In the words of American writer C.J. Carlyon, “Sometimes too late is just in time.” This statement cannot be truer for the 1989 Jeep Grand Wagoneer. Since its inception in the ’60s, the Wagoneer series has stayed true to its design – literally. But it all changed in the late ’80s when the popular sport-utility wagon received upgrades, including a new A/C compressor, temperature sensor, and a rust-proof electrocoat primer – to name a few.
During its heyday, the 1989 Jeep Grand Wagoneer was the most luxurious and priciest out of Jeep’s fleet of mass-produced 4WD vehicles. This upscale version of the Cherokee sported a carpeted interior, Selec-Trac NP229 transfer case, wood-panel exterior, and a list price comparable to a Corvette.
While the Grand Wagoneer appears quite nostalgic on the outside, its competencies are not to be taken lightly. Except for its speed rating and fuel economy, this seemingly dated wheeler is actually comparable to present-day SUVs and station wagons. Not to mention that it is recently gaining popularity as an investment-grade, off-road-worthy ride.
So, whether you are a vintage car collector or an avid enthusiast, continue reading to learn more about this classic trendsetter’s technical specs and other praiseworthy qualities.
About the 1989 Jeep Grand Wagoneer
The 1989 Jeep Grand Wagoneer (SJ) was part of the 4th generation of Jeep Wagoneers produced by Chrysler since 1963. The sound design of this sport utility was penned by the famous graphics and architectural designer, Brooks-Stevens (designer of the 1962 Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk and 1949 Hydra-Glide Harley-Davidson motorcycle).
From the get-go, the vehicle was a massive hit with consumers due to its compelling traits, including a roomy cabin, 4WD system, luxurious styling, and then state-of-the-art instrumentation. These features further enhanced the SUV’s feature richness and amplified the upgrades already received by the vehicle’s ’86 model.
Of all the creature comforts the 1989 Jeep Grand Wagoneer had – air conditioning, power windows, cassette player, optional sunroof, and rear-window wiper – the latter added the least value to the prestigious mode of transport. Adding it to the vehicle was unwarranted to a point where GW (Grand Wagoneer) enthusiasts advise its removal.
That aside, owners are extremely satisfied with the SUV and appreciate its ability to drive anywhere regardless of weather conditions. The tank-like build of the luxury wagon gives riders a feeling of safety when behind the wheel. Collectively, its strong points more than compensate for its minor snitches and terrible gas mileage.
Monopolizing the 4WD Segment
The fact that the base design and mechanical structure of the 1989 Jeep Wagoneer were mostly left untouched throughout its production run only proves the solidity of its customer base and the lack of competition for the vehicle. Moreover, its manufacturer did not want to mess with the fat profit margin the wheeler was earning for the firm – falling between $5,000 and $6,000 per car. This was unquestionably serious money at the time.
As a result, 10,159 units of the 1989 Jeep Grand Wagoneer were built for that year alone and 101,637 within its entire production period. Out of the lot, the ’89 versions were standouts due to their upgraded interiors and the 1991 Jeep Grand Wagoneers due to the “Final Edition” plaques located on their dash that currently denotes the rarity of the said model-year trims. Both versions are highly sought-after and, consequently, heftily priced.
1989 Jeep Grand Wagoneer Specs & Features
A 5.9-liter V8 engine came standard in the 1989 Jeep Grand Wagoneer SJ. Meanwhile, the ’89 Jeep Wagoneer XJ (sometimes referred to as a Cherokee) offered more power mill options – a 2.5-L AMC 150, a 4.0-L AMC 242 Straight-6, and a 2.1-L TurboDiesel Douvrin J8S for units sold outside of North America between 1985 and 1994. Pre- and post-1989 Grand Wagoneer models had either Vigilante or Buick Dauntless V8 engines.
Depending on engine type, displacement ranged from 2,068 cm3 to 3,964 cm3 (126.2 in3 to 241.9 in3) – the 1989 Wagoneer specifically had 5,896 cm3 (360 in3). Bore-stroke ratio is 103.6 x 87.4 mm (4.08 x 3.44 in3), while compression ratio is 8.25:1. A replaceable paper element handles air filtration. But despite this and the existence of a diesel-fed variant, gas mileage is miserly for all models – 11 to 13 MPG (4.68 to 5.62 km/L) for the base versions and 17 to 22 MPG (7.23 to 9.35 km/L) for Limited Edition models.
Fuel & Lubrication
Recommended fuel is approximately 76.8 L/20.3 US gallons of high-quality unleaded gasoline with a PON 87 or higher rating containing < 15% MBTE or < 10% ethanol. Avoid fuel variants containing methanol, as it could lead to fuel component damage and drivability issues.
Conversely, oil capacities are 3.8 L/4.01 US quarts (change) and 4.8 L/5.07 US quarts (filter change). Manufacturer-recommended engine oil is SAE 10W-30 with an API grade of SJ+ meeting JASO T903 MA standards. Depending on ambient temperature, you may go for other viscosity grades – SAE 5W-30, 10W-40, 20W-40, or 20W-50. Make sure to look for the symbol M20 x 1.5 when replacing the oil filter.
Standard models had a 3-speed Chrysler TorqueFlite A727 automatic transmission and a Selec-Trac NP229 (viscous coupling) transfer case with a P-R-N-D-2-L shift sequence. Meanwhile, the 1989 Jeep Grand Wagoneer Limited had a 4-speed Tremec T177 automatic transmission (Toyota Aisin Warner A340 gearbox in other online sources) with a Selec-Trac NP231 transfer case that is partially 4WD. Selectable driveline modes were available across all models and actuated by a flick of a dash switch.
Including service manual data, the Wagoneer had a horsepower range of 53.7 – 190 hp (40 – 142 kW) @ 3,750 – 5,250 RPM, although the most common online search results show 144 hp/146 PS (107.5 kW) @ 3,200 RPM. Maximum torque is at 380 Nm (280 lb. ft.), and the top speed in stock form is 91 – 109 mph (147 – 175 km/h).
The vehicle has a 12V negative-ground electrical system controlled by a voltage regulator. Additionally, its ignition system consists of an ECU, trigger wheel, and pick-up coil circuit. An alternator serves as the Wagoneer’s charging system, while a 12V battery helps power up the vehicle and electronic accessories (if any). Fuses are as follows:
- 30 Amp (rear window defogger, power windows, power mirror)
- 25 Amp (blower motor fan, A/C switch, emission system)
- 20 Amp (rear window wiper, hazard/indicator lamps, cruise control, rheostat, under the hood, glove box, overhead console, chime module, headlight switch, dash/instrumentation, etc.)
- 15 Amp (turn signals, back-up lamps, cluster, compass, 4WD lamp)
- 7.5 Amp (wipers, washer pump)
- 3 Amp (I/P lamps, illumination)
Tires & Brakes
Stock tire sizes are 235/75 R15 for both front and rear – this was part of the vehicle’s upgrades since 1984. Previously, front tires were smaller than those at the back. Wheel size, however, remained unchanged at 15 x 6 inches (with a bolt pattern of 6×139.7 and a center bore of 108 mm) for all models. The GW also came with an emergency Polyspare tire stored under the car’s rear floor pan.
Although common, going for taller tires is not recommended unless you do so as a set. This applies to wide-tread, radial, mud/snow, or any other type of aftermarket tire. Also, mounting aftermarket tires (especially different-sized variants) may lead to false or incorrect speedometer/odometer readings. To prevent this, consult your service manual and your nearest dealer before taking this route.
The 1989 Jeep Grand Wagoneer has self-adjusting front discs and rear drums operated by a hydraulic, dual-reservoir master cylinder. The front and rear hydraulic systems are separate but work together in tandem. Furthermore, a mechanical parking brake and power brake feature add to the braking system’s stopping power.
The 3-speed Wagoneer had a 4° caster angle, a steering angle of 36° to 37°, and a toe-in of 1.19 – 2.38 mm. Likewise, its comfort-oriented suspension system featured a full-floating Dana 44 solid axle (view on Amazon) at the front and a semi-floating AMC solid axle at the back. Front/rear track bars, torsion bars, gas shocks, and multi-leaf springs with standard ratios of 2.73:1 supplement both axle setups.
To compensate for the vehicle’s inadequate ground clearance, most owners equip their Wagoneer with a 3-to-4-inch suspension lift kit. Veterans do not advise anything higher than a 4-inch lift kit, as it would compromise ride quality in exchange for the ability to fit the SUV with 33-inch tires. The kit also works well with rock sliders – a best practice for drivers who are into mild off-roading.
The overall dimensions of the 1989 Jeep Grand Wagoneer are 4,735 x 1,901 x 1,687 mm (186.4 x 74.8 x 66.4 inches – L x W x H). Minimum ground clearance is 7.2 inches (183 mm), and wheelbase is 2,761 mm (108.7 inches). The legroom is pretty spacious at 40.5 inches (front)/36.8 inches (back) and is comparable to a modern-day Ford Explorer.
Capacity-wise, the SUV’s curb weight excluding passengers is 2,041 Kg (4,500 lbs.). Depending on the consumer’s choice of towing package, the hitch tongue weight can either be 350 or 750 lbs. The maximum loaded trailer weight is either 3,500 lbs. or 5,000 lbs. GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) is 2,710 – 2,812 Kg (5,975 to 6,200 lbs.) – inclusive of 1,451-Kg/3,200-lb front and rear axle weight ratings.
Wood panels were a standout feature of the ’89 model. Complementing these were headliners, sun visors, and door trim panels made of color-keyed fabric, with the latter made of vinyl and coupled with upper woodgrain molding. Aside from the door trims, the passenger, rear, tailgate, and cargo areas also received nylon carpeting. Other standard inclusions were:
- Power bucket seats.
- A folding center armrest.
- A two-spoked leather-wrapped steering wheel (view on Amazon).
Washing the vehicle with cold water, wiping it dry with a chamois, and keeping it away from direct sunlight will help preserve the mint condition of the 1989 Jeep Wagoneer’s exterior. The same goes for the Wagoneer’s chrome and metal trims. If frequently taking the wheeler on road trips, Jeep polish is said to mitigate the impacts of extreme sun exposure on the body panels.
Unlike the Wrangler, the 1989 Jeep Grand Wagoneer did not offer multiple trims. However, the model did provide several color options: Bright White, Sand Metallic, Sterling Metallic, Black, Black Cherry Pearl Coat, Dover Gray Metallic, and Dark Baltic Blue Metallic. All these finishes featured vinyl-enabled wood panels on the vehicle’s sides and across its tailgate. The closest thing that came to selecting a trim was choosing between 3-speed automatic and 4-speed manual trannies (or four-door and five-door builds).
1989 Jeep Grand Wagoneer Value
One thing to love about the Grand Wagoneer is its continually appreciating value. Compared to its original MSRP of $26,639 in 1989, secondhand Wagoneers now cost between $10,300 and $56,500. That’s not too shabby for a 30-year-old luxury station wagon.
Several factors affect the resale value of this iconic vehicle, with interior and exterior colors topping the list. Based on market research, units with tan and sand-colored interiors and blue, green, and white finishes are preferred over darker color options. Stock OEM parts in mint condition are to be expected in pre-loved Jeep Wagoneers priced $30,000 and above.
The 4th Generation Face-Off
The closest competition of the 1989 Jeep Grand Wagoneer was the two-door Ford Bronco. Both belonged to the same sport-utility category and were movers of their respective companies. The GW was Jeep’s first compact four-door SUV that had a Uni-frame construction and full-time 4WD system. In like manner, its counterpart introduced a rear anti-locking brake system – now commonly known as ABS.
There is no distinct winner between these two stellar vehicles. Personal preferences ultimately influence a consumer’s decision to purchase either vehicle. Individually, these 4x4s excel in different aspects – the size of the interior, overall styling, comfort, practicality, etc. Those searching for a fuel-injected vehicle would go for the Bronco in a heartbeat. Conversely, anyone looking to get a swanky family car would go for the Wagoneer.
Stellantis N.V. (formerly Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V.) is one of the “Big Six” automobile manufacturers in the world and is the maker of the 1989 Jeep Grand Wagoneer. The firm is also known for big automotive brands, including Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Peugeot, and Maserati, apart from the Jeep fleet of vehicles. Like most highly successful institutions, the century-old multinational company had a tumultuous history.
Thanks to its deep-rooted resilience, the firm made a grand comeback from its days of doom. Since then, Stellantis has kept busy strengthening its core and coming up with more ingenious ideas for transport. This year’s merger between FCA and French powerhouse Groupe PSA is a testament to its commitment to continued growth and expansion. As a result, Stellantis now has 300,000 employees and a presence in automobile industries in over 130 countries around the globe.
Conclusion – 1989 Jeep Grand Wagoneer Review
While its prime has long been over, the 1989 Jeep Grand Wagoneer chapter has not yet closed. This classic has only recently picked up on its popularity with hobbyists and outdoor enthusiasts who want to ride in style. Almost six decades after the series’ inception, the Jeep Wagoneer still proves itself a worthy pick for an off-roading adventure. Plus, its rising resale value not only makes it an excellent investment but also a vehicle that’s difficult to ignore.
Kris is an avid off-roader and outdoor enthusiast who loves to brave the elements and take on challenging terrain. He also enjoys sharing his passion and knowledge with others so that they, too, can appreciate the ride.