I love my Jeep Grand Wagoneer. I think it’s one of the most soulful, charming vehicles ever built. But this old episode of MotorWeek made me snap out of my Woodie trance for a second and realize that maybe my beloved SJ isn’t as perfect as I want to think it is.
I haven’t driven my Grand Wagoneer much since it’s been under the knife for so long. But when I did get some time behind the wheel, I had a lot of the same things to say that John Davis did in this old 1983 MotorWeek episode:
First off, the overall driving experience is lovely. Like Davis says in the clip, the ride is magic-carpet smooth, and my god is the thing incredibly quiet inside. It’s true luxury. Between the ride, the quiet and comfortable interior and the huge greenhouse, driving my Grand Wagoneer is an experience that truly changed me, as I wrote a few weeks ago after my maiden voyage. Here’s a quote from that story:
From here on, all the other vehicles in my collection will just feel harsh and downright plebeian. Their seats won’t be wide enough or filled with enough foam. Their engines won’t be quiet enough. Their suspensions won’t be soft enough. I still love my other junkers, but ten minutes behind the wheel of this Grand Wagoneer showed me what they’re missing: swagger.
I also had the chance to take my Wagoneer through two-foot deep snow in my backyard, and I literally could not get the truck stuck if I tried. But aside from the ride, the quiet interior (72 decibels at 55 mph according to Davis) and the unstoppable four-wheel drive system (“...harder to get stuck than to get on the Boston Social Register,” Davis says in the video), the Grand Wagoneer isn’t exactly...optimal.
For example, it just doesn’t do turns, as Davis makes clear in his voiceover during the extremely awkward Overweight Jeep Trying Hard To Slalom-scene:
There is a lot of front-end plow. The simple truth is that the Wagoneer is so heavy, it just takes a lot of time for it to react.
And though Davis lauds the Jeep’s braking distance and its ability to stop in a straight line, the brake dive in that video is hideous. But not nearly as hideous as the fuel economy, which was rated at 13 city, 18 highway. Davis scored 14 mpg combined, and the new EPA ratings put the Woodie at 10 city, 12 highway.
But, with a huge 5.9-liter V8 and such horrible fuel economy, the good news is that the Grand Wagoneer offers lots of power, with Davis saying it’s “very good,” making it from 40 to 55 mph in only 5.2 seconds. Actually, that’s not true. I’m not sure if my standards are just higher than Davis’s were in the early 1980s, but after driving my 140-ish horsepower (yes, only 140), 4,500 pound Grand Wagoneer, I can say with certainty that it’s the slowest production car I’ve ever driven.
So yes, it’s a heavy, underpowered, inefficient, unathletic behemoth, and its size means it’s not exactly an off-road champion, either. And yet, thanks to its charm and its cushy ride, it’s still such a joy to drive.