Classic SUVs are on the comeback trail. Following the long-awaited return of the Ford Bronco in July, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is getting ready to bring back a couple of its own well-loved SUV nameplates, the Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer.
The Wagoneer and the more luxurious Grand Wagoneer will be big SUVs with three rows of seats, set to compete against vehicles like the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Aviator and Navigator. Prices for the Wagoneer are expected to start at about $60,00 and to top $100,000 (with options) for the Grand Wagoneer, Fiat Chrysler executives said.
A concept version unveiled Thursday is close to what the production Grand Wagoneer will look like, the executives said.
The Grand Wagoneer concept was presented as a plug-in hybrid. At the same time, Jeep also unveiled a new plug-in hybrid version of the Jeep Wrangler off-road SUV that will go on sale soon.
The original Wagoneer was introduced in 1962. While based on a truck frame, the Wagoneer was much more stylish and car-like than other early SUVs, like the Bronco and the International Harvester Scout. It was also the first four-wheel-drive vehicle available with an automatic transmission. It introduced the modern concept of an SUV as a family vehicle, rather than something just for farmers and hunters.
The Grand Wagoneer became a distinct model line in 1984, and production ended in 1991.
Like original Broncos, classic Wagoneer models have become highly desirable today. Values for Grand Wagoneers have gone up 64% and, for Wagoneers, almost 80% over the past three years, according to Hagerty, a company that tracks collectable car values.
A number of companies specialize in restoring them for modern customers. Fiat Chrysler (FCAU) designers talked to some of those companies while developing the new versions to learn what customers appreciated in the earlier models.
Fiat Chrysler plans to ultimately turn the Wagoneer name into a sort of sub-brand for more luxurious Jeep SUVs, said Christian Meunier, global head of the Jeep brand.
The concept features a version of Jeep’s famous seven-slot grill adorned with lights and the word “Wagoneer” above it, also illuminated. “Wagoneer” also appears on the doors in raised aluminum letters with an aluminum American flag.
The Wagoneer has a lot of glass inside, with a computer screen gauge cluster and two more large screens between the driver and passenger.
The passenger also has its own touchscreen in the dashboard covered in a privacy film so it doesn’t distract the driver. Second-row passengers also have their own large touchscreens.
The concept uses recycled materials in the interior and has teak wood accents inside and out to play up its “premium” character.
The Grand Wagoneer is expected to compete against European luxury SUVs from brands like Ranger Rover and Mercedes-Benz.
At the same time that it unveiled the Grand Wagoneer, Jeep also revealed the Jeep Wrangler 4xe, a new plugin hybrid SUV intended for serious off-road use.
Equipped with two electric motors and a four-cylinder engine, the 4xe will provide a combined 375 horsepower. It will be able to go as far as 25 miles on electric power before the gas engine has to turn on. After that it will drive like a hybrid, switching between gasoline and electric power as needed.
The electric motors provide some advantages in off-road driving, according to Fiat Chrysler, because they provide instant pulling power. A gasoline engine has to build up some speed before it can pull up a steep incline, for instance.
The 4xe’s high-powered batteries are mounted under the rear seat. The battery pack and electric motors are sealed watertight, allowing the Jeep to safely drive through 30 inches of water.
Wrangler 4xe SUVs will have special “electric blue” badging to distinguish them from gas-only models. Jeep already offers plugin hybrid versions of the Renegade and Compass in Europe.
The Wrangler 4xe will be available in Europe, Asia and the US early next year.