The Jeep Grand Cherokee is one of the most popular SUVs available today, and for good reason. Not only does it look great, this rugged vehicle offers immense off-road capability, a cuddly cabin and plenty of refinement. Consequently, every time Jeep redesigns this mountain goat, it’s great news. And for 2021, that’s especially true, since the newly minted Grand Cherokee L is pumped up in stature and now comes with a standard third-row seat.
The addition of that new bench allows the Grand Cherokee L to seat up to seven people (a six-passenger configuration is also offered), greatly increasing its versatility. And this third row isn’t just a kid-only area – full-sized adults fit in with plenty of knee and pumpkin room, and the bottom cushion is a decent height off the floor. Of course, the second row chairs are even nicer to sit on, and the outer ones fold and slide for easier access to the rearmost seats.
To accommodate a third row, the L is 15.1 inches longer than the outgoing standard Grand Cherokee and the wheelbase has been lengthened by 7 inches, changes that contribute to the appearance of the vehicle’s long roof. Of course, if you don’t need extra seats or prefer a more manageable vehicle, Jeep will offer a traditional two-row version, but it won’t arrive until this year.
It is questionable whether the new Grand Cherokee L is more attractive than its predecessor. The L’s open lower air intake and curiously angled grille look odd, especially on a body that is otherwise elegantly styled and beautiful. Matching those fresh looks, the Grand Cherokee L 2021 is built on a new flexible architecture, a unibody structure made up of over 60% high-strength steel, which gives this off-roader an almost inflexible backbone. To reduce weight, the vehicle’s locks, such as the hood and tailgate, are made of aluminum.
I’m not totally convinced of the Grand Cherokee L’s exterior styling, but the designers threw it out of the park with the interior of this Jeep. The layout, materials, comfort and technology are all top notch. The top-of-the-range Summit model comes with beautiful Nappa leather or super-premium Palermo cowhides if you take the Summit Reserve package. You can also get beautiful open pore wood accents and even Berber rugs. A familiar rotating gearbox is standard, although its metal frame and artfully milled edges make this dial look like a jewel. A suede upholstery is also offered, as is a 19-speaker McIntosh sound system. In the higher-end models, this Jeep’s interior is luxury-car handsome, enough to give vehicles like the Acura MDX and Lincoln Aviator a run for their money.
The symmetrical dashboard of the Grand Cherokee L arches from door to door, resembling the spread wings of a bird. At the center is an 8.4 or 10.1-inch touchscreen, both of which are home to the Android-based Uconnect 5 infotainment system. With beautiful graphics and loads of features, this multimedia array is easy to use and supposedly five times faster than its predecessor. A 10.3-inch digital instrument cluster is included at no extra cost, and you can even get night vision.
Standard safety technology includes automatic emergency braking, rear cross traffic warning, lane keeping assistance, blind spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go functionality. Active Driving Assist, basically an adaptive cruise with lane centering, is available on the Overland models and standard on the Summit trim level. This practical system works phenomenally, keeping the Jeep stuck in its lane and skillfully varying speed based on traffic conditions. Capacitive sensors in the steering wheel rim know whether you have a hand on the wheel or not, causing an orange warning to appear in the instrument cluster if you don’t have at least a couple of fingers making contact. Going one step further, active hands-free driving assistance will be offered in model year 2022. This should work as, offering the convenience of hands free on approved motorways.
Along with a two-row variant, an electrified version of the Grand Cherokee is also under development. But for now, the Grand Cherokee L is offered with two friendly and familiar engines. If you are well versed in the Stellantis powertrain range, nothing here will surprise you. The base offering is a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6. It offers a respectable 293 horsepower and 260 foot-pounds of torque, enough pork and beans to allow this SUV to tow up to 6,200 pounds. Smoother and quieter than ever, this six-fold provides enough oomph for most customers on regular dives, even if it doesn’t make the Grand Cherokee L feel particularly vigorous.
Of course, if you need more flavor, there’s also a 5.7-liter Hemi V8 on the menu. Smooth, lively and extremely sonorous, it provides a stampede of 357 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque, enough for this SUV to drag 7,200 pounds. If you don’t mind the extra cost – both upfront and at the gas pump – this is the powerplant to get.
Complementing the Grand Cherokee L’s transmission is a standard eight-speed automatic transmission. The engineers have years of experience with this gearbox and its tuning is almost perfect. The drivetrain shifts quickly and seamlessly, plus it’s more than willing to downshift a few gears when you need to boogie. Torque is routed through this gear exchanger to the rear wheels or to one of three different all-wheel drive systems.
A rear-wheel drive Grand Cherokee L V6 is EPA rated at 19mpg in the city and 26mpg on the highway. Combined, expect 21 mpg. Opting for all-wheel drive reduces the first two digits by 1mpg each, although the combined rating is unchanged. Hemi-powered Grand Cherokees, which come standard with all-wheel drive, are rated at 14mpg in the city, 22 on the highway, and 17mpg combined.
The on-road performance of this Jeep is admirable. Acceleration is lively, especially with the Hemi. And thanks to a host of NVH improvements – things like acoustic glazing, special door seals, and improved active noise cancellation – the interior of the Grand Cherokee L is always serene. The available air suspension improves dynamics and improves off-road performance by allowing the body to be raised several inches. The vehicle’s ride quality is smooth, albeit equipped with the 21-inch clodhopper provided in the $ 3,000 Summit Reserve Group options package, but body roll is minimal when pushed into corners. The steering is light but reasonably precise, which makes the Grand Cherokee L feel smaller than it actually is.
Off-road, this three-row SUV is a Jeep through and through, an incredibly capable mountain goat despite its bulky size. Properly equipped models have up to 10.9 inches of ground clearance and can traverse a whopping 24 inches of water. The off-road geometry of this SUV is also commendable. Speaking in maximum figures, the approach angle is 30.1 degrees, the breakover angle is 22.6, and the departure measurement clocks at 23.6 degrees.
Of the three all-wheel drive systems available, Quadra-Drive II is the most advanced. Includes a two-speed transfer box and an electronically locking rear differential. If slip is detected, this system can automatically redistribute torque to the wheels with more traction. Quadra-Drive II is available on Overland models and standard on Summit trim.
Crashing into the rocks on a particularly gnarled section of the off-road course at the Stellantis proving ground in Chelsea, Michigan makes me appreciate the high-strength steel skid plates available, which protect the delicate underbody components from rough terrain. Hitting and scratching boulders makes me gasp with pain, even though observers never flinch and neither does the Grand Cherokee L. Helping adapt this SUV’s behavior to various conditions, the Selec-Terrain traction management system has five modes : cars, sports, rock, snow and mud / sand. Downhill Control automatically controls the speed of the Grand Cherokee L, even in reverse.
The 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L is assembled in Detroit and goes on sale this month. It will be offered in four trim levels: Laredo, Limited, Overland and Summit. Of course, this is only the beginning until there is a Trackhawk model or a plug-in hybrid variant or whatever else Jeep’s engineers could come up with.
An entry-level rear-wheel drive Grand Cherokee L starts at $ 38,690, including $ 1,695 in shipping. Opt for all-wheel drive and you’ll spend an additional $ 2,000. My V6-powered Summit tester tests a hefty $ 66,275, a padded figure of $ 1,995 Advanced ProTech Group, $ 245 Luxury Tech Group, a shimmering Diamond Black Crystal Pearl-Coat paint job for $ 345, and of course the expensive Summit Reserve package. That’s a lot of sweaty headache to spend, but thanks to the refinement, capacity, and lavish interior of the Grand Cherokee L, that figure isn’t unreasonable, especially when compared to some of its luxury rivals.