There’s a new luxury SUV in town. With three rows of supple leather seats and gorgeous next-generation technology, there are few SUVs on earth that can reliably compete with the return of the Wagoneer brand. One of those few that come close is the Lexus GX, a vehicle that hails from the vaunted Toyota Land Cruiser line. Both of these vehicles have long-standing reputations for reliability, luxury, dependability, and grace. But when comparing the 2022 Grand Wagoneer vs 2021 Lexus GX, only one can come out on top. The GX is a solid contender in every way, but the Grand Wagoneer was practically built to dethrone the Lexus.
A New Level of Power
Moving multiple tons of leather-clad and computer-assisted luxury SUV is no small task, and the engines that power these vehicles are not fuel-sipping hamster wheels. Both of these beasts are propelled with high torque V8 engines, with their roars subdued through advanced exhaust systems that quench unwanted noise but not power.
In the Lexus, the V8 in question is the 4.6-liter 1UR-FE, an all-aluminum mill that produces a solid 301 horsepower and 329 pound-feet of torque. Understressed and noticeably detuned, this is an engine that will almost certainly last longer than the earth itself as long as the maintenance is kept up. That said, its very reliability hinders performance, largely because the engine is so utterly low-strung in terms of achieving what it’s actually capable of.
Meanwhile, the Jeep Grand Wagoneer comes out swinging with a truly enormous 6.4-liter HEMI V8, which has an aluminum head and iron block. The same massive powerplant that catapults Dodge’s muscle cars down drag strips, this engine is also slightly detuned for the sake of unquestionable long-term dependability when it comes to hauling the large mass of the Grand Wagoneer around. The difference is that when put in the muscle cars, it made almost 500 horsepower, so the detuned variant optimized for a heavier vehicle still makes 471 horsepower and 455 pound-feet of torque.
The difference between the Wagoneer and the Lexus in horsepower is not insignificant. It’s a difference as large as the displacement of the Wagoneer’s HEMI, forged pistons included. Even comparing the two engines would be laughable if not for the context of them being the only engine options in vehicles that competed directly against each other. But that’s what Jeep has done – redefined the competition. Lexus developed the 1UR-FE to be the perfect sensible powerplant for its trucks, and it succeeded in that. But Jeep retuned what amounts to a production drag racer’s engine, and once it was made classy enough to chauffer the Grand Wagoneer around, they let it loose. The 1UR-FE is a well-meaning CEO in khakis. The 6.4-liter HEMI is an infamous assassin in a tailored suit.
The drivetrains that deliver the power of these dramatically different V8s to the ground are not quite equally matched, either. While both offer very capable four-wheel drive systems, the transmissions themselves are from different eras. The six-speed automatic found in the Lexus GX would have been state of the art in the early 2000s, but this is the 2020s. The old six-speed has run its course, and these days automakers are producing automatic transmissions with even many more gears to maximize efficiency. Capable of shifting quickly, with the perfect gear for any situation, the eight-speed automatic in the Grand Wagoneer is a modern transmission that works very well in terms of overall performance and getting the most efficiency possible out of the big engine propelling this very heavy luxury SUV.
Technology for the 2020s
The interior is the most important part of any luxury SUV, and this is true of both the Lexus GX and the Jeep Grand Wagoneer. Since the entire point of these vehicles is to get their occupants anywhere and everywhere in supreme style and comfort, both the look and feel of the interior are incredibly critical. Unfortunately for the GX, the interior is yet another area where the Lexus shows a rather dated philosophy.
Without a doubt, the interior of a 2021 Lexus GX is a wonderful place to be, but it only seems like the best place to be until one experiences a 2022 Grand Wagoneer. The Jeep has a far warmer interior feel, with materials like polished wood and sleek metal contrasting and further uplifting the quilted leather seats. Up front, four massive displays across the center console are not just opulent, but practical, providing instant, easy access to all of the Wagoneer’s many infotainment functions. In the back, the third row of the Wagoneer is a much better place to be when compared to the cramped also-ran seating in the GX, which looks like a haphazard afterthought in comparison.
The underpinnings of the 2022 Grand Wagoneer and 2021 Lexus GX both use body-on-frame construction, proving their true SUV credentials in a world full of car-based crossovers. The difference between these true SUVs and crossover SUVs is that the GX and Grand Wagoneer both have solid steel frames as a backbone, instead of using the bodyshell itself as the frame like cars do. This arrangement greatly toughens the entire structure and makes it more amenable to the often punishing off-road environment.
The Land Cruiser platform that the GX rides on has been perfected over the years by Toyota, remaining very overbuilt for even the harsh assignment of tackling the trail. Meanwhile, the Grand Wagoneer is built on a frame derived from a Ram pickup. While those origins may seem underwhelming, one must understand that the Ram pickup is the stoutest non-commercial vehicle the entire Stellantis group produces. That basic frame also underpins the Ram TRX, a truck built to be airborne just as often as it’s parked.
Both the 2022 Grand Wagoneer and 2021 Lexus GX are primarily meant to be as comfortable and luxurious as possible, but they are built to provide that anywhere. In the city, on country roads, on the trail, and even across open country. To provide that very challenging capability, both leather-clad SUVs remain deceptively incredible at taking on rough terrain.
Both use their tall ground clearance and advanced suspension systems to their advantage in helping navigate the unbeaten path, and their large diameter tires and big wheels don’t hurt when it comes to rumbling over rocks. In addition to the conventional off-roading tools like good approach angles, high ground clearance, and large tires, these machines are also equipped with the latest in off-road driver aids to help keep you in complete control on any terrain.
Two Takes on Luxury Off-Roading
No matter how you look at it, the 2022 Grand Wagoneer has the 2021 Lexus GX simply outgunned. Even setting aside the borderline laughable difference in engine and drivetrain capability, the tech-filled interior of the Grand Wagoneer outclassed the older style Lexus GX at every turn.
Then there are the aesthetics. The Lexus GX is not necessarily an ugly machine, but the Grand Wagoneer has a true regalness to it – and not in a stuffy European way. It’s not a princess or a king, but more like an experienced tradesman who’s done well for himself. Stout, well put together, and quietly dignified. There aren’t many luxury off-roaders on the market, but the Grand Wagoneer is out to be the top dog.