We tested the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L. Here’s what we learned
The 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L is the beginning of a new three-row era for the Grand Cherokee model. Now in its fifth generation, Jeep is giving buyers a two- or three-row version of the SUV to choose from that is right-sized for their needs. Only the new three-row model is out this summer.
The full-size 2022 Grand Cherokee L sits between the larger Wagoneer and smaller, forthcoming two-row Grand Cherokee offering buyers a true three-row option with the fuel efficiency of a midsize SUV.
This new Grand Cherokee L is 15 inches longer than the Grand Cherokee of today and has a wheelbase that is seven inches longer. Its design takes the best parts of the Wagoneer’s looks and downsizes them, giving off unmistakably Jeep vibes in the process.
Up front is a fresh take on the brand’s signature seven-slot grille, with active shutters hiding behind it that work to increase fuel economy. Slim, standard LED headlights flank the grille while the SUV’s window line draws the eye rearward in one continuous element through the rear quarters and to the standard LED taillights.
Grand Cherokee L looks long in the same way that the Dodge Durango does, but it maintains a robust stance that instantly wins it street cred as a Jeep. Tires are flush with the body sides, which feature little cladding.
Jeep gives the Grand Cherokee L Laredo, Limited, Overland and Summit grades a 3.6-liter V6 engine as standard. It achieves 293 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Select versions of the Grand Cherokee L Overland and Summit are available with a 5.7-liter V8 that makes 357 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard with either power plant.
As tested with the V6 powertrain, the Grand Cherokee L Summit is eager to get up to speed, but its transmission isn’t so keen under heavy acceleration, hiccuping and bumping its way into an acceptable gear.
The Grand Cherokee L comes standard with rear-wheel drive and is available with four-wheel drive. The model will be sold in Laredo, Limited, Overland and Summit trim levels. Depending on the trim level, the SUV comes with either a Quadra-Trac 1, Quadra-Trac II, or Quadra-Drive II rear electronic limited-slip differential. The Quadra-Drive II is the most capable and what the tester was armed with.
The Grand Cherokee L has a maximum towing capacity of 7,200 pounds when properly equipped.
Jeep has furnished 4×4 models with a number of Selec-Terrain traction modes (Auto, Sport, Rock, Snow and Mud/Sand) which change drive dynamics, steering input, throttle responsiveness and vehicle height. Sport mode made those changes but only served to make time in the car a more connected experience rather than a truly sporty drive.
On- or off-road, the Grand Cherokee L stays firmly planted and is comfortable taking on all obstacles from speed bumps and boulders to highways and rural roads without passing as much body lean onto passengers as the old version did thanks to its rigid architecture. The car is more comfortable around turns than its steering lets on in Auto mode, with generally too much play in the wheel to make driving at speed fun.
During on-road testing, there seemed to be a disconnect between the chassis and the cabin. It’s like a mullet, except in this case, all the business is at the bottom while all the party is at the top, in the passenger compartment. The two elements feel as if they’re working independently of each other, though both have the same goal in mind. Despite this, the 2021 Grand Cherokee L is worlds ahead of where the last-generation Grand Cherokee and current Durango is in terms of handling and drive dynamics.
The champion of the Grand Cherokee L is the cabin. In the Summit grade, the model’s styling is as elegant as any premium vehicle on the market today and rivals some of the luxury SUVs at its price point. The design of the dashboard gives the cabin a sense of spaciousness while the standard 8.4-inch or available 10.1-inch infotainment touch screen display remained easily within reach.
Jeep has installed the new Uconnect 5 infotainment system in the Grand Cherokee L. It provides one of the best user experiences you’ll find on a dashboard today. What vehicle occupants see on the screen is almost completely customizable and easily able to be navigated thanks to point, swipe and touch commands that make the screen behave in the same way as an iPhone or iPad.
A 10.25-inch digital gauge cluster sits in front of the driver with a clean display that’s no problem to decipher while on the go. The available head-up display works as advertised and doesn’t distract from the task at hand.
Jeep benchmarked the Acura MDX during the creation of the Grand Cherokee L and it shows, especially on the interior. High-quality materials fill the cabin. Open pore wood, leathers in rich colorways, styled bezels and just the right amount of trim pieces make the Grand Cherokee L rise to a level of sophistication similar to that in the new Grand Wagoneer. Everything feels as good as it looks. The leather is supple and the rotary shifter’s unique design, weight and tension-filled movement increase the level of sophistication.
The McIntosh high-performance audio system delivers impressive, Volvo-rivaling sound quality throughout the cabin thanks to its 19 speakers and 950-watt amplifier. A six-speaker sound system is standard and a nine-speaker Alpine audio system is available in mid-grade models.
Jeep’s new SUV seats six or seven passengers depending on the trim level and options boxes that are checked. With captain’s chairs in the second row and similar, conjoined versions of those seats in the third row, there’s plenty of space for six adults. The Grand Cherokee L’s tapered roof is aerodynamically efficient but doesn’t cut down on third-row headroom or cargo space, with adults and teenagers over six-feet tall having no problem fitting in the back. Getting there is easy as well with second-row seats offering 180 millimeters of back and forth travel.
There’s more storage space behind the third row than what you’ll find in many three-row SUVs that the Grand Cherokee L has as rivals. Small item storage throughout the cabin is well-designed too.
Jeep equipped the test model with its latest Level 2 hands-on advanced driver assist system (ADAS). This system centers the vehicle in its lane while maintaining adaptive cruise control functionality on the highway. It’s very much like Nissan’s ProPilot Assist.
The system is engineered to work seamlessly with functions drivers are already accustomed to while adding a level of technology to help with safety. Jeep has really done its homework here and executed this system well. The vehicle moves in and out of traffic on the highway with ease, resuming speed quickly upon passing a slower vehicle.
When taking your hands off the wheel, the system rather seamlessly begins a series of countdowns that are designed to get the driver’s attention and remind them to put their hands back on the wheel. The sensors work well and don’t require the requisite squiggle steering maneuver some German brands’ systems do to register that hands are back on the wheel.
When the system disengages it does so with an acceptable alert and then it quickly re-engages when possible. These operations, even when happening moments apart on the roadway, are part of an effortless technology ballet.
Pricing for the Jeep Grand Cherokee L starts at $36,995 for the Laredo grade. The Grand Cherokee L Limited is priced to start at $43,995 and the Overland version has a starting MSRP of $52,995. Opting for the Grand Cherokee L Summit will cost at least $56,995. Getting four-wheel drive instead of the standard two-wheel drive adds $2,000 to every price point. Getting the larger V8 engine adds $3,295 where available. Add-ons can drive the price up to $65,290.
The trim levels of the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L that will arrive on dealer lots first are a solid step into the premium vehicle category. They’re competent off-roaders with enough technology to keep them modern with usability that easily integrates into your lifestyle. With a comfortable and spacious cabin that is finely appointed and unmatched off-roading prowess, the full-size Grand Cherokee L earns its price point.