In an age of down-sizing, it may seem like an anachronism for a car manufacturer to purposely not make a large vehicle smaller.
But this is just what AMC did (or more accurately, did not do) to its Grand Wagoneer, the ”Big Daddy” of Jeep four-wheel-drive vehicles. This wasn’t an oversight on the part of AMC since the company introduced a new line of compact-sized Wagoneers for the 1984 model year.
The Grand Wagoneer, known last year as the Wagoneer Limited, is a big, heavy, four-wheeling, luxury vehicle that will certainly appeal to those who still like big cars and/or have to do some heavy duty driving.
The test vehicle (supplied by AMC through Shoemaker AMC-Jeep-Renault, Walbert Ave., South Whitehall) looked, well, like a Wagoneer, one of those Jeep four-wheel-drive utility vehicles that have been roaming the highways and countryside for many a year.
As we all know, the popularity of the big, four-wheeler decreased in direct proportion to increased fuel prices. Why else do you think there are so many down-sized four-wheelers around? But no doubt there is still a need for some of the bigger vehicles, and AMC is wisely offering two versions.
The Grand Wagoneer is not what anyone would call a work vehicle. Unless, of course, that work would entail the need for some luxury. The Grand Wagoneer only comes one way – fully loaded. Standard equipment includes air conditioning, leather seats, power steering, power brakes, power door locks, power windows, six-way power seats, cruise control, dual electric remote control outside mirrors, halogen fog lamps, tilt steering wheel, rear defroster, quartz electronic digital clock, aluminum wheels, roof rack, tinted glass and electronic AM/FM stereo with cassette.
For all this equipment you would expect the Grand Wagoneer to be an expensive vehicle. Well, it is. The base price is $19,306. The test vehicle, with its two options – 360 V-8, $481, and ”Soft Ride” suspension, $52 – and a delivery charge of $568, had a final price of $20,407. On the bright side, the price can’t go much higher since the only other options are a power- operated sunroof and towing packages.
Although the Grand Wagoneer is a big vehicle (it weighs almost 4,500 pounds), some of the dimensions really don’t point this out. For example, the wheelbase measures 108.7 inches and the overall length 186.4 inches; about the same as the AMC Eagle recently reviewed in this column. Height, however, is 66.4 inches while width is 74.8 inches. And since the Grand Wagoneer is squared off in the back, this means there is a lot of room inside.
Just how much room? Well, there’s actually seating for six passengers and plenty of cargo. Also, other items can be strapped to the roof rack. If you are interested in carrying more cargo than passengers, the back seat can be removed to provide a cargo area of 95.1 cubic feet.
Just for comparison, the new smaller Wagoneer has a wheelbase of 101.4 inches, overall length of 165.3 inches, height of 64.1 inches, width of 70.5 inches and curb weight of 2,886 pounds.
Not surprisingly, the Grand Wagoneer is a comfortable vehicle. Driver and passengers have plenty of stretch-out room and the leather and cloth seating materials are easy to take. The only real ”hardship” I encountered with the test vehicle was the location of the six-way seat controls. It was mounted somewhat low on the side of the seat facing the door. There wasn’t enough room for an arm – at least my arm – to reach the controls while the door was shut which meant the vehicle had to be stopped and the door opened to do any adjusting. This isn’t a big deal – after all how many times do you adjust the seat – but one would think the switch could be located more conveniently.
The test vehicle’s Soft Ride suspension gave it a quite decent ride, maybe not as smooth as a full-sized luxury car but certai ly a lot smoother than you would expect from a four-wheel-drive utility vehicle that features leaf springs on all four wheels. The Soft Ride system has more flexible springs and different shocks than the standard suspension, but – and this is important for this type of vehicle – it still retains its 5,975 pound Gross Vehicle Weight rating.
Something else the Grand Wagoneer retains is its heavy towing capacity. It offers two separate towing packages, an optional medium-duty tow package with a 3,500 pound capacity and the standard 5,000 pound heavy-duty package.
The standard engine for the Grand Wagoneer is the 258-cubic-inch, in-line six rated at 112 horsepower at 3,000 rpm and 225 foot pounds of torque at 1,800 rpm which should provide adequate power. As noted earlier, the test vehicle had the optional 360-cubic-inch V-8 engine rated at 144 horsepower at 3,200 rpm and 280 foot pounds of torque at 1,500 rpm. Not surprisingly, the V- 8 Wagoneer performed quite well under all Lehigh Valley driving conditions.
The standard, and only, transmission for the Grand Wagoneer with either engine is a three-speed automatic. This is a Chrysler transmission and a very good one at that. Shifting is smooth and on cue. Just put it in gear and forget it.
Fuel mileage was not one of the Grand Wagoneer’s outstanding features. The test vehicle averaged eight miles per gallon in town and 13 over Lehigh Valley highways. Some of this driving was done in snow and four-wheel-drive. Under better conditions, perhaps, mileage would be better. Surprisingly, though, the test mileage was not that far off from the EPA rating – 12 mpg city/16 mpg highway. Again, just for comparison, the EPA rating for the 258 six is 17 mpg city/23 mpg highway.
Engaging the four-wheel-drive system on the Grand Wagoneer is almost as easy as using the automatic transmission. It uses Jeep’s unique ”Selec-Trac” which permits a driver to change back and forth from two-wheel-drive to four- wheel-drive with a flip of a switch mounted on the dashboard. This system allows the vehicle to remain in four-wheel-drive regardless of weather or road conditions. Just as simple to operate is the lever for selecting four-wheel low and four-wheel high ranges.
All-in-all, the Grand Wagoneer is a big, rugged vehicle but, with all of its power equipment and four-wheel-drive convenience features, it is a very simple to operate. The test vehicle was driven through snow, ice, rain and slush and performed admirably. But, that’s the main part of what that $20,000 goes for and should be expected.