Meet Jeep’s six-figure, Hemi-powered Grand Wagoneer
Jeep just unveiled the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer, ushering in the long overdue return of a well-loved American nameplate. When we first saw the Grand Wagoneer Concept last fall, we noted that it looked extremely production-ready, save for a few intricate details. A quick look at the production model shows that we thought correctly.
This is the most important new vehicle reveal for Jeep since the JL Wrangler’s 2017 debut. The Wagoneer marks the brand’s return to the highly profitable body-on-frame SUV segment and a much-needed challenger to the likes of the Ford Expedition and the Lincoln Navigator, as well as offerings from all three GM marques—the GMC Yukon, Cadillac Escalade, and Chevrolet Tahoe. (Judging by price, we’d lean more towards the Lincoln or GMC/Cadillac than the Chevy or Ford—but more on that in a moment.) In the late ’80s, Jeep had no trouble courting these luxo-truck buyers, thanks to the superb Grand Wagoneer. However, the marque has been conspicuously absent from this segment for quite some time, and the battlefield looks vastly different than it did in the 20th century. With the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer, Jeep’s chosen a two-pronged attack: The trucks share a wheelbase, but differ in degree of luxury. (Think Yukon and Yukon Denali.)
After getting the chance to snoop around a pre-production version of each ride, we’re convinced that Jeep’s body-on-frame trucks are serious contenders. Let’s begin with a few details that were murky at the time of the concept reveal but have now come into focus.
A bit of syntax: Technically, this is the “Wagoneer,” not the “Jeep Wagoneer.” Ditto the Grand Wagoneer. To be fair, Jeep faces a strange tension: How to market the upscale Wagoneer, a name soldered to the Jeep brand, alongside, say, the $25K Renegade. Perhaps anticipating customer’s knee-jerk reactions to a six-figure Jeep, the marque kept “Jeep” badging to a minimum. After scouring each Wagoneer’s exterior, we only found one such logo.
At the concept’s unveiling, we speculated that you’d see a hybridized version of the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, and a 5.7-liter Hemi on upper-trim Wagoneers. Good news! Every Wagoneer gets the 5.7-liter Hemi with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system as standard. Total power output is 392 hp and 404 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed automatic helps manage ratios and you can either spec your Wagoneer as a 4×2 or choose from three advanced 4×4 systems. Properly equipped, a Wagoneer will tow a class-leading 10,000 pounds.
The Grand Wagoneer gets a non-hybridized 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 good for a meaty 471 horsepower and 455 lb-ft of torque. All Grand Wagoneers come equipped with one of the three 4×4 systems—Quadra-Trac I, Quadra-Trac II, or Quadra-Drive II. (For a breakdown of what each offers, check out our story on the Jeep Grand Cherokee L, which goes into more detail on each system.)
Missing from the real production versions: the plug-in hybrid tech that the concept promised. A Jeep spokesperson confirmed that, while no Wagoneers or Grand Wagoneers will come with a charge port initially, we can expect to see an plug-in version in the coming years.
Both vehicles benefit from independent front and rear suspension. While IRS might not be as useful off-road, it provides much better ride quality on road. Plus, the Lincoln Navigator and the Cadillac Escalade/GMC Yukon use IRS; stepping into the ring with a stick axle would likely get the Wagoneer siblings laughed clean out of town.
Wagoneers come standard with traditional dampers, but Jeep’s Quadra-Lift air suspension comes optional on most trims. Grand Wagoneers, meanwhile, are equipped with the air suspension system by default. Quadra-Lift can hoist the vehicle’s ride height up to a lofty 10 inches, or lower it to 6.8 inches for enhanced aerodynamics on the highway. This setup may offer superior off-road performance, but don’t expect to see these Wagoneer brutes anywhere near your local trailhead—unless they’re hauling trailers full of off-road toys.
To further differentiate the Wagoneer and the Grand Wagoneer from the rest of Jeep lineup, the familiar Summit, Laredo, Trailhawk, or Overland trim designations are absent. Instead, a more simplistic structure: Lower-, mid-, and upper-trim trucks will be called Series I, Series II, and Series III. The Grand Wagoneer will get a special all-black-everything trim called the Obsidian, which will slot between the Series II and Series III.
Jeep will offer 12 pre-selected configurations when deliveries of Wagoneers and Grand Wagoneers begin in the second half of this year. Without getting too into the weeds, know that Jeep will start by rolling out higher-trim Wagoneers and Grand Wagoneers first, à la the Hummer EV pickup, before putting the more accessible models on sale.
The interiors of both vehicles offer the choice between seven- or eight-passenger configurations. On the Wagoneer, the eight-passenger configuration comes as standard fare, with the three-belt second row and the surprisingly spacious third row seating three—provided that trio is comprised of children. Eight adults in this thing will still feel like just that—eight adults packed into one car. The Grand Wagoneer offers the seven-passenger layout as standard.
Tech abounds in both interiors. Both infotainment systems will run on UConnect 5, which Jeep says is five times faster than the software in the previous generation. Expect your Wagoneer or Grand Wagoneer to need every ounce of that processing power, given how many screens are available. A Grand Wagoneer offers up to 8 displays, enough to rival the similar screen-to-cubic-foot ratio of your local Buffalo Wild Wings. Neat features from the concept that made it to the production models include that 10.25-inch front passenger screen, the gigantic multi-panel sunroof, and the kickin’ (but optional) McIntosh 23-speaker sound system with its 24-channel, 1375W amplifier.
Even in pre-production form, the interior materials felt superb. If you’re worried about rough-and-tumble Jeep’s ability to execute a luxe cabin, that uncertainty will vanish the moment you step inside. The Palermo color inside the Grand Wagoneer we explored was downright magnificent, and there’s a color called Blue Agave waiting in the wings as well. Real wood and brushed aluminum complement the animal hide and succeed in setting this apart from other Jeep products.
It’s here that we applaud Jeep the most—nearly every design aspect from the Grand Wagoneer concept made it to production. Those nifty window surrounds highlight just how much glass this thing has and, while the Grand Wagoneer is by far the most upright, slab-sided product in the Jeep portfolio, the monolithic proportions work well here. Massive wheels—20-inches come standard, but there’s a 22-inch wheel offered on many trims—fill huge, trapezoidal wheelwells. The only features that didn’t make it to production: The long, horizontal daytime running-light signature; the illuminated seven-slot grilles; and the light-up letters on the hood.
You might wanna sit down for this one. Wagoneers will start at $59,995 including a $2000 destination fee, and Grand Wagoneers will at $88,995. That base Grand Wagoneer—a Series I—will be available late in 2021, according to Jeep. At launch, the cheapest way to get into one of these bad boys will be a $69,995 Wagoneer Series II Standard 4×2. Grand Wagoneer more your speed? Get the pen ready to stroke a $90,190 check. That blacked-out Grand Wagoneer Obsidian starts at $107,980.
Not that long ago, the notion of a six-figure Jeep would have gotten you tossed out a boardroom window. However, because of the historical cachet that the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer nameplates carry, there’s precedent for Jeep to jump back into the upper echelons of the full-size SUV market. There’s also a lot of money in this segment; Cadillac and Lincoln can cash in on six-figure trucklets, why shouldn’t Jeep be allowed to have a little bit of that pie? And before you scoff at that kind of money for a Jeep, remember, the marque has no problem selling the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk—and it costs 90-large.
Will the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer give Stellantis a seat at the body-on-frame luxury SUV table? Judging from our first impressions, yes. Whether buyers in the market for six-figure trucks will be interested in shelling out for a Jeep remains to be seen; we certainly hope they’ll give the Wagoneer trucks a chance.