When AMC created the substantially lighter and more efficient compact XJ, it was intended to replace both the SJ Cherokee and Wagoneer. It obviously didn’t turn out that way, with the latter, as it just refused to die. But from 1984 to 1990, both the XJ and SJ Wagoneers were sold side-by-side, with the SJ adding the “Grand” prefix to minimize the inevitable confusion.
The XJ Wagoneer never sold well in comparison to the huge success of the Cherokee. And they’re getting rare on the ground, but William Garrett shot this well-preserved example in Palo Alto, CA.
There were two XJ Wagoneers; just the plain version and the Limited, with full-on fake wood planking. The first two years (1984-1985) shared the same front end as the Cherokee, but in 1986, it got the stacked headlights, which looked a bit less than organic. But then so did the “wood”.
This looks mighty familiar, as its the same color as our 1985 Cherokee. The seats are nicer, with bolsters and leather, and the door trim is different, but otherwise the dash and steering wheel are the same.
1987 was the first year for the new 4.0 L six, which rather rocked the compact SUV market when it arrived. With 173 hp (177 in 1988, and then 190 in 1991) it blew away all of the anemic four and V6s in both the other domestic and Japanese competition. The heavier Blazer S-10 had to do with 110-115 from its 2.8 V6, as did previous Cherokees. Slugs. And the Bronco II with its 115 hp 2.8 V6 was just slightly sprightlier, but the 4.0 Cherokee and Wagoneer just walked away from them. I used to wish we’d waited two years to buy ours.
Not a fan of the woodie Wagoneer, but the Cherokee was just brilliant. I saw one next to us in traffic the other day and Stephanie and I both commented how it still looked good after all these decades. A truly timeless design.
My ode to the XJ Cherokee is here: “AMC’s Greatest Hit, Thanks To Renault”