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Jeep Grand Wagoneer: Set for a Comeback

By Matt DeLorenzo on May 1, 2014 4:50 PM
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With the entry-level 2015 Jeep Renegade rolling into showrooms late this year, the Jeep division of Fiat Chrysler Automotive (FCA) is looking at resurrecting the Grand Wagoneer name for a new flagship to top the division's offerings.

Introduced in 1963 and built until 1991, the Jeep Grand Wagoneer is arguably the first luxury full-size SUV. Styled by famed industrial designer Brooks Stevens, the Grand Wagoneer featured body-on-frame construction based off the Jeep Gladiator pickup. By the 1970s, the list of luxury features had grown to include V8 engines, leather seats, tinted glass, power windows and door lock and wood grain exterior accents with a $10,000-plus MSRP that rivaled loaded Cadillacs. This was a time when most SUVs and pickups were bare-bone affairs at best.

"A Sense of Elegance"

Jeep tried before to create a flagship above its successful Grand Cherokee line with the Jeep Commander, a boxy, 3-row model built from 2006 to 2010 that failed to capture the imagination of buyers in the full-size SUV market. While speculation has Jeep considering a small SUV below the Renegade for fuel economy purposes, Mike Manley, Jeep president and ceo, said in an interview during the New York Auto Show that the focus is now on a vehicle at the top of the line. And unlike the Commander, Manley said this new generation Grand Wagoneer "has to have a sense of elegance" that the original possessed. 

Jeep is growing rapidly as a global brand and sales are up 47 percent in the first quarter, according to trade journal Automotive News. The division is looking to expand production capacity and it's been reported that the FCA is looking at expanding the Sterling Heights, Michigan, which produces the Chrysler 200, to add a line for Jeep and Dodge Durango. The Durango uses an extended Jeep Grand Cherokee platform on which the new Grand Wagoneer would be based. That would allow for an introduction as early as next year as a 2016 model. An announcement could come as soon as May 6, when FCA announces its next major product initiatives coverall all the brands in the group.

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Renegade Ready to Roll

Manley is also bullish on prospects for the new 2015 Jeep Renegade. Although the vehicle made its global debut in Geneva, the U.S. version bowed in New York and will feature a choice of two drivetrains, a 184-horsepower, 2.4-liter Tigershark 4-cylinder engine making 177 lb-ft of torque and a 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder making 160 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. The larger engine will be offered only with a 9-speed automatic transmission, while the smaller MultiAir unit will come just with a 6-speed manual.

In Europe, the Renegade will have a wider choice of engines including four MultiAir gasoline engines ranging in displacement from 1.4 to 2.4 liters and two MultiJet diesel offerings. Manley said it's unlikely that the U.S. will see a diesel version of the Renegade anytime soon. All Renegades are being built at an FCA plant in Melfi, Italy, and will be exported to 100 countries around the globe.

Jeep will offer the 2015 Renegade in four trim levels, Sport, Latitude, Limited and Trailhawk. The Trailhawk trim level has proved so popular on the larger Cherokee, that Manley expects it to exceed 20 percent of the volume on the Renegade. Pricing has yet to be announced on the new model, although it's expected that the base Renegade will start below $20,000.

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