These revivals can go one of two ways: a faithful redesign that brings the essence of the previous model into the future, think of the Ford Bronco (which we’ve just driven elsewhere on these digital pages), or a marketing ploy where the new model bears little resemblance in design or content to that of yore. Chevy Blazer, I’m looking at you.
The new Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer full-size SUVs fall somewhere in between.
You won’t find any faux wood grain on the body panels this time around, but the aftermarket will likely take care of that shortly.
The original Wagoneer debuted in 1963 and had a 29-year production run before being discontinued due to rising fuel prices and poor sales.
Considered the original luxury 4×4, it could be had with 4 doors at a time when most of the competition only had 2. Conveniences like power steering, power brakes and even a power tailgate were unusual in a “truck”. Add V8 power, and a big towing capacity, and families can enjoy something a little more capable and comfortable than the humble hatchback, the OG road tripper.
What is the Jeep Grand Wagoneer?
With a heavily modified chassis taken from the Ram pickup, the Wagoneer, and the more heavily optioned and more luxurious Grand Wagoneer, the focus of this review are three-row, full-size SUVs that seat 7 or 8 people depending on whether you spec middle row with a bench or captain’s chairs.
Despite a fairly large price gap, both the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer ride on the exact same chassis and are the same size.
The Grand Wagoneer gets sleeker exterior styling, a more prominent grille, upgraded LED lighting, copper accents and more chrome. Inside, up to 7 screens with almost 2 meters viewing area bathe the cabin in an LCD glow, while premium Palermo leather upholstery on the seats and dashboard, and genuine walnut wood provide an exclusive atmosphere.
There are three 4×4 systems available, but the Grand Wagoneer gets the best: Quadra-Drive II with an active low range and an electronic limited-slip differential. Quadra-lift air suspension is also standard and allows up to 10 inches of ground clearance in its most raised setting but can also drop low enough to make getting in and out easier.
Both Wagoneers are V8 powered. The Grand Wagoneer comes exclusively with a 6.4-L V8 producing 471 hp and 455 lb-ft of torque mated to an 8-speed automatic.
How much does it cost?
The Grand Wagoneer will start at an entry-level $100,995 for a Series I and top out at $120,995 for the Series III with all the fix-ins.
It will go head to head with the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator but also plays in the same field as the Mercedes GLS, BMW X7 and Range Rover.
The Wagoneer starts at a much lower $69,995, swells to $85,995 for a Series III model, and will compete with the Tahoe, Suburban, Yukon trifecta from GM and the Ford Expedition. Standard safety and driver assistance kit includes adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, active lane keeping, forward collision warning with active braking and more.
Our upgraded Grand Wagoneer came with even more like pedestrian and large animal detection, a night vision system and a 360-degree camera.
Will ride off-road but it is not trail rated
The famous “Trail-Rated” badge won’t grace the flanks of any Wagoneer and that’s probably a good thing, as I can’t imagine anyone wanting to take one of these leather-stuffed behemoths rock crawling. On the other hand, I’m sure there is a large community of die-hard Jeep fans who would love to see how “fixed” they could get one of these and then post a video of it on Youtube. It will happen.
If you do care about this kind of stuff, the Grand Wagoneer has an approach angle of 25 degrees and a departure angle of 24 degrees, and will provide up to 2 feet of water. It also comes with the Selec Terrain Management System which can switch between rock, sand/mud, snow, sport and auto. There are also 5 preset ride heights to choose from and Hill Descent Control.
Celebrating the family trip
Spend some time in the Grand Wagoneer and you’ll want to show it to your kids. If you don’t have any kids, you’ll probably want some.
In an age where air travel is still fraught with risk, domestic holidays are where it’s at, and the humble road trip has never seen a revival like this before.
I’m seeing a lot more RVs and travel trailers hitched to the back of vehicles these days and maybe that’s just a sign of the times, and equipped with the heavy duty towing package that mine was, the Grand Wagoneer can tow up to 4468kg or almost 10,000 lbs. for those of you who prefer the empire.
But the kids won’t care about that. What they will care about is the 11 USB ports shared between all three rows and the easy-to-access dual rear entertainment screens that have the first example of Amazon Fire integration so they can access Prime Video, Netflix and just about any app , game or website they want to visit.
With the available front-row passenger display, you can also, thankfully, control what they’re watching. That screen also gives the passenger access to the Fam cam, using a small roof-mounted camera to spy on the little whippersnappers at will.
You can also mirror your phone on the rear screens and the passenger screen if equipped, either by cable or wirelessly if you have an Android.
The Wagoneer Series III also gets a 23-speaker 1375-watt McIntosh surround sound system as standard.
They won’t be bored, that’s for sure. That’s an impressive amount of technology they’ve managed to cram in, verging on the excessive, really.
And if there was an all-out screen area war going on, Jeep likely just won.
I imagine the cockpit of a commercial jetliner is not too far away. It’s a good thing then that they’ve made it very easy to quickly turn off all screens if you just need a Zen moment or something.
How is it to drive?
Driving the Grand Wagoneer feels like what you’d expect from a truck-based SUV of this size. They are big and they drive big. The experience is very similar to the Lincoln Navigator and Cadillac Escalade, and if you’ve spent any time in either, you’ll have a good idea of what it’s like behind the wheel.
It’s important to remember that I was running a pre-production unit that may not have all the bullets lined up but from where I sat it didn’t seem to show any loose threads.
The steering is not too light as it can be on these types of cars and that’s a good thing. Once at speed, the Grand Wagoneer is reasonably manoeuvrable and feels a bit tighter and less tippy than the Navigator. None of these vehicles are going to corner with anything, and if you keep that in mind, you’ll be fine with how this drives.
Thanks to the standard air suspension, the ride is smooth and peaceful. Acoustic glass and noise reduction keep the interior whisper quiet even at highway speeds. It’s so quiet you won’t realize how fast you’re actually moving until you look at the speedometer.
The 6.4-L V8 is a smooth and torquey driver and stays quiet even in Sport mode, probably on purpose, but the gearhead in me would have liked to hear some of that bolt come through. Power is adequate and can move this large vehicle with urgency but the transmission exhibited some rough shifts on kickdown.
The quality of the leather, stitching and materials in general felt top class, a level higher than what you find in the Navigator. There is little to complain about, except in direct sunlight the driver display and passenger screen get washed out quite a bit, making important instruments difficult to read. Hopefully this is something that will be fixed.
The Grand Wagoneer is the revival of the original luxury SUV, so it seems like Jeep wanted to go all out and that’s exactly what they did. It has the same spirit and even has some design cues that help tie old and new together, but some of the simplicity and charm of the original is lost. But maybe that’s just my love of talking about old things.
The order books are open now, and the Wagoneer should start arriving at select Jeep dealers by the time you read this.