Vehicle Spotlight: Return of the Jeep Wagoneer

Our national obsession for making old favorites new again seems to be reaching a fever pitch. Full House is back on television. Zima will be hitting liquor store shelves again soon. Ghostbusters reconquered the box office. And paved roads and beaten paths across the country will soon be making way for the return of a couple of old, wood-paneled American favorites, the Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer.

Ford’s official announcement of a Bronco reboot recently sparked an industry frenzy. Jeep, unwilling to be left behind, announced the return of two of its largest models, both in sales and size. The return of the Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer will compete at the top of their line in the full-size SUV market.

A Legend in the Making

The original Jeep Wagoneer, considered by many to be the very first luxury SUV, is a grandchild of the Willys Jeep Station Wagon, which brought a military style to the civilian market. The Wagoneer’s design was ahead of its time. Constructed in the industry standard body-on-frame style, it displayed features like an independent front suspension and power steering. It was also the first vehicle to link four-wheel drive to an automatic transmission.

The Jeep Wagoneer debuted in 1963 and impressed consumers with its practicality and value. With lots of cargo space and a handy low load floor that didn’t compromise ground clearance, it became a beloved family vehicle for more than three decades. The first run of Wagoneers sported a 3.8L inline-six that made 140 horsepower. A 5.4L V8 became an option with more kick in subsequent years.

The Grand Wagoneer’s heyday came along more gradually. Jeep produced a Super Wagoneer from ‘66-’69, a bigger Wagoneer that came with standard air conditioning and power windows. The company changed hands in 1970 and opted to revamp the entire model. An updated frame appeared in 1976 and eventually, a fancier Limited trim package came out in 1979. This package ultimately evolved into the Grand Wagoneer, debuting in 1984.

The company changed ownership again in 1987 but the Wagoneer brand stayed mostly unchanged until production ended in 1991. In fact, the 87-91 Grand Wagoneers are still among Jeep’s most coveted models. Some resale prices even reach above the amount they fetched when brand new.

Everything Old Is New Again

So what will Jeep have in store for the Wagoneer’s second act? Expect their best stuff. With sales exploding in both foreign and domestic markets in recent years, efforts have been made to throw the Jeep hat into new rings of competition. Recent strides in the CUV market have delivered the Renegade and the new Compass. Consumers eagerly await the return of a Jeep pickup truck. Now the Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer are looking to take their share of the full size and luxury SUV market. They’ll be up against some worthy contenders with the likes of the GMC Yukon Denali, the Toyota Land Cruiser, the Lincoln Navigator, and even the mighty Cadillac Escalade.

Estimated prices range from $60,000-$100,000. However, Jeep boss Mike Manley has implied that a fully loaded Grand Wagoneer could fetch as much as $130,000. A price like that certainly aims at doing battle with the best that Cadillac and Land Rover can offer.

A comfy third row of seating will definitely be a reality (borrowed from its platform-mate, the Dodge Durango). This is a Jeep feature that many see as long overdue. Jeep’s only other attempt at introducing a three-row SUV to the masses was the ill-conceived Commander. Mercifully, Jeep scrapped the model for good in 2010 when sales fell to practically zero. Its demise was due to a cheaply-made interior, poor gas mileage, and back row seats not big enough to accommodate actual people.

Unlike the Grand Cherokee’s unibody, the new Jeep Wagoneer will continue with its body-on-frame style approach, with underpinnings borne of the latest Dodge Ram pickups. While nothing is certain regarding the engine, a 3.6L Pentastar V6 is likely for entry-level models. And 5.7 and 6.4L Hemi V8s are possible upgrades for the higher end of the spectrum. A hybrid option seems a forgone conclusion, though experts do not expect to see a diesel offering. This ride sure is a long ways from its humble beginnings.

All Things Come to Those Who Wait

So, when on Earth can we, the Jeep-loving public, get our hand on one of these homegrown, throwback, badass mamma jammas? Not just yet. Initial reports suggested that 2019 models may be available as early as late 2018. Unfortunately, the factory in Warren, Michigan where they’ll be built won’t be fully retooled and ready to produce until 2020. Long story short, think early next decade.

And as for that legendary wood paneling? Don’t hold your breath. Sadly, nothing is reported to be in the works. But with all the vinyl decal options for Jeeps nowadays (both factory and aftermarket), it is definitely still a dream worth dreaming. Creepy music aside, the video below gives us a glimpse at form and function.

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