Despite being one of the oldest basic designs in the midsize-SUV segment, the Jeep Grand Cherokee is consistently one of the best-selling vehicles in its class. However, the Grand Cherokee has never offered one key feature that would allow it to compete more directly with rivals such as the Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, and Volkswagen Atlas—a third-row seat. That changes with the introduction of the 2021 Grand Cherokee L, an all-new model that kicks off the Grand Cherokee’s fifth generation and comes standard with a third row of seating for 6- or 7-passenger capacity.
The original Grand Cherokee was introduced as a 1993 model, and it replaced the long-running—and trend-setting—Grand Wagoneer atop the Jeep lineup. With America’s thirst for SUVs continuing unabated, the Grand Cherokee lineup is expanding and Jeep is also bringing back the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer names on all-new-for-2022 large and premium large SUVs that are slated to go on sale later this year.
The Grand Cherokee L is built on an all-new unibody platform that incorporates more aluminum components, along with more widespread use of high-strength steel. Jeep says the styling and rear-drive proportions were inspired by the original 1963 Jeep Wagoneer, and familiar styling cues, including the seven-slot grille and trapezoidal wheel arches, help make the Grand Cherokee L instantly recognizable.
Jeep builds the Grand Cherokee L at the recently refurbished Mack Avenue Assembly Plant in Detroit. For now, the existing two-row, fourth-generation Grand Cherokee remains in production at the adjacent Jefferson Avenue plant and will be sold alongside the L. Though Jeep hasn’t unveiled it yet, a new-generation two-row Grand Cherokee and its 4xe plug-in-hybrid variant are scheduled to start production—as 2022 models, we’d expect—in the Mack Avenue plant later this year.
As its “L” suffix suggests, the Grand Cherokee L is stretched to accommodate those third-row seats—it’s about seven inches longer in wheelbase and 15 inches longer overall than the carryover 2021 Grand Cherokee. That’s a serious stretch; the Grand Cherokee L’s 121.7-inch wheelbase and 204.9-inch overall length put it closer in some dimensions to large SUVs (such as the Chevrolet Tahoe and Ford Expedition) than most of the three-row midsize SUVs with which it competes more directly on price. With curb weights range from 4524 to 5279 pounds, the Grand Cherokee L is clearly no lightweight, but it’s only 10-80 pounds heavier (depending on the model) than comparable versions of the existing two-row Grand Cherokee—impressive, given the overall larger size of the L.
When it goes on sale this summer, the Grand Cherokee L will come in four core trim levels—Laredo, Limited, Overland, and Summit—that mirror those of its regular-length counterpart. Likewise, powertrains are essentially carried over from the two-row 2021 Grand Cherokee. All Ls are available with Jeep’s familiar 3.6-liter Pentastar V6, rated here at 293 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. Buyers of the Overland and Summit 4×4 models can opt for the step-up 5.7-liter Hemi V8, which is rated at 357 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque. Both engines mate to the stalwart TorqueFlite 8-speed automatic transmission.
With rear-wheel drive, the Laredo starts at $36,995; optional Quadra-Trac 1 four-wheel drive with a single-speed transfer case adds $2000. Standard equipment includes a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, Uconnect 5 infotainment system, wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, heated exterior mirrors, and 18-inch alloy wheels. The Laredo Altitude ($40,195) adds gloss-black exterior trim, 20-inch black-finished wheels, remote start, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, wireless charging pad, adjustable-height liftgate, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a 115-volt power outlet, and USB ports in the third row.
Limited prices start at $43,995 with rear-wheel drive. Again, Quadra-Trac 1 4WD is a $2000 option, but in the Limited it comes with a Selec-Terrain traction-management system that includes Auto, Sport, Rock, Snow, and Mud/Sand modes. Other additional features include leather upholstery, eight-way power driver’s seat, four-way power lumbar adjustment for both front seats, heated steering wheel, heated seats in the first two rows, six-speaker stereo, and ambient interior lighting. The Limited also adds a collection of convenience items, including remote start, universal garage door opener, and automatic high-beam headlamps.
The Overland starts at $52,995 with rear drive. Moving up to the 4×4 model again tacks on another $2000, but the Overland receives the Quadra-Trac II active 4WD system that includes a two-speed transfer case and hill-descent control along with Quadra-Lift air suspension. Overland buyers can also choose a V8-powered 4×4 model which starts at $58,290. Overland exterior features include unique trim, 20-inch wheels, chrome front tow hooks, approach-lit door handles, side-mirror puddle lights, power-folding side mirrors, windshield-wiper deicer, and keyless entry. Interior upgrades include Nappa leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, stitched-leather instrument-panel trim, upgraded Uconnect 5 infotainment system with navigation, Alpine-branded premium audio with nine speakers, and ambient lighting with five selectable colors. Other convenience features include power-folding third-row seats, and second-row seats that fold flat via electronic release buttons in the rear cargo area. There is also a dual-pane sunroof with power sunshade, and an adjustable hands-free power liftgate.
The Overland is also available with a Trail Rated Off-Road Group, which adds the top-line Quadra-Drive II 4WD system, electronic limited-slip rear differential, steel skid plates, and 18-inch wheels. Also included is a specific front fascia that allows for an improved approach angle off road.
Atop the Grand Cherokee L line is the Summit trim level, which starts at $56,995 with rear drive, $58,995 with 4WD, and $62,290 with the Hemi V8 and 4WD (Summit 4×4 models receive the top-line Quadra-Drive II system). Interior upgrades start with Nappa leather seats with quilted bolsters and perforated inserts; the front seats include 16-way power adjustment with adjustable lumbar support and a memory function. Other interior features include a 10.1-inch touchscreen display, four-zone climate control, Berber-carpet floor mats, and a wood-and-leather-trimmed steering wheel. Outside, Summit features include specific 20-inch wheels, specific LED foglamps, and illuminated door sills. A host of safety features come standard as well, including Jeep’s Active Driving Assist (a lane-centering adaptive cruise control system), drowsy driver detection, Intersection Collision Assist, traffic sign recognition, park assist, and a surround view camera with front and rear lens washers.
Finally, Summit offers an even more luxurious Reserve Package for 4×4 models, priced at $61,995 with the V6 engine and $65,260 with the V8. Exclusive Reserve Package additions include 21-inch wheels, massaging front seats, ventilated front and second-row seats (in addition to heated), Palermo leather upholstery, faux-suede headliner, open-pore Waxed Walnut wood interior trim, and a 19-speaker McIntosh-brand premium audio system.
Standard safety features on all Grand Cherokee L models include full-speed collision warning with active braking and pedestrian/cyclist detection, rear cross path detection, active lane management, lane departure warning with lane-keep assist, brake assist, blind-spot monitoring, and rear parking sensors.
At the Grand Cherokee L’s press preview event in Detroit, we tested a Summit 4×4 V6 that was decked out with the Reserve package ($3000), Diamond Black Crystal Pearl-Coat paint ($345), and Luxury Tech Group V ($245; the package adds a wireless charging pad and manually operated rear-door sunshades). Tack on the $1695 destination charge (ouch), and our test vehicle bottom-lined at $64,280.
The 3.6-liter V6 is refined and offers good power. Acceleration is lively, and the transmission is very well behaved. We also sampled a V8-powered Grand Cherokee L as part of a towing demonstration—even when pulling a boat that weighed about 7000 pounds, the V8’s power was ample. Properly equipped, the Grand Cherokee L’s maximum tow rating is 6200 pounds with the V6 engine and 7200 pounds with the V8. These ratings are unchanged from the carryover 2021 Grand Cherokee, and they easily top the rest of the three-row midsize-SUV class—most of which top out at 5000 pounds or less.
We didn’t get the chance to measure fuel economy during our preview drive, but the EPA estimates for the V6 rear-drive versions are 19 mpg city, 26 highway, and 21 combined. V6 4×4 models are rated at 18/25/21, and, not surprisingly, the V8 4×4 is thirstier at 14/22/17. Interestingly, these figures precisely match the numbers for the carryover two-row Grand Cherokees. Jeep recommends regular-grade gas for the V6 engine and mid-grade for the V8.
Our on-road drives covered stretches of expressways and two-lane roads, along with a short taste of Detroit surface streets. The Quadra Lift air suspension now includes adaptive dampening, which contributed to our test vehicle’s comfortable ride and well-controlled body motions. At highway speeds, the air suspension automatically reduces ride height by nearly an inch to improve aerodynamics. A message appears in the instrument cluster to let you know the ride height has been lowered, but we noted no difference in ride quality or comfort. All Grand Cherokee L 4×4 models include a new front-axle disconnect feature that automatically switches the vehicle to rear-drive when road conditions do not require four-wheel drive; Jeep says this reduces drag on the driveline and improves fuel economy.
To experience Grand Cherokee L off road, we made our way to the Chrysler Proving Grounds in Chelsea, Michigan, where Jeep had prepared a very challenging off-road course that was designed to replicate certain sections of the Rubicon Trail. We switched into an Overland equipped with the Trail Rated Off Road Group, and before taking off we set the Quadra-Drive II system in four-wheel low and raised the air suspension to its highest setting, which provides a class-leading 10.9 inches of ground clearance. We proceeded over piles of logs, navigated steep rock-covered hills, went through deep ruts to demonstrate suspension travel, and crawled along the side of a rock hill that tilted the Jeep sideways on an approximately 30-degree angle. With help from spotters along the trail (and the handy front trail camera that displays video on the Uconnect display screen), we were able to traverse some truly extreme off-road conditions with little drama.
And we did so while ensconced in posh, upscale surroundings—the Summit Reserve’s interior is convincingly luxurious and looks great. Our test vehicle had the Reserve-exclusive Tupelo interior color—rich, honey-hued Palermo leather upholstery with quilted diamond-pattern detailing and contrast-color stitching. The upper section of the dash is trimmed in dark leather, and the carpet matches the darker hue. The open-pore Waxed Walnut trim is beautifully finished and really adds to the luxury ambiance—the dramatically shaped wood trim on the steering-wheel spokes is a visual and tactile delight. Like the high-end versions of the full-size Ram pickup trucks from Jeep’s parent company Stellantis, this interior is an impeccably detailed tour de force.
Overall space in the front seat is generous; your tester is 6’2”, and he had plenty of headroom under the sunroof housing. The 16-way power front seats are very comfortable after a bit of time is spent dialing in the settings. Outward visibility is generally good, and we really appreciate the large door-mounted mirrors.
The digital instrument cluster’s graphics are sharp and clear, and different display screens can be chosen via a thumb-activated button on the steering wheel. The Summit’s road-sign recognition feature works well, and displays speed-limit signs in the instrument cluster and also on the Uconnect screen.
The Uconnect 5 infotainment system is packed with up-to-date features. The display screens are customizable using simple on-screen prompts, and shortcuts to frequently accessed controls can be dragged and dropped into the status bar at the top of the screen. The graphics are sharp and easy to read, and the system reacts quickly to inputs. The system supports simultaneous connectivity for two Bluetooth-enabled phones, and is able to accept over-the-air updates for future features and functional enhancements.
A configurable multi-function heads-up display, night-vision system, and rear-seat-monitoring camera system are newly available options. Our test vehicle wasn’t equipped with these, but we’ve tested the similar “FamCam” feature on the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica and appreciated its usefulness there. Video from a headliner-mounted wide-angle camera is displayed on the Uconnect screen, allowing the driver to quickly see what’s going on in the second- and third-row seats, and zoom into each seating position for a closer view. Little ones in rear-facing child seats in the second row can be seen clearly, and automatic day and night modes help improve visibility.
The Grand Cherokee L’s available digital rearview camera system supplements the conventional rearview mirror with a 9.2-inch LCD screen (built into the mirror itself) that displays real-time video from an externally mounted rear-facing camera. Though the video view is a bit disorienting at first, we acclimated quickly, and since the camera is outside the vehicle, the view is unobstructed by the roof pillars or rear-seat headrests and passengers. The rearview mirror can be switched between regular-mirror and video-display modes at the touch of a button.
Small-items storage is about par for the three-row SUV course. Raising the console armrest reveals a dual-tier storage area with a shallow storage tray and a deep bin below it. We liked the action of the low-profile rotary shift knob, and the fact that it doesn’t impede access to the rest of the center-console area—especially the large bin that houses two USB ports (there are a total of 12 Type-A and Type-C USB ports located throughout the interior), aux jack, 120V outlet, and the available wireless charging pad. The charging pad has a sloped, textured surface that keeps your phone in position, and a small blue light indicates when it’s charging.
The rear doors open wide, and, thanks to that long wheelbase, the door apertures themselves are especially generous. Our test vehicle had the second-row bucket seats; the optional bench seat increases passenger capacity from six to seven. The seats are comfortable and headroom is ample. The second-row seats have seven inches of fore and aft travel to balance legroom between the second and third rows. The buckets have a “tip and slide” function that moves them forward and upward—even with a child seat installed—to create a pathway to the third row.
The third-row seats are relatively easy to climb into, and the headroom is decent and legroom adequate once you’re seated. Though the second-row seat sits close to the floor, we had enough space underneath for our size-13 sneakers and a bit of wiggle room.
There’s 17.2 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the third row, and those split-folding third-row seats can be folded flat at the press of a button while standing at the rear of the vehicle to open up 46.9 cubic feet of space. The second-row seats also fold flat easily to free up the full 84.6 cubic feet of cargo room. (All of the above cargo dimensions are about average among mainstream-brand three-row midsize SUVs.) Overland and Summit models include handy remote-release buttons in the cargo area to fold the second-row seats, in addition to the expected release latches on the seats themselves. With the second-row buckets, the console’s armrest topper flips over to create a flat load floor.
Like Jeep’s iconic Wrangler, the Grand Cherokee isn’t known for bargain pricing, but that hasn’t hindered its sales performance… few competitors can match Grand Cherokee’s blend of on-road comfort, towing capacity, off-road capability, and available luxury trim. The 2021 Grand Cherokee L builds on this successful formula by adding offering three-row seating capability without introducing significant compromises. Plus, that three-row capacity comes at a reasonable price premium, and the new Summit Reserve models are the most luxurious Grand Cherokees yet.
2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Gallery
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2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L
2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L