It’s been a long time in coming. Jeep has spent years hinting of plans to bring back its one-time flagship, the Grand Wagoneer. It came close, early in the new millennium, with the poorly received Commander. But now, it’s finally ready to deliver the big, high-line model that buyers have been looking for.
Well, almost. The new Jeep Grand Wagoneer Concept making its debut today certainly does fit the bill, with a lavish mix of features – including some, like the teak wood roof rails and grille accents falling into the “over the top” category. Unfortunately, it’s just a show car for now and it’s unclear just how much of what we’re seeing actually will carry over.
The good news is that there will be a production model, along with a more plebian Jeep Wagoneer, said the brand’s boss, Christian Meunier. “It’s clearly the return of an American icon,” he said during an online media unveiling. “Wagoneer will allow us to extend well beyond our current line-up.”
The new show car follows a grand tradition by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and, before it, the old Chrysler Corp., in terms of unveiling truly extravagant concept vehicles. But where those of the past, like the 2006 Chrysler Imperial Concept, tended to focus on sedans or coupes, the Grand Wagoneer Concept reflects the realities of today’s SUV-crazed U.S. market. Passenger cars are passé. However, upscale buyers want the same sorts of high-line features expected once upon a time in the Chrysler Imperial to be found in a Jeep.
And while Jeep may be positioned as a mainstream brand, if the Grand Wagoneer concept is any indication of where the production model will land, it is targeting some of the most upscale SUVs on the market, including the likes of the Mercedes-Benz GL and BMW X8.
“The stunning and sophisticated Grand Wagoneer Concept’s debut instantly positions the storied Wagoneer name as a premium extension of the Jeep brand,” the automaker declares in a release describing the show car. “Wagoneer will define ‘American Premium’ while delivering a unique and unprecedented customer experience.”
A first glance at the concept strikes a note of déjà vu. While not aiming to go retro, the development team “preserved (the) simplicity” of the original Wagoneer family, suggested FCA’s global design chief Ralph Gilles. The basic shape of the three-row SUV carries over, albeit with a more rounded nose, more slit-like headlamps and a distinctive grille that, as noted, features real teak wood accents, the same, exquisite material used for the Concept’s roof rails – which frame a full glass roof. They will have to suffice for those who might have expected classic fake-wood cladding.
Another nod to the original Wagoneer/Grand Wagoneer comes in the form of the trapezoid wheel openings. Those obsidian-finished aluminum wheels, incidentally, measure a full 24 inches and they constitute one of the most intriguing features of the exterior design, a complex web that could only be produced, Gilles revealed, using 3D laser printing technology.
It’s all in the details, it’s been said, and that clearly holds true with the Concept with features like the way Grand Wagoneer is spelled out on each front door in raised aluminum accented by copper. An American flag adds the final touch.
Lest one think the Grand Wagoneer Concept is too pretty to be a Jeep, it also features some rugged elements, such as tow hooks and skid plates.
As for the cabin, it is meant to “exude” an “ultra-premium upscale environment,” suggests FCA. The Concept has a seven-passenger layout with captain’s chairs in the middle row and a surprisingly roomy rear bench. There is plenty of room in the back for someone towering 6’5” in height, demonstrated Chris Benjamin, the lead interior designer.
The sculpted instrument panel has an almost wing-like look to it, and it features, along with the now requisite digital gauge cluster and center touchscreen what Benjamin billed as “the world’s first passenger screen.” All told, there are 45 inches of screens melded into the IP. Additional touchscreen displays are offered for each of the second-row occupants.
Again, detailing matters, and the air vents have a black glass feel, while the rotary shifter and other controls are carefully knurled. The starter button was sculpted out of wood and sits atop a shell of black glass.
For audiophiles, the Concept becomes the first automotive entry point for the beloved McIntosh brand – though the system does not feature the classic tube amplifier that the marque is known for.
The touchscreens, incidentally, can be switched to a display showing the distinctive McIntosh VU analog meters bouncing to whatever tunes you might be playing.
While the cabin is rich with classic luxury materials, there’s also a nod to modern sensibilities with sustainable materials such as Dinamica synthetic suede, and PUR, a leather-like “post-consumer” material used for the seats, massive center console and other interior surfaces.
As for the drivetrain, the Jeep Grand Wagoneer Concept features a plug-in hybrid system. Specific details are vague though it’s apparently a second-generation take on the PHEV technology now used for the Chrysler Pacific Hybrid minivan. We’ll likely have to wait to find out more details when the production version is unveiled. A PHEV is likely in production, however, along with other powertrains and three different 4X4 systems, officials noted.
The question that immediately pops up is obvious: how much of the Jeep Grand Wagoneer Concept will show up in that production model, which is due to market in summer 2021?
Jeep officials danced around offering a precise answer, though interior designer Benjamin suggested, “A lot of what’s in there will be in the production car.”
Expect to see the overall shape and design carry over, several sources confirmed, and there is widespread expectation that the passenger touchscreen will, as well, potentially serving as one of the big SUV’s big selling points.
Teakwood accents? Probably not. Nor would we expect to see the production model show up with 3D printed wheels. It’s too slow and expensive a process. There’ll likely be fewer of those grand exterior and interior accents. But the way Jeep officials boasted about the starter button design we’re expecting something more than just another button on a flat IP.
Jeep really needs to push things to the extreme to have the production version of the Grand Wagoneer taken as serious competition not just to the likes of a Chevrolet Tahoe, for example, but the Lincoln Aviator and imports such as the Mercedes GL. So, there’s little doubt the final version will be the most lavishly outfitted Jeep ever.