Jeep announced today that its new Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer are expected to launch in early 2021, so now it’s time to ponder what these machines should be. As an avid Jeep owner, I have thoughts and dreams. Lots of dreams. And thoughts.
“Production is expected to launch in early 2021,” Jeep said in its press release today about the Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer—two separate models to be built at Warren Truck Assembly Plant, alongside the Ram 1500 Classic (which is the previous-generation truck that Ram’s been selling for years, but now mostly to fleets). This—along with the then-head of Jeep but now-CEO of FCA, Mike Manley, allegedly saying so to Autoblog—pretty much confirms that these things are going to be body-on-frame, which is exciting for hard-core off-road enthusiasts, who swear by frames for their ability to easily be modified and repaired, and for what many say is a tendency to better withstand prolonged off-road abuse.
The only things that could make a Jeep die-hard happier would be if the vehicles were built where Jeeps are supposed to be assembled, Toledo, and if they had solid front axles and tons of wood grain.
But the chance of those happening is basically zero. Solid front axles on SUVs are dead outside the world of hard-core off-roading—a world that even the old Wagoneers and Grand Wagoneers, if we’re honest, weren’t really a part of, unless you count potholes in suburban Burlington as “off-road.” (Indeed, Wagoneers were the first Jeeps to ever come with independent front suspension, though only briefly).
As for the huge strips of vinyl woodgrain that adorned the sides of the legendary Grand Wagoneer, I just don’t think there’s any way that that many square inches of fake wood will ever adorn a new automobile’s sheetmetal. As we showed in our post in 2013, wood just doesn’t match most modern cars’ round shapes, plastic bumpers, and lack of superfluous un-aerodynamic chrome window surrounds, mirrors, door handles, badges, weather stripping, and drip rails. I think FCA’s design office will find a way to tie wood into the theme, but I’m doubting it will be to the extent of the old Grand Wagoneers.
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Though, deep down, I hope they go for maximum wood coverage.
Anyway, in addition to slathered in woodgrain, I’d really like these vehicles to be similar to the Toyota 4Runner/Toyota Land Cruiser duo. No, those two are not built on the same platform like the Wagoneers almost certainly will be, and there’re a little different dimensionally, but they embody what the new Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer should be if they want to win my heart.
The 4Runner is a reasonably priced, body-on-frame, solid rear axle-equipped SUV that can fit lots of stuff, offers okay ride quality, can be optioned with decent interior luxuries, and has enormous aftermarket support. The world right now is going apeshit over “overlanding”—which is basically hiking with a vehicle, and often involves long-distance trips over moderate off-road terrain, and clever storage solutions for things like tents, spare fuel, beds, and other camping provisions.
Give me a cool body-on-frame SUV with good ground clearance that can do that, and isn’t fraught with the handling/ride compromises of the Wrangler, and I’d be happy. Of course, it would have to be larger than the 4Runner so it doesn’t compete with the Wrangler, and frankly, this would probably steal sales from the Grand Cherokee and three-row Grand Cherokee-based SUV.
And while we’re speaking of why this idea is a bit farfetched, Autoblog interviewed then-head-of-Jeep Mike Manley, and surmised that even the Wagoneer that isn’t Grand may not exactly be anywhere close to the price bracket as a 4Runner. Per the story:
Manley said the Wagoneers will compete in the $60,000-to-$100,000 price range. They will be based on a body-on-frame platform sourced from the Ram and built in Warren, MI. “Ever since I’ve been associated with Jeep, in my mind, they needed to come back to the portfolio,” Manley said.
Okay, if I’m being honest, I’m thinking the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer will be similar to the Chevy Tahoe/Cadillac Escalade and Ford Expedition/Lincoln Navigator twins, though there’s a chance they’ll be really similar to one another, with the Grand Wagoneer being an extended wheelbase version of the Wagoneer (like Cadillac does with the Escalade and long-wheelbase Escalade ESV).
My esteemed Jalopnik colleague Andrew Collins points out that maybe Jeep could be gunning for the Range Rover, which is a fair point, but that’s a unibody vehicle with decent handling capabilities, and I think the new “WL” Grand Cherokee and the upcoming three-row Grand Cherokee might fit into that class better. I honestly am not sure, and I frankly have lost track of what’s going on in the rumor mill.
But forget about all that: This isn’t about what the cars will likely be, it’s about what I hope they will be, and dreams are meant to be unencumbered by things like logistics and finances. It’s all about maximizing Jeepness.
As for the Grand Wagoneer, I’m hoping it’s a Toyota Land Cruiser competitor: A beefy off-road brute that nobody will actually take off-road, since it’s stuffed with insane amounts of luxury and costs over $80,000, but that will still have lockers and skid plates and all the fun hardware just for fun. That way, ten years down the road when these things depreciate, I can buy one for cheap and actually take it off-road.
Under the hood, I’d like to see some big motors. Allpar wrote a while back that maybe there will be an inline-six based on the same engine architecture as the GME-T4 four-cylinder in the Wrangler and Cherokee. Offer that and a 5.7-liter V8—and maybe a higher performance Hemi for the Grand Wagoneer—and bolt them to eight-speed automatic transmissions hooked up to two-speed transfer cases, and the moderately-priced overland Wagoneer and extremely expensive luxury off-roader that nobody’s going to take off-road, the Grand Wagoneer, will be irresistible to SUV-hungry Americans. Especially me.
So go ahead and dream for a bit, eh? What do you hope, deep down in your heart, that the Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer will be?