This article is very late and boring, just like the Jeep Grand Wagoneer
Seriously, I can't remember the last time I was so disappointed in a new car reveal.
Before we get into the article, yes, I know that the Grand Wagoneer was revealed almost two weeks ago, and yes, I know that nobody cares about it anymore. Honestly, though, I don't think anyone cared about the new Jeep Grand Wagoneer in the first place. Not after they saw it.
If you want to know why I didn't write about the Grand Wagoneer before, it's because I decided that because Jeep clearly put absolutely no effort into the new Grand Wagoneer, there was no reason for me to put any effort into reviewing it. But then I remembered how much I enjoy ripping things to pieces in article form, so I decided I would write about it after all.
Let me be very clear: The only thing that the new Grand Wagoneer has in common with the old one is that they are both large SUVs made by Jeep. Jeep is only calling this the Grand Wagoneer because they know how many people love the old one, and they want to use the halo effect of the Grand Wagoneer name to draw attention to this generic, cookie-cutter large SUV that doesn't deserve the attention and never would have gotten it otherwise. And the timing of the Grand Wagoneer concept's reveal (that's right, 10 years of teasing and they couldn't even bother to reveal the finished product) seems orchestrated to steal Ford's thunder after the reveal of the new Bronco. However, in the day or two after the Grand Wagoneer's reveal, all anyone would talk about was how bad it was, and how you really had to TRY to screw up something as badly as Jeep screwed up this car. So I guess they kind of succeeded in getting people talking about them? But anyway, here's a more detailed breakdown of this car.
Ford: "Look, our Bronco has a removable roof and doors and a manual transmission option!" Jeep: "Our Grand Wagoneer has body-colored pillars!"
Even though the Grand Wagoneer is a concept, I expect 90% of the concept car will carry over into the production version. And that's a bit of a problem. After the reveal, everyone on car Twitter was talking about how ugly the exterior of the new Grand Wagoneer is. I disagree: It's not even close to interesting enough to be considered ugly. The back seemed to draw the most criticism, but the front (which you can see in the top photo in this article) isn't any better. A lot of people were complaining specifically about the lack of wood paneling, which is a valid point (since that was the most memorable design feature of the original), but based on the renderings of this car with wood paneling that people have done, I think just adding wood is not enough to save this design. In fact, I think the Kia Telluride looks more like a Grand Wagoneer than the new Grand Wagoneer. This car is so boring looking it's almost painful. I guess it's maybe a little more interesting looking than the Jeep Compass or the current Jeep Cherokee (the latter is one of the worst looking cars in the entire world), but it's still pretty abysmal. I know people love to hate on the Commander (Jeep's last attempt at a big three-row SUV), but even that still had some character to the design, and still stood out from other big three-row SUVs. This? This is just a large, empty void of nothingness.
And the worst part is it didn't have to be like this. Old SUVs like the OG Grand Wagoneer have seen significant interest in recent years, and as Ford proved just a few months ago with the new Bronco, it is commercially viable to actually make modernized versions of these older vehicles that everyone loves, and not just use the name to sell yet another bland, ordinary, SUV. Look at the reception the new Bronco has received. Ford absolutely nailed that car; it is exactly what it should be, and I even saw several automotive journalists make reservations for one. For automotive journalists to beg a company to make a car and then actually spend their own money on it when a car company does is unprecedented, and it speaks volumes to what a great job Ford did with that car.
Jeep could have been in that position with this car. They could have made a Grand Wagoneer that combines everything people loved about the old Grand Wagoneer into a distinctive, modern vehicle, which is what Ford did with the Bronco and even what Land Rover did, albeit to a lesser extent, with the Defender. And I think that Grand Wagoneer would have been a huge success. But instead, they chose to create an ordinary large luxury SUV that looks exactly like everyone else's large luxury SUV. And sure, they'll have no problem selling it, because large luxury SUVs are very popular and profitable right now. But nobody will actually buy the Grand Wagoneer because they love it or because it's really exciting and cool (which is the reason people buy Wranglers, or Broncos, or Defenders, or G-Wagens, or even Range Rovers). They will buy it because they are in the market for this type of vehicle and they got a better deal on the Grand Wagoneer than they did on the Lincoln Navigator, or the Mercedes-Benz GLS, or the BMW X7, or whatever other large luxury SUVs they were cross-shopping with the Grand Wagoneer.
I love how Jeep has this photo of the old Grand Wagoneer on their website, as if to remind us how far they've fallen. Photo credit: Jeep
I'm not saying the Kia Telluride would make a good Grand Wagoneer, but it's a lot closer than what Jeep just released. Photo from Kia's US website
However, the biggest problem with this car is simple:
Jeep got the basic idea for what this car should be completely wrong.
Let me tell you what the new Grand Wagoneer should have been. It should have been what the original was, or what the current Toyota Land Cruiser, Range Rover, or Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen are: A large, comfortable, luxurious SUV that is massively capable off road and will never be used for that purpose until it is 15 years old and costs $3K on Craigslist. This will sell, because the one constant of our species is that we constantly pay for useless stuff we don't need, and because brands have a huge amount of power in the modern era. And Jeep is one of the strongest brands in the automotive industry. If Jeep had any common sense, they would make this car ridiculously capable and hype its off-road ability constantly in order to tap in to Jeep's main marketing strength, its 75 years of making bulletproof off-roaders and the Jeep Compass. Actually, scratch that last point. But you get what I mean.
Instead, Jeep made a photocopy of a Lincoln Navigator or a Cadillac Escalade (cars which are essentially useless off-road in their modern form), and then stuck a seven bar grille and some Jeep badges on, and they had the new Grand Wagoneer. (And actually, that's not really fair; the Navigator and Escalade are significantly better looking than the new Grand Wagoneer.) I suspect the Grand Wagoneer will probably be a bit more capable than those two, but it doesn't look like it would be anywhere near as capable as, say, a Range Rover (if it were, Jeep would have talked endlessly about its off-road ability, which they didn't). And in the SUV market, off-road credibility sells (look at Toyota 4Runner sales numbers if you don't believe me), so Jeep really shot themselves in the foot by not making it more off-road focused. And then shot themselves in the head with the styling.
There's a screen for the gauge cluster, two screens on the front center console, a screen on the passenger side dashboard, screens on the back of each front seat, and another screen between the second row seats. Seriously, is it enough yet?
The one part of the car that everyone seems to like is the interior. I think it's decent; not amazing, but there's nothing really wrong with it, except for the idiotic number of screens (seven in total!) But it seems like everyone, especially the people who buy luxury cars, wants lots of screens, so putting them in there makes sense, even though I hate them.
The production version
As bad as the Grand Wagoneer concept is, the production version will be even worse if, as seems likely, it is basically this car watered down even further. Features like the exterior lighting, wood trim on the roof racks, and the map of Detroit printed on the glass roof will likely disappear, making the car even more generic. As for powertrains, I think the offerings will roughly mirror that of the Ram 1500, with which it shares a basic platform. You can expect the long-running 3.6 liter Pentastar V6 and 5.7 liter Hemi V8 to be among the options available, along with at least one hybrid option and a (completely pointless) Trackhawk version with Hellcat power. In addition, there will also be a regular Wagoneer targeted at the Chevy Tahoe/Suburban, and, like the Tahoe/Suburban and the Cadillac Escalade, both the regular and Grand Wagoneer will likely come in short and long versions. And no, don't expect the regular Wagoneer to be any more interesting.
By now, you're probably thinking "Oh, he's just a triggered Jeep fanboy who can't accept change." First of all, I much prefer Toyota Land Cruisers to Jeeps (although I like both). Second of all, I defended the Land Rover Defender (pun intended) and the new Toyota Supra when everyone was complaining incessantly about them. And I stand by that. Sure, those two aren't my ideal interpretation of a Defender and a Supra, but they generally stayed true to what the original was supposed to do, and I thought they were good, interesting vehicles when viewed on their own merits. I wish I could say the same about the new Grand Wagoneer.
The thing is, though, the car itself isn't the biggest problem. If it were called anything else, I would probably be indifferent to it as a perfectly good but uninteresting large SUV, the way I am with, say, Ford and GM's offerings in this segment. Unfortunately, Jeep chose to call it the Grand Wagoneer rather than the Commander or some new name, and so I have to measure it based on how good it is at being a Grand Wagoneer. And while it may be an OK vehicle, it is a truly terrible Grand Wagoneer.
I don't think I've been this disappointed in a new car reveal since Chevy brought back the Blazer as a midsize crossover that is exactly like every other midsize crossover. And even then, they had already put the Blazer name on a string of mediocre, uninteresting SUVs in the late '90s and early 2000s, so it wasn't quite as disappointing as this (and besides, we've all accepted that GM makes bad decisions; it's basically a given at this point). The ability of Jeep's lineup to make people care has been falling off a cliff for the last 20 years, and a well-executed revival of the Grand Wagoneer would have really helped reverse that. Instead, Jeep decided to not do that. They did the same thing that they did with the Cherokee and copied exactly what their competitors are doing. The orignal Wagoneer has become a popular classic car, with legions of loyal fans. Will the new Grand Wagoneer be even close to as revered 35 years from now? Unless something fundamentally changes in the production version, there's no chance.