One of longest running nameplates in automotive history is coming back.
The Wagoneer name can be traced back to the Kaiser Jeep Wagoneer in 1963, but the story begins with the Willys Jeep Station Wagon that went into production in 1946. The Kaiser Jeep Wagoneer was a pioneering design that effectively created the luxury 4X4 niche, and came long before the term SUV. The original was a full-size body-on-frame vehicle that shared its frame with another recently resurrected Jeep name - the Gladiator truck. The original Wagoneer stayed in production until 1991, a total of 29 model-years, making it one of the longest produced vehicles in history. In 1984, AMC owned Jeep and introduced the Grand Wagoneer as an even more upscale model of its off-road wagon.
It was at the Detroit Auto Show that then Chrysler Group CEO Sergio Marchionne announced the return of the Wagoneer moniker. The Wagoneer, along with a Grand Wagoneer model to challenge the luxury SUVs like the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator, have been touted but delayed ever since. Now, almost 20 years later, there are Wagoneer test mules out there and reports on what gap in the Jeep lineup the Wagoneer will take, and how it will be configured. This is what we know so far.
This is one of the most important ingredients for the new Wagoneer. If it was released as a "soft-roader" SUV, a new Wagoneer wouldn't go down well with the Jeep faithful. Instead, it will need to have serious off-road chops and towing capacity, so a body-on-frame design is going to be critical. Speculation was that the Wagoneer would use the Ram 1500 half-ton pickup platform, and, in April 2019, spy photos showed up of a Wagoneer test mule that still had the 1500's truck bed on the back. This is the most unambiguous indication yet that the Wagoneer will be the sizeable body-on-frame vehicle Jeep fans are expecting.
The big gap in Jeep's lineup is a large three-row vehicle capable of seating seven or eight passengers. This will mean Jeep can go head-to-head with competitors like the Land Rover Discovery, Toyota Land Cruiser, Ford Expedition, and the Chevy Tahoe. If Jeep can pull off an SUV capable of being a large family runaround, road trip hauler, and off-road monster, then it's all but guaranteed to be a success. The real trick will be in providing a third row of seats that have enough legroom for people to spend an extended amount of time sitting comfortably.
The Wagoneer will be revived in short-wheelbase and long-wheelbase form, with the latter being called the Grand Wagoneer. Both will be configured with three-row seating, but the Grand Wagoneer will have more space for passengers and gear. What's not clear yet is if the Grand Wagoneer will be the elevated flagship model and compete in the luxury segment with vehicles like the Cadillac Escalade and GMC Yukon. That idea goes back to 2016 when Jeep said it would build a flagship vehicle called the Grand Wagoneer on the Durango and Grand Cherokee platform for 2018. Jeep even had some concept images to show off back then.
Rumors suggest that the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer will both feature an independent rear suspension setup. This also lines up with the trend of body-on-frame SUVs like Chevy's Tahoe and Suburban, Ford Expedition/Lincoln Navigator, and GMC's Yukon using it to improve the ride and handling. The more compact design also enhances interior space, particularly in the cargo area and third row, making it essential to compete in the modern premium and luxury market.
Back in 2016, head of Jeep and now CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Mike Manley, said that the Grand Wagoneer would have a plug-in-hybrid powertrain option. Since then, Jeep has confirmed plans to produce electrified variants of the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer. Most likely will be the 48-volt hybrid systems that go with Ram's eTorque 3.6-liter V6 and 5.7-liter V8 engine options. Hybrid systems can also be used to generate extra low-end torque when needed as well as improve fuel economy, so it could end up being the best option for people planning to tow regularly and hardcore off-roaders. We're assuming all-wheel-drive will be standard across the range.
Inside sources have reported that the trim levels will be similar, if not the same, as the current Grand Cherokee lineup. That means it'll start with a more budget-friendly base model, mid-level trims, premium level trims, and off-road trim levels. There's likely going to be a high-level off-road trim featuring the four-corner air suspension setup on the Ram 1500 Rebel model. If a Trailhawk package shows up, it'll probably be later in the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer's life-cycle. We expect rumors of FCA's Hellcat engine going in one of them to start soon as well.
As well as the electrified powertrains, the 5.7-liter HEMI V8 is a shoo-in, but it has also been suggested for a while that the Wagoneer will have the 6.4-liter HEMI V8 from Ram's heavy-duty models as an option as well. That would give the Wagoneer 429 lb-ft of torque along with 410 horsepower using the RAM 2500 variant. Nothing has been said about the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 engine, but we do know that power distribution will be taken care of by ZF-sourced 8-speed automatic transmissions.
It's expected that the 12-inch Uconnect System will be available on higher trim models, but the standard infotainment system will be the new 10-inch Uconnect System. It's also indicated the Wagoneer will use driver assistance systems from the Ram 1500 it's based on, including Adaptive Cruise Control with full-stop and go, LaneSense, ParkSense Parallel and Perpendicular Park-Assist, and the 360-degree Surround View camera system. As it's going to be in the premium bracket, at least, there's also talk of massaging seat options. An adaptive front-lighting system will likely be an option on higher trim levels, but LED headlights will be standard.
Don't expect the new Wagoneer's styling to hark back to the original too much, although there is likely going to be some subtle nods back to its origins. We hear that the rear side glass will have a nod to the old-school Wagoneer rather than using the "shark fin" style windows. Up at the front, we expect nothing more than an updated version of the iconic seven-slot grille flanked by new LED headlights. The test mules that have been seen in the wild have been sporting Cherokee light clusters on each corner, but we expect the Wagoneer to get its own distinct styling there.
Back in 2017, FCA said that the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer's production would take place at its Warren Truck assembly plant in Michigan. Recently, FCA confirmed it would be investing in the plant and that production would start in early 2021. That means we can expect a pre-production debut at the end of this year and the first model year to be designated as 2021 in the US. It has been a long wait, but we finally know the new Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer are coming for certain.