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Can it compare? The new Jeep Wagoneer

Updated December 6, 2016

In 1962, long before buyers had any idea what an "SUV" was, Kaiser-Jeep launched a new station wagon, with an advanced 4x4 system that included an optional independent front suspension. The large "go-anywhere" 1963 Jeep Wagoneer would, with various changes, be made by Kaiser, AMC, and Chrysler over the course of decades.

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Driven by executives, families, and foresters, the original Jeep Wagoneer provided a great deal of creature comfort, for a vehicle that could traverse a stream or boulder field. Can the new Wagoneer keep up with it?

An image snagged by KGP photography shows what may well be a styling study for the next Jeep Wagoneer (see above). The dimensions are a bit oversized compared with the Grand Cherokee on the left, and we doubt the LED headlights will be quite so emphasized, but you can see the Grand Cherokee basis. Indeed, sources have said that the Wagoneer will be similar in size to the Dodge Durango, but with the more-off-road-oriented tuning of the Grand Cherokee.

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The Grand Wagoneer, a luxury Jeep above the Grand Cherokee and Durango, is still planned; one correspondent reported in 2014, "Grand Wagoneer looks just like the classic Wagoneer with a bit of Durango styling."

The Wagoneer has been all but confirmed, and should have a longer body, like Durango, but with the Jeep suspension setup rather than Durango's on-road-biased system. Either Wagoneer or a vehicle above it is expected to hit six figures in its ultimate form. We suspect the six-figure model would have a supercharged Hemi V8, hybrid-electric system, or other exotic powerplant, with all the bells and whistles (the Hellcat engine is slated to end up in the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk).

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Will it be made? Autoline Daily claimed that the pricey Jeeps had been dropped, possibly because the costs of upgrading Warren were too high. Perhaps, they wrote, Warren would build Ram-based vehicles, and perhaps the Wagoneer could be changed to something like the Jeep Rescue concept. FCA has indeed been dropping plans for various vehicles, trying to save money to pay off debt faster. Jefferson Avenue is at capacity with Durangos (which were supposed to have been dropped already) and Grand Cherokees, but the higher profit margin of the Wagoneer seems hard to pass up.

The new Jeep Wagoneer may not have the social status or off-road capabilities of the original, but it will have much more power. The original had a 4.2 liter six-cylinder, 304 V8, and 360 V8, peaking at around 175 horsepower and 285 pound-feet of torque; the new one will likely start with the usual V6 engine, upgraded somewhat to perhaps 300 horsepower, and either a turbo V6 or a 5.7 Hemi pushing out around 380 hp. It may or may not have the 392 V8 option - 485 hp. The sole transmission will have eight speeds (at least twice as many than the original).

Four wheel drive systems will also be far more sophisticated; the Quadra-Trac full time four wheel drive system did not come to the Wagoneer until 1973, and then, low range was optional. It was advanced for its day, with a controlled-slip third differential to distribute power between the axles and no need to engage hubs; but the Wagoneer will almost certainly have the full-time Selec-Trac system which lets the driver choose the conditions or leave it on automatic, for full computer control.

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RedRiderBob added in November 2016,

Wagoneer "WS" is still on schedule and should launch around the same time frame as the Grand Cherokee "WL." Both Wagoneer and its upper level trim [Grand Wagoneer] will be a 2019 model year launch. The current Grand Cherokee will get a last hurrah for the 2018 model year with the launch of the supercharged Trackhawk.

From what I have been told, Grand Wagoneer and Wagoneer will the same WS vehicle. The difference between the two trims will be similar to that of the GMC Yukon XL and its Yukon XL Denali counterpart. The Wagoneer will have bi-xenon headlights where the Grand Wagoneer will have the seven-element LED lights from the design sketch.

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Grand Wagoneer will be powered only by Hemis, possibly the truck 6.4. I haven't heard anything about diesel power. Grand Wagoneer will have premium seating, it could be 18 way power front seats, second row heated and cooled seats, and third row heated seats. The Grand Wagoneer could feature the next generation of UConnect screens, possibly a civilian version of the 12.1. Look for options from the Pacifica, like the foot activated liftgate, games for the rear passengers, and a rumored 25-speaker Harman Kardon 1,000 watt sound system. The 360 degree camera will be standard on Grand Wagoneer, and optional on base Wagoneer.

Four wheel drive systems are from the WK2, except for the air suspension that will also underpin the upcoming 2019 Ram 1500, for even more lift and a quicker lowering and raising height time. Grand Wagoneer might even have a few special editions, e.g. the "anodized" editions.

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They may have other differences, e.g. different bumpers and trim; Grand Wagoneer will probably not have a Trackhawk model, but Wagoneer would. Both would have Trail Rated versions.
The original Jeep Wagoneer (selling as the Grand Wagoneer, after the Wagoneer name had moved to the Cherokee) ended up as a luxury item. Buyer loyalty was 60% in 1990, and buyers had a median income of $98,200 (that's around $182,000 in 2016 dollars). The Wagoneer Limited's median income was the highest of any domestic model - $106,500 ($200,000 in 2016 dollars). Whether Jeep can still command the respect of wealthy buyers is an open question, but with flocks of Suburbans and F-150s, not to mention Grand Cherokee SRT8s, going to upper-echelon Americans, it seems likely - as long as they can keep the quality up and the gaffes down.

1990 Grand
2016 Durango
Min curb weight (4x4)4,499 4,913
Leg room (first two rows)77.5 78.9

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And some speculation: One FCA exec suggested that the company might make both a Wagoneer and a Grand Wagoneer. If so, might not the basic Wagoneer be truly hard-core capable, and based on the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited? Give it a steel roof, a little stretch, and high-end trim, and you get a Wagoneer, whose presence on the trail and tales of derring-do might lend the Grand Cherokee-based Grand Wagoneer some extra credibility and mystique...

The December 6 update

The Jeep Grand Wagoneer, a high-end SUV based on the Jeep Grand Cherokee, has been put on hold, according to Automotive News and a trusted source.

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Years ago, some insiders said that the Durango stretched the capabilities of the Grand Cherokee plant, designed for the relatively compact Jeep Grand Cherokee "ZJ" (you can see how tight the fit is in the plant pics). If the planned Wagoneer was too large, it would have to be built at Warren - which means that Ram has to move out first, the long-overdue plant modernization has to take place, and only then can it be updated to make unibody SUVs - all quite pricey and lengthy investments.

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Some believe that the original Wagoneer plan has already been replaced by a big, Ram-based Escalade competitor, a major deviation from Jeep's norm. This would only be near-term-practical if they were already working on a Ram SUV, and given Ram's increased capacity, perhaps they have been.

Regardless, the Durango will continue to be the "three-row Grand Cherokee," and the Wagoneer will apparently be bumped even further into the future.

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