Last year, Jeep announced that it would be bringing back one of its most popular models with the 2021 Grand Wagoneer. Well, as things turned out, they had to push back its release to the summer of 2021 due to the Pandemic, so the 2021 model became the 2022 Grand Wagoneer. Still, regardless of the number, this hits the road as the latest premium three-row full-size SUV to challenge for the top dog spot of the coveted luxury vehicle class. For me, the announcement triggered memories of growing up in the suburbs in the 80s, and my friend Chris, whose dad always drove an SUV and was one of the first to buy a Grand Wagoneer.
You see, Chris and her family were into outdoor stuff like camping and fishing, and her dad needed a vehicle that could handle the rugged terrain while still getting Chris and her brothers safely to school every day. I was also fortunate to get a few rides home in their Grand Wagoneer, so I got to see firsthand how it was really different from the coupes and sedans my parents and the neighbors chose to drive. This was the first SUV I had ever ridden in, and I was amazed at how high off the ground it was, as well as how roomy the interior was compared to the cramped backseat of my dad’s Oldsmobile with the bump for the drivetrain. I envied Chris because she didn’t have to fight with her brothers over who had to sit in the bump seat.
Living up to a Legacy
Jeep introduced the Grand Wagoneer for the 1984 year, but its roots run deeper, going all the way back to the early 60s with the Full-Size Jeep. The folks at Jeep had decided to take the basic concept of a Jeep and then put it into a larger vehicle to appeal to drivers who wanted an SUV that was as at home on the road as it was off it. This is why the decision was made to make sure that all models were four-wheel drive standard. It was a novel approach since most cars being sold to suburban drivers at that time were rear-wheel drive. This is also why my dad’s Oldsmobile had that annoying bump, something that was thankfully missing from Chris’s dad’s Grand Wagoneer.
One thing that was also constant on those old Grand Wagoneers was the woodgrain decals on the sides. This was a nod to the first station wagons and trucks, which were made out of wood and often affectionately referred to as “woodies.” It was a design decision that gave the Grand Wagoneer a real folky look, and Jeep carried that look into the interior with real wood trim. It also went along with the rugged looks of the Grand Wagoneer. There was no mistaking that this is an SUV built to handle whatever the outdoors may throw in its way.
In coming out with the new Grand Wagoneer, there are quite a few things that Jeep carried over from those last models that hit the roads back in 1991, around the same time that we were all wearing acid wash jeans. First off, the new Grand Wagoneer is standard four-wheel drive. Although the goal was a luxury SUV, this has not forgotten its roots. So, while you may want to cruise the Miracle Mile in your Grand Wagoneer, you can also get out on the trail to do some camping.
With that in mind, the 2022 Grand Wagoneer has over 10 inches of ground clearance and should have no trouble fording up to two feet of water. This is the result of the standard adaptive air suspension that can raise the Grand Wagoneer up to 3.6-inches, something that didn’t exist with the original model. Still, Chris’s dad would have been at home driving around town in this new model.
What’s New in the Grand Wagoneer
It is interesting pointing out new features in a model that hasn’t been built in 30 years. In the case of the Grand Wagoneer, though, it is crucial to understand what has been changed from the more utilitarian days of those old Grand Wagoneers. While the original Grand Wagoneer was the ideal of luxury in an SUV in 1984, it really can’t match what the new model has to offer. The roomy interior of those original models has been expanded to three rows of sheer luxury with a combination of leather and real wood trim accents. These three rows can be configured with either a 60/40 split bench in the second row for a total of eight passengers or two captain’s chairs in the second row for seven passengers.
The engine on the new Grand Wagoneer blows the original models away. When the Grand Wagoneer was introduced in 1984, Jeep gave drivers a choice of a large 5.9-liter V8 with 140 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque or a more economical 4.2-liter straight-6 gas engine. However, the 6-cylinder engine proved unpopular because it was too underpowered, so it was eventually discontinued. The 2022 Grand Wagoneer has a standard 6.4-liter HEMI V8 that comes paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission, capable of producing 471 horsepower and generating 455 pound-feet of torque. Not only is this more powerful than the engine on the classic model, but it also gives exceptional acceleration for a vehicle of the Grand Wagoneer’s size. I bet Chris’s dad would have loved it if his old Grand Wagoneer had this engine!
The new Grand Wagoneer also nailed it when it comes to the suspension. Gone is the old solid rear axle, replaced with an independent suspension system that gives the new Grand Wagoneer a softer and quieter ride. Gone are the days of being bounced around the interior of the Grand Wagoneer every time you hit a bump on the trail or a pothole on the road.
Jeep has also boosted the Grand Wagoneer’s capability, allowing it to tow up to 9,850 pounds. These are the kind of numbers you usually see on a pickup truck, not a luxury SUV. The Grand Wagoneer also features the latest safety systems that folks could have only dreamed about back in 1984. These are definitely things that the original Grand Wagoneer drivers would have really appreciated.
The 2022 Grand Wagoneer also comes with a standard Uconnect infotainment system paired with six touchscreens that puts the old AM/FM stereo on the original models to shame. It also features an advanced 1375-watt McIntosh premium sound system, with an amplifier and 23 speakers for the true audiophile. This is the highest-tech luxury SUV in its segment.
Ride a Grand Wagoneer Into the Future
There are some things I miss about those original Grand Wagoneers. For one thing, I kind of miss those fake wood panels on the sides. It might have been cool if they could have figured out how to have some real wood accents on the sides of the 2022 Grand Wagoneer. It would have been a fun way to pay homage to those original models and the legacy of this great vehicle.
I also miss the days riding around town with Chris, her dad, and her brothers in their original Grand Wagoneer, back in the days before SUVs became the most popular model on the road. It seemed kind of special to be in an SUV at that time, to be riding up high over all the coupes, sedans, and minivans.
Even with these minor issues, Jeep has done a wonderful job of bringing the Grand Wagoneer into the future. This great SUV has all the ruggedness and off-road capability of those original models, but now with the capability and safety of the modern automotive world. I don’t know where Chris or her family is today, but I bet she is going to be one of the first in line to get a Grand Wagoneer, just like her dad did back in 1984.