Longer is Better With the Jeep Grand Cherokee L

A three-row Grand Cherokee L for the Jeep line.


2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L.
The first three-row Grand Cherokee debuts.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee launched for the 1993 model year and ever since it has proven its place in the brand lineup. This five-passenger, midsize sport utility vehicle is technically a crossover. However, despite its unibody construction, it has been designed to navigate off-road in ways approaching the Jeep Wrangler. Credit its standard rear-wheel drive and available four-wheel-drive systems for making a significant difference.

The one feature the Grand Cherokee has always lacked is a three-row option. Unlike the similar Dodge Durango with room for seven, this model only seats five. Fortunately, Jeep is expanding its product line to include larger models.

Beginning in 2021, a Grand Cherokee L model debuts, launching a three-row SUV followed by a new two-row version in 2022. The latest model moves the Grand Cherokee into its fourth generation. And with two wheelbase choices available, we think it will soon become a best seller.

Jeep Grand Cherokee L Overview

Jeep offers the 2021 Grand Cherokee L in six trims. Most trims come with standard rear-wheel drive and a V6 engine. The Summit Reserve is four-wheel-drive only with your choice of V6 or V8 engines.

The pricing begins at $36,995 for the Laredo, followed by $40,195 for the Altitude. The Limited will cost you $43,995, while the Overland comes in at $52,995. Jeep completes the trim line with the Summit ($56,995) and the Summit Reserve ($61,995). Add $1,695 for the destination charge. Add another $2,000 for four-wheel drive. Where the V8 is available, you will pay extra for that.


2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L profile


Exterior Highlights

Jeep’s absence from the three-row utility vehicle market has been well known. Likely, that hole in its lineup caused some customers to flee to other brands. Now, with a three-row Grand Cherokee followed by a pair of Wagoneer models, customers will have no cause to switch.

The Grand Cherokee L is elegant, stately, and a formidable competitor among both mainstream and premium models. The front fascia is polished, upright, and inviting. The trademark 7-slate grille design is apparent, although those slats are small. The lower intake is larger, which lends a sporty look. Sleek headlamps with LED accent lighting enhance the grille.

A broad hood, upright roof pillars, a long profile, and a wide rear fascia are other features of note. Our test model came with ample chrome including a swath that ran from the top of the doors and crossed the rear fascia. Overall, the look builds on and improves the previous-generation model. We think this is the right direction for Jeep as it aims for customers willing to spend a bit more for a vehicle that is not a Buick or an Acura.

All trims come with automatic headlamps along with various LED options, including fog lamps. Power side mirrors, including available heating, roof racks, and wheel choices can be had. The standard 18-inch aluminum wheels give way to 20- or 21-inch wheels elsewhere. Other available features include a sunroof and a power liftgate, the latter is also available as motion-activated.

Interior Highlights

Hooray for room for seven! Jeep last had a seven-passenger model in 2006-2010, when the Commander took center stage. That model was based on the Jeep Liberty, which was slotted below the Grand Cherokee. The Liberty was later renamed the Cherokee. All told, the Commander was just two inches longer overall than the Grand Cherokee. But its third-row space was very tight – not what was needed for this segment.

On the other hand, the Grand Cherokee L rides on a wheelbase that is seven inches longer than the standard model and is 15.1 inches longer overall. This translates to a much more spacious interior.

The standard arrangement is room for six with an available middle-row bench seat supplying an additional passenger space. Right off, we can tell you to avoid this if seven seats are not needed – the second-row captain’s chairs are the better choice. They also move forward with ease and give third-row passengers more room to maneuver. As for that third row, it is ideal for youngsters, but the average-sized adult should have no problem. The adjustable headrests are a welcome feature too.

As for the cabin itself, Jeep knocked it out of the park. Well, at least we can say that with the Summit Reserve edition, our test subject. This model features quilted leather, open-pore wood, and a microfiber headliner. At this level, the cabin matches what luxury manufacturers offer, including Acura, Cadillac, and Infiniti.


2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee first row
2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee second row
2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee thirdrow


High-Quality Interior

Jeep’s designers paid close attention to detail, by offering comfortable seats and a very quiet interior. Has Jeep crossed into the world of utility vehicle softness? In some ways, it has as passengers are cosseted with every comfort feature available. That said, the big door pockets, generous storage spaces, and luxury trappings simply make this model a strong competitor.

The standard arrangement for this Jeep is cloth seats with a power-adjustable driver’s seat. Working your way up through the trim range reveals numerous changes. These include full leather seats, heated and ventilated front seats, and front massage. Further, a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated second-row seats, and a power-folding third-row seat are available. Thus, this model matches the Mazda CX-9 in the premium department.

When it comes to cargo capacity, the Grand Cherokee L offers 17.2 cubic feet of storage behind the third row. That is not especially spacious, yet we stuffed bag after bag of groceries behind it, supplying enough food to feed the household for a full week.

Fold down the last row and 46.9 cubic feet is available. With the second- and third-row seats folded flat, the storage space mushrooms to 84.6 cubic feet. That approaches what the Ford Explorer offers, another rear-wheel-drive SUV.


2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee folded seats


Advanced Safety Features

Depending on the trim, Jeep offers superior or great driver-assist safety features. All models come with lane departure warning with lane-keep assist. Also, full-speed collision warning with active braking and cyclist detection. Blind-spot monitoring, active lane management, and adaptive cruise control with stop and go are standard.

Other available features include drowsy driver detection, highway assist, hill descent control, and intersection collision assist. Traffic sign recognition, parking sensors, and parking assist are available. A surround-view camera system can also be had.

Technology Features

Is there such a matter as too much technology? We do not think so. Then again, if you are a fan of USB ports, we dare you to count them in this model. Indeed, the numbers are staggering – 12, which means most everyone riding in the Jeep will have access to two. And if that is not enough, a thirteenth one is available in the third row. Keep in mind that some of the ports are for charging only.

Jeep also includes two 12-volt power outlets. Most models come with a 115-volt power outlet as well. Certainly, your plugged-in connectivity is quite robust. Further, you can connect your smartphones employing Bluetooth. Wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard as is Amazon Alexa.

The standard audio package includes six speakers. Jeep also offers 9- and 19-speaker options, the latter a McIntosh unit we enjoyed the entire week. It comes standard with the Summit Reserve and is available with the Overland and Summit. The speakers and tweeters serve as design embellishments as well.

Jeep also utilizes the latest version of its interface, dubbed Uconnect5. The system is easy to comprehend and fast: one of the best on the market. An 8.4-inch touchscreen display is standard; a 10.1-inch screen is available. SiriusXM connected services and TomTom navigation are also available.


2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee dashboard


Grand Cherokee L: On and Off the Road

In a segment where four- and six-cylinder engine choices are common, the Grand Cherokee L offers a standard V6 and an available V8. We are glad Jeep did not go with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine as the base choice here. Likely, it would have been overworked. Likewise, customers would notice the difference immediately.

The 3.6-liter V6 motivating most models is a familiar engine as it has been utilized in various Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep models for a decade. In the Jeep, this engine develops 293 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque and sends power to the wheels utilizing an 8-speed automatic transmission. As equipped, this model pulls 6,200 pounds and that alone makes it the best-in-class vehicle for towing.

But Jeep did not stop there. Choose one of the upper trim models and a 5.7-liter V8 becomes available. This engine makes 357 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque. Power routes to the wheels utilizing an 8-speed automatic transmission. With already best-in-class towing assured with the V6, Jeep extends its trailering prowess with the V8. Specifically, to a whopping 7,200 pounds.

Three Four-by-Four Systems

Selecting a Jeep Grand Cherokee L with four-wheel drive means you will find three separate systems for the choosing. The Laredo and Limited trims come with Quadra-Trac I, which features a single-speed system. Beginning with the Overland trim, Jeep offers Quadra-Trac II, which is an active four-wheel-drive system with a two-speed transfer case and hill-descent control.

Move up to the Summit trims and these have the Quadra-Drive II four-wheel-drive system with an electronic limited-slip differential for the rear axle. In effect, Jeep offers a good, better, best arrangement – you will just pay more for the privilege of each upgrade.


2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee V6 engine


But that is not all – with 8.5 inches of standard ground clearance this Jeep is ready to head off the pavement. Moreover, with the adjustable ride height feature, the Grand Cherokee can lift high enough to provide 10.9 inches of clearance. No other competitor, including the Kia Telluride, Honda Pilot, or Hyundai Palisade can do that.

No, we were not aggressive in our off-roading despite this model’s capabilities. That said, we felt entirely comfortable when tackling a few of our favorite gravel-covered roads and dirt paths. We typically save our most aggressive off-roading for the toughest Jeeps, namely the Wrangler and Gladiator. These are the models you want for climbing rocks and such.

Home on the Range

Our test model was the range-topping Summit Reserve with the V6 engine. It would have been interesting to have the V8. However, Jeep sent us one with the engine most likely to be chosen by customers.

We think the V6 is suitable for the task, although we never carried a full contingent of passengers or loaded it with cargo. We also did not tow with it, but on paper, it should accomplish the job. This engine provides sufficient low-end grunt and picks up speed quite fast. We say “quite” because there were times when we found the 8-speed automatic transmission holds gear shifts a bit longer than what we prefer. No, we were not in sport mode at the time. We just think some improvements in shift mapping are in order.

The available V8 carries forward (as does the V6) from the previous-generation Grand Cherokee. We have driven trims with the various available V8s and have found that they offer excellent step-off acceleration and ample power throughout the band curve. But the trade-off here is poor fuel economy – 14 mpg city v. 19 mpg city for the V6.

No diesel engine is in the Grand Cherokee’s future. At least that is not something we have forecast. What will appear is a plug-in hybrid 4Xe version. However, we are not certain if that electrified powertrain will be exclusive to the standard wheelbase model or if it will be shared with the L. In any case, Jeep is aggressively pursuing electrification options in line with what Stellantis, its corporate parent, has said.


2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L rear


Grand Cherokee L Recommendation

The Jeep brand will soon encompass everything from small people movers to full-size luxury SUVs. The Grand Cherokee L is certainly a midsize model, but it pushes the Jeep brand ever closer to the luxury sphere. When the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer, debut later this year, Jeep will serve notice to the Ford Expedition and Cadillac Escalade. Even so, the brand will continue to serve its core customers with off-road capable models that go places few competitors will follow.

As for the Grand Cherokee L, we think considering any model that is not a base Laredo will give customers what they want. A well-equipped model can be had for about $50,000, although the range-topping Summit Reserve with the V8 engine tops $70,000. Still, that price is a lot lower than what some Grand Wagoneer models will cost – we have heard $100,000 is within the price range there.

All in all, the Grand Cherokee L is “mission accomplished.” It is a new-generation Jeep, designed to put such competitors as the Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota Highlander, Chevrolet Traverse, and Subaru Ascent to shame.


See AlsoThe Jeep Brand Will Keep the Pedal to the Metal

Photos copyright Stumpwater Media Group, LLC. All rights reserved.

Author: admin
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

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