Jeep is the latest brand to revive a classic SUV from its back catalogue, today announcing the return of the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer as large three-row SUVs built on truck chassis and powered by big V8 engines.
It’s a decidedly old-school formula for a flagship SUV, but a formula that’s very much in keeping with the original Jeep Wagoneer, which was introduced in 1962. Only the wood panels and CB radio are missing.
The new 2022 Wagoneers will be by far the largest models in Jeep’s lineup – and the most expensive. The Wagoneer starts at $69,995 and is expected to rival full-size SUVs such as the GMC Yukon, while the more opulently-equipped Grand Wagoneer’s price can climb up and over the $120,000 mark when loaded with options. With the the Grand Wagoneer, Jeep is looking to move up-market into lucrative new territory and compete against other gargantuan American luxury SUVs like the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator.
“We’ve been out of the market for more than 30 years after basically inventing the premium American SUV,” said Christian Meunier, chief executive officer of the Jeep brand.
The original 1962 Jeep Wagoneer can lay a strong claim to being the original luxury SUV, pre-dating the Range Rover. The Wagoneer offered luxuries like independent suspension and an automatic transmission, which was a first on a 4x4. Its production run ended in 1991.
Meunier explained the company made several attempts to get back into this lucrative segment but wasn’t able to until now. “I think it took a while because the company was determined to do it right, and it took a while to make the decision to put the investments behind it and to deliver something completely outstanding,” said Meunier during the car’s unveiling.
Modern luxuries of the new Wagoneers include acres of leather, wood and “liquid chrome” trim, as well as high-tech features such as Amazon Fire TV integration, which the company says is an automotive first. It means, for example, that children could pause a movie at home and then continue watching on the many, many in-car screens.
In total, there are up to 75 inches of total screen real estate in the vehicle. The dashboard alone features as many as four screens, including a “co-pilot” display for the front passenger, who can, for example, input a new navigation destination and send it to the central screen for the driver.
A hands-free advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS) will be available as an option later this year, according to the company.
Since this is Jeep, the company was eager to tout the Wagoneer’s off-roading ability. It has a low-range gear for crawling slowly over rocky terrain, plus 25 cm of ground clearance and can drive through water as deep as 61 cm. It can tow 10,000 lbs. as well. A company spokesperson described the new Wagoneers as luxury SUVs that welcome wet, muddy dogs.
Despite all the impressive technology elsewhere in the vehicles, they’re powered by big, gas-hungry V8s. The Grand Wagoneer is powered by a 471-horsepower 6.4-litre V8, while the Wagoneer uses a 392-horsepower 5.7-litre V8 with a mild hybrid system. (Fuel economy figures weren’t available at the time of writing.)
Meunier said the company has a plan for electrification but would not discuss whether a plug-in hybrid version of the Wagoneer is planned.
“Despite all the focus and attention on [zero-emission vehicles], there is a large (and growing) segment of consumers that thirst for large [internal-combustion-engine] SUVs,” wrote Andrew King, managing partner at market research firm DesRosiers Automotive Consultants, in an e-mail.
From 2015 to 2019, sales of large luxury utility vehicles in Canada have increased 66 per cent, while sales of large utility vehicles in Canada have increased by 72 per cent, according to data from DesRosiers. These vehicles keep getting bigger, and people keep buying more of them. Even last year during the pandemic, the market shift to SUVs and away from traditional cars only accelerated.
Before unveiling the Grand Wagoneer concept last year, Jeep surveyed customers and found they were very nostalgic about the old Wagoneer, Jeep’s Christian Meunier said.
Indeed, drivers seem increasingly nostalgic for all kinds of classic SUVs, judging by the high prices they fetch at auction, as well as the decision by several automakers to revive old models. Last year, Ford re-introduced the Bronco, and Land Rover brought the Defender back to North America. Jeep has already launched its reborn Gladiator pickup truck, and General Motors is about to revive the Hummer brand with a fully-electric SUV.
The 2022 Wagoneer and 2022 Grand Wagoneer will join the growing list of new SUVs with nostalgic old names. Deliveries of both models will begin in Canada this summer.