Jeep, with an eye on profits and prestige, is resurrecting the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer. The big luxury SUVs, among Jeep’s most storied nameplates, have remained in the hearts of collectors and enthusiasts since they were dropped several decades ago. Jeep is previewing its plans with the Grand Wagoneer concept, ahead of a new production model coming in 2021. The Grand Wagoneer flagship is widely expected to exceed $100,000 in top trims. We’ve rounded up some early reviews of the concept from automotive journalists.
“The return of the Wagoneer will give the brand a model to position above the Grand Cherokee and to compete with the full-sized models from Ford and General Motors. It will be based on the Ram pickup truck, but it will have an independent rear suspension like its domestic competitors. The new design nods at the original, with rather flat sides, simple window designs, and a front fascia that slants forward. The wheel arches and grille borrow from current models for a familial connection. It’s the interior that really shines. … When parked, the Grand Wagoneer concept can be put into a ‘Relax’ mode, with a simulated Aurora Borealis animated across the row of front screens. Or a family could watch a movie.”
— Jeff S. Bartlett, Consumer Reports
“In a world where the BMW twin kidneys are starting to look more like twin pancreases, where Land Rovers look like Ford Explorers (or is it the other way around?), where the various Mercedes G-Classes are looking efficient but maybe a little boring, and even Audi front ends look a little more like the steam radiator that was in my old Detroit studio apartment, Jeep had a responsibility to stand out. And to have a seven-slat grille.
It did both.
First off, there is no wood paneling, a staple of Grand Wagoneers since the days of the Conestoga Wagon. There is not even any stick-on vinyl wood paneling. Surely this was an oversight? And yet, the Wagoneer looks handsome without it. Perhaps times — and tastes — have evolved.”
— Mark Vaughn, Autoweek
“The big question for many people about the upcoming Jeep Grand Wagoneer has involved wood. How much would there be? The wood grain look on the outside helped many of the old Wagoneers stand out. It’s one of the things people mention when they recall them today. The vehicle Fiat Chrysler Automobiles made public Thursday placed wood, at least what’s on the exterior with more inside, in a few clever spots that seem designed to connect it to the past without emphasizing it — some teak suspended by the copper latticework in the roof rack, for instance. But this is a concept vehicle. Whether there are any surprises planned for when Jeep’s new full-size and luxury SUVs arrive next year is hard to say.”
— Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press
” …. We wish the Grand Wagoneer concept were a bit more retro-inspired. The upright rear end, contrast-painted roof, high hood, and swept-back windshield remind some of us of the Rivian R1S, while the illuminated and chrome-finished grille looks a bit like that of the forthcoming GMC Hummer EV. Your author, for example, thinks the concept is a fine-looking SUV, but a milquetoast Grand Wagoneer. A flat beltline that sits even with the hood and a triangular D-pillar would work wonders to connect this modern machine with its legendary forebear. … One area in which the Grand Wagoneer concept leaves its old man in the dust is in-cabin technology. The elegantly styled cockpit is dripping with modern touches, including seven, count ’em seven, information screens.”
— Brett T. Evans,motor1.com
“The most polarizing part of the Grand Wagoneer: the exterior design. Obviously, we haven’t been able to see the concept in person, but from what we can see in the photos, this SUV gets some things right and some things wrong. The front fascia is delightful, with the traditional seven-slot grille lit up like a Christmas tree for a super cool light signature. Even the Wagoneer name that sits atop the grille is illuminated. LED headlights are framed in teak wood, and they look great. A secondary split grille resides underneath the seven-slot opening, housing the LED fog lights and tow hooks. Finally, an obsidian-black aluminum front skid plate finishes everything off. What could have ended up really fussy ends up looking well-proportioned; the front end is surely this Jeep’s best view. We also dig the obsidian-finished, 24-inch aluminum wheels. A big SUV needs big wheels and while 24s sound excessive, it really works.
Where the Grand Wagoneer kind of falls apart for us is from the side and rear. With its heavy pillars and wraparound LED taillights, this otherwise imposing Jeep kind of looks like a minivan. From the dead rear view, it’s like a Land Rover Discovery — minus the dumb, offset license plate, anyway. But really, those chunky pillars and tall windows really make this thing look awkward, at least in photos.”
— Emme Hall, Road Show by CNET
“This being FCA, tricky little details abound. The darkened glass roof panel is decorated with a map of Detroit — the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer will be assembled in nearby Warren, MI, when production kicks off next year — and upon opening the front doors you find an “EST. 1963” tag that nods to the first model year of the original Wagoneer.
Does this new Grand Wagoneer live up to the name? Perhaps it’s unfair to ask. The original Wagoneer was the first luxury 4×4, achieving that title by offering such niceties as an automatic transmission, automatic full-time four-wheel drive, and, briefly, optional independent front suspension. When the Wagoneer became the Grand Wagoneer in 1984, it was opulently appointed for the time, but still a rugged and capable off-roader at heart.
This feels like something different: A late, looming addition to the SUV-as-limousine segment, a hulking house of a vehicle with no clear design connection to the long-lived and beloved vehicle it uses as its namesake. Maybe that’s for the best — a retro-themed update, complete with wood wallpaper, would have seemed corny and backwards.
But it’s puzzling. Jeep — and Fiat Chrysler as a whole — has perfected the ability to honor legendary past models in modern designs. More than any company out there right now, Jeep should have the skill to make a Grand Wagoneer that looks like a Grand Wagoneer.”