Autumn 2020


With the Wagoneer, the design team at Jeep has reinvented an American icon for the digital age. Drawing on the original’s luxurious DNA, the interior is focused on ‘delight’

The Jeep Wagoneer is an American classic – the first rugged off-road vehicle that had a comfortable interior that would allow it to double as an everyday family hauler. The vehicle, which stakes a strong claim to being the first luxury SUV, had a remarkable 29-year production run before being retired in 1991 and relegated to the ranks of nameplates that have passed into history.

But the Grand Wagoneer has returned this year, not as a retro throwback to Jeep’s past, but as a modern concept SUV that previews a new generation of production Wagoneers and Grand Wagoneers to come. “This being a flagship, the Grand Wagoneer is a springboard for where we want to take Jeep and Wagoneer in the future,” says head of advanced interior design at Jeep and Chrysler, Chris Benjamin.

Based on an adaptation of the FCA’s full-size Ram 1500 truck, the Grand Wagoneer allows for Jeep to make a bold statement. “With such a large canvas we wanted to create something that is luxurious, something that makes a premium statement at first glance and on each subsequent read as one enters and settles into in the Grand Wagoneer.”

“We also wanted a premium experience for each individual in each individual space throughout the interior. And we wanted to combine the soft side of the user interface with the hardware and materials and bring that all together in a beautiful package.”

As you step into the cabin you notice the dominant element of the interior, the dramatic wing-shaped instrument panel. “Everything is defined by this metal wing that runs the full width of the instrument panel and supports everything above it, then sweeps down to form the console,” says Benjamin. “The instrument panel has a very wide aspect ratio - everything is meant to make it feel wide.” Like the original Wagoneer, instruments (and now screens) are set in a black field within the larger face of the instrument panel. Warmth and comfort are an integral part of design of the IP and surrounding areas including the console. There are aesthetic and texture contrast between technical controls - black glass and aluminium contrasts the warmth of wood, and the wrapping of elements in PUR, (itself coloured aubergine for unique design statement).

From the time of its reveal, the onboard touchscreens have been a focus of discussion. Vincent Galante, chief designer user experience and advanced design at FCA, gave Interior Motives a summary of the ideas guiding the screen and UX design.
“There are seven screens in the car, some 75 inches (1900mm) of screen area in the front and rear seats. They provide an immersive experience, but not a complicated one. And when the tech is not in use, they are meant to delight.” There is a 12-inch instrument cluster, a 12-inch radio, a comfort display that is 10 inches and a passenger screen measuring the same. Three are three more 10-inch screens in the back. The team has achieved coherence in the application of technology; screens are fully integrated into the instrument panel assembly, not just stuck on top or in front.
The UX uses Jeep’s Uconnect 5 system and divided up the information into a dedicated a set of functions to individual screens. The instrument cluster is dedicated to controlling the vehicle while the radio is about infotainment. The comfort screen below that is about environmental controls and seat adjustment and the passenger screen (not visible by the driver) is all about being the copilot with navigation, infotainment, and environmental controls.

The “delight” aspects of the technology come from a multi-disciplinary team of UX designers on Galante’s team. The interface, the controls, and the accompanying infotainment are influenced by motion pictures - television, mobile and product design - all of which make for a richer product experience. Captain's chairs await the first and second row passengers, with front seats that adjust 24 different ways, with leg bolster, heating and cooling elements and massage features. The second row captain’s chairs are of the same size and have individual controls displayed on a screen between and in front of the seats.
The third row, traditionally the ‘penalty box’ of most SUVs, has been given plenty of attention, with the Grand Wagoneer’s high roofline allowing for decent headroom. The thin construction of the seats and seat backs allow for extra leg- and foot room. “The same comfort found in the driver’s seat can also be found in the second and third row seating,” says Benjamin. “I am six feet four inches tall (1930mm) and can sit with equal comfort in any seat in the Grand Wagoneer”. There is no danger of claustrophobia in the Grand Wagoneer’s interior – a panoramic moonroof allows for plenty of interior light and a great view out to the sky or, in the city, the skyline.

A map of Detroit is inscribed into this glass panel with the plants that will build the Grand Wagoneer prominently highlighted. The moonroof pays homage to the open-topped Jeeps of yore and to the modern technology that allows the same sense of openness in a climate-controlled cabin. Interior materials were carefully considered for the Grand Wagoneer.

A 3-D inlay of heat-treated Lacewood is set into the aluminum wing of the instrument panel, and it has a specially treated edge to transition from wood to aluminum surfaces. The designers wanted, as much as possible, for the interior materials to look as though created by an artisan, not machined in a factory.

Sustainability was also a high priority in choosing materials for the Grand Wagoneer’s interior. The headliner is made of Dinamica, a fully recyclable premium microfibre suede. The floor carpets are made from Thrive fiber, which is comprised of recycled content using pre- and post-consumer materials. And PUR, a sustainable synthetic material, was chosen to upholster all of the seating, console, door and instrument panel surfaces in the Grand Wagoneer Concept. “As you sit in the Grand Wagoneer, the technology is approachable, the experience is emotional, and everything is thoughtfully conceived and executed,” says Galante. “Everywhere you turn, everything you touch, will be a delight. This is a very special vehicle.”

Head of design: Ralph Gilles, FCA

Head of interior team: Chris Benjamin
Design manager: Chris Welch
Designers: Dwayne Jackson, Josh Tang, Dean Bakker, Ludwin Cruz
Colour and trim Lead: La Shirl Turner

Colour and trim designers: Kasia Lys
User Interface leads: Vince Galante
User Interface designers: Peter Raymant, Youjin Kim, Derek Delap
Project started / completed: Undisclosed
Launch: September 2020 

Dimensions: Undisclosed

Text: Karl Smith