
Thus: A Grand Wagoneer with seven additional inches between the wheels, and an extra foot from tip to tail.
2023 Grand Wagoneer L Obsidian 4×4
- Price: $103,585 / $109,225 (base / as-tested)
- Powertrain: 3.0-liter, twin-turbo I-6; 8-speed automatic
- Output: 510 hp @ 5700 rpm, 500 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm
- Layout: Four-door, body-on-frame SUV
- Weight: 6685 lbs.
- EPA fuel economy: 14 city/19 mpg highway, 16 mpg combined
- 0–60 mph: 5.5 seconds (est.)
- Rivals: Cadillac Escalade ESV, Lincoln Navigator L, GMC Yukon Denali XL
Bozeman is the land of Yellowstone cosplayers and fly fishing die-hards, and so we headed there to see if the bigger Grandie could hack it among the monied elite. The experience was also our first taste of Stellantis’s new Hurricane twin-turbo inline-six. This engine will replace the company’s existing 5.7- and 6.4-liter Hemi V-8s in nearly every variant of both the Wagoneer and the Grand for the 2023 model year. If we’re lucky, we’ll see it in other Jeeps (and maybe a Ram pickup or two) in the near future.
I spent the majority of my Montana time in a 2023 Grand Wagoneer L Obsidian 4×4. The “Obsidian” part represents a special one-stop package ($5495) aimed at Series II Waggys (it’s actually called the “Carbide” on that model) and Grand Waggys. “Series II” and “Series III” are trim levels on each model. As you might guess, the II is one step up from base trim. Confusingly, however, while the III is the most expensive trim in the 2023 Wagoneer configurator, it is that truck’s fourth most expensive trim. With the Grand Wagoneer, the III is the fifth of six.
Clear as mud? Let’s move on.
Predictably, the Obsidian pack nets a list of black-out bits—wheels, roofline, window trim, other flourishes inside and out. It also scores a 23-speaker McIntosh stereo and a nifty, 10.25-inch front passenger display. My test steed wore the tow package ($995), Baltic Gray exterior paint ($645), and the rear-seat entertainment group (dual 10.1-inch monitors with Amazon Fire TV in the front seatbacks, $2195). The sum was a hefty, but class-appropriate, $109,225.
Stem to stern, the Grand Wagoneer L falls just three-tenths of an inch short of the longest entrant in the class, the Cadillac Escalade ESV. If that leaves you worried, it’s worth noting that the Jeep is still nearly five inches longer than the biggest Lincoln Navigator.
The L’s added length helps tone down the extreme verticality of the shorter Grand Wagoneer‘s exterior. Especially when the larger truck is painted a dark color. The sheet metal from B-pillar forward is the same as that of the standard-wheelbase Grand, but the L features a larger second-row door and a host of under-skin changes to accommodate the new length. The basic styling elements remain more or less the same.
Carmakers stretch large vehicles to add interior room. With the Wagoneer twins, the added volume lives aft of the rear seats. Third-row leg room is the same in both wheelbases, but the cargo area behind the third row swells by 15.8 cubic feet, for a class-leading 44.2 cubes. Interestingly, with the seats folded, the available volume falls well short of both the long-wheelbase Navigator’s (120.2 cubic feet.) and the Escalade ESV’s (142.8). The difference isn’t small, but if you find yourself regularly maxing out this much space, you probably need a full-size van instead.
Truthfully, the Wagoneer’s third row didn’t need more length. That back bench is a delightful place to kick it, and your six-foot author wasn’t eating his knees in the slightest. Pulling the rear wheelarch back also enabled the Jeep’s interior designers to craft a clever storage pocket just behind the second-row door. It’s the perfect size for water bottles, phones, and assorted what-have-you.
As with the regular Grand Wagoneer, the rest of the interior—switchgear, dash inlays, material choices, seating position—is absolutely sublime. Fit and finish even seemed a touch above the standard-wheelbase Wagoneer Series II that I tested last winter. All-day jaunts through the hills near Bozeman weren’t fatiguing in the slightest, and the airy cabin enabled plenty of gawking at God’s Country.
All Grand Wagoneer Ls score the high-output Hurricane 510—510 hp, 500 lb-ft.—as standard. Wagoneer Ls are limited to the ordinary Hurricane, 420 hp and 468 lb-ft. Both engines send power through a ZF eight-speed automatic.
While you can opt for a 4×2 arrangement in any Wagoneer L, all Grandies come with Jeep’s Quadra-Drive II 4×4 system, with a standard electronically locking limited-slip rear differential. My tester also enjoyed the benefits of Jeep’s Quadra-Lift air suspension, which can raise or lower the vehicle depending on drive conditions. Generally speaking, this means lower for climbing in and out and highway aerodynamics, higher for dicey off-roading.
On the go, the Hurricane 510 feels stout enough. Pin it, and your ears will meet a mildly unpleasant (if distant and muffled) engine note. The old Hemi sounded better when asked to hoof it, but the difference is minute. Both sixes are masterfully insulated and isolated. As on the shorter Wagoneers, the eight-speed’s tuning is peerless—so much so that you begin to wonder if something this big needs any other gearbox.
Stellantis engineers say the new Hurricanes offer as much as 15 percent greater fuel efficiency over their Hemi counterparts. EPA numbers bear that out. The agency’s estimates for a Hurricane 510 Grand Wagoneer L actually best those of the standard-wheelbase, 6.4-Hemi Grand Wagoneer (14/19/16 mpg city/highway/combined vs. 13/18/15, respectively).
This much machine will always be relatively inefficient; still, any gain here is commendable, especially when packaged with increased tow ratings. My tester could lug as much as 9450 lbs, but two-wheel-drive Wagoneer Ls are rated for up to 10,000.
The L’s added mass and volume can be felt when the road gets windy. Flicking the truck into sport mode puts brake, throttle, and steering response on edge, and it stiffens the suspension. The expanse between axles is managed well, the Jeep’s tail never seeming to wag the dog. That said, you’re still managing something with the wheelbase of a ’65 Cadillac Coupe DeVille. It prefers to be steered as such.
On highway hauls across Montana’s vast ranches, the Jeep came into its own. The L’s adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist are gentle enough to deploy at every on-ramp, but never lazy enough to let you get into a stability pickle. Stellar sound insulation keeps noise from diesel pickups—southwest Montana has many—at arm’s length while that McIntosh system bathes the cabin in fantastic sound. Large SUVs like this may be machines of excess, but you can’t try one without growing jealous of what’s on offer.
The UConnect dash software will be familiar to anyone who’s tried a modern Jeep. Anything you need at a moment’s notice is either readily available or can be made so (bookmarked, effectively) by dragging its app icon to the upper right of the 12-inch center screen. Tip: It’s worth doing this with the Jeep’s 360-degree camera, which comes in handy while parking anywhere smaller than a ranch pasture.
The 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster ahead of the driver can also host all manner of data. More information is available, if you like, in the Grandie’s 10-inch head-up display. The latter washes out a bit in direct sunlight when viewed through polarized sunglasses, but the instrument panel does just fine.
This nation’s size leanings aside, bigger isn’t always better. What’s most commendable here is how stretching the Wagoneer sheet metal seems to have softened some of the truck’s architectural exterior styling while preserving everything that made the inside so great.
Pair the heightened curb appeal with that corker of a new engine, and you’re left with the words from that presentation: a damn fine living room on wheels.
2023 Grand Wagoneer L Obsidian 4×4
Price: $103,585 / $109,225 (base / as-tested)
Highs: Superb interior design, new engine adds capability and efficiency without losing a sense of occasion. Wagoneer styling is more cohesive when supersized.
Lows: Occasionally unpleasant engine noise, and picking a dull interior color (avoid black) dulls the shine considerably.
Takeaway: New skin, longer wheelbase, new heart, same old Grandie charm.