In 1962, Jeep launched the now-highly collectible wood-panelled Wagoneer — which was really the first iteration of what we now call an SUV, says Tim Anness, the designer who penned the reborn 2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer. The genius of the original was that it delivered off-road ability in a vehicle that was suitable for the whole family, their luggage, and their dog. A follow-up, the luxurious Grand Wagoneer, arrived in 1984, pre-empting the whole deluxe-large-SUV craze we currently find ourselves in the midst of.
Jeep rightly wanted to get back into the market it helped create — but reviving a classic isn’t easy. “If you’re going to raise the bar, it has to be done right; it has to be perfect,” says Mike Szymkiewicz, the brand’s chief product planner in Canada. He’s well aware that this new $100,995 Grand Wagoneer has only one shot to make a first impression on a discerning audience that— let’s face it — may not be accustomed to walking into a Jeep dealership.
From a distance, the sheer size of the Wagoneer catches your eye, but it’s the details that draw you closer. Across the rear hatch are raised letters that read “Grand Wagoneer” in two-tone copper and chrome. Walk around to the front and you’ll notice a grille with paint-over-chrome laser-etched rings reminiscent of the knurled metal finish of a good diving watch. Everything you touch has a lovely tactile quality — like the gear selector, which feels as if it were machined from a single metal ingot.
This being an honest American truck, it’ll tow nearly 10,000 lbs’ worth of boat or motorcycle, thanks to a massive 6.4-litre Hemi V8. It isn’t frugal, but it has enough torque to pull up a tree-stump. This is a true body-on-frame SUV, albeit one with air suspension tuned with on-road comfort in mind.
Once you open the Grand Wagoneer’s doors — which are hefty, like you’re opening the door to an airplane — you’ll find an interior that is a cabin in every sense of the word, with an ambiance like a luxury hunting lodge. A wing-shaped shelf made of satin American walnut — as you’d find on old motor yachts — runs the width of the cabin and down the centre consoles. Light streams in through the enormous glass roof and windows. There’s room to stretch out in each of the seven or eight seats.
There’s up to 75 inches of total screen real estate in this thing: four screens up front, three in the second row. It’s a lot, but it’s all surprisingly easy to use. The front passenger gets their own screen for inputting navigation destinations or selecting music to play on the 1,375-watt stereo system, developed with McIntosh. (Its sound is clear and airy, even at volumes that let you feel the bass as much as hear it.)
Now, as far as first impressions go, the reborn Grand Wagoneer makes a very good one. Driving this gentle American giant, it’s clear this isn’t Jeep’s first rodeo.