2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L takes the lead in family SUVs

When the OG arrives, aspirants should watch and learn. In this case, the original SUV brand is Jeep, and it has just entered the booming family vehicle market with three rows of seats.

New from the ground up, Jeep’s 2021 Grand Cherokee L redefines one of the largest and most popular family vehicle classes with a winning combination of space, comfort, capability and functionality.

Six- or seven-passenger SUV offers off-road capabilities beyond dreams of family three-row haulers like the Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Explorer, Honda Pathfinder, Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride, Subaru Ascent and Toyota Highlander.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee L 2021 negotiates

It is almost unfair to compare the Grand Cherokee L to these vehicles. They weren’t designed to withstand the torture Jeep engineers inflicted on the Grand Cherokee L. The only brand that expects so much from its SUVs is Land Rover.

But with prices starting at $ 36,995 – $ 38,995 for all-wheel drive – the Grand Cherokee L competes with traditional family carriers, not Land Rover’s more expensive luxury lineup.

Second row of seats in the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L.

The Grand Cherokee L is Jeep’s first attempt to build a three-row SUV since the boxy Commander flop over a decade ago.

The existing five-passenger Grand Cherokee is immensely popular. Its combination of luxury, brand appeal, and off-road capability has made it a mainstay of the Jeep brand, just behind the Wrangler since its debut as a 1993 model. Despite this success, the lack of a three-row model deprived Jeep of 75% of the mid-size / family SUV market, which has exploded in recent years. Jeep expects the Grand Cherokee L to gain a lot of new customers and retain some who have left the brand for a three-row SUV.

The Grand Cherokee L goes on sale in July. A new version of the five-passenger Grand Cherokee will follow later this year.

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L range and price

  • L Laredo: $ 36,995 ($ 38,995 for 4×4)
  • The altitude: $ 40,195 ($ 42,195 for the 4×4)
  • L Limited: $ 43,995 ($ 45,995 for the 4×4)
  • L By land: $ 52,995 ($ 54,995 for the 4×4, $ 58,290 for the 4×4 V8)
  • Summit L: $ 56,995 ($ 58,995 for the 4×4, $ 62,290 for the 4×4 V8)
  • L Summit Reserve: $ 61,995 ($ 65,290 for the 4×4 V8)

All prices exclude the destination charge of $ 1,695.

Front-facing camera view of the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L.

After:See the interior of Detroit’s new Jeep assembly plant

After:Massive 2022 Jeep Wagoneer spotted on the road, undercover in Detroit

What’s new on the Grand Cherokee L

Other than the engines and transmissions, just about every nut and bolt on the Grand Cherokee L is new.

Its 121.7-inch wheelbase is 7 inches longer than the outgoing five-passenger Grand Cherokee. The L’s 204.9-inch overall length is 15 inches longer, with the extra space improving second row space and comfort and creating a third row that adults over 6 feet can use without undue difficulty .

The wheelbase and overall length of the Grand Cherokee L is longer than any family hauler I’ve named, but almost 6 inches shorter than a Chevrolet Tahoe.

Jeep Grand Cherokee L 2021

The Grand Cherokee L also has a host of new features for comfort, connectivity, safety and driver assistance.

Despite the extra size and extra features, Jeep engineers kept the weight of the Grand Cherokee L under control, through heavy use of aluminum for parts like the hood, tailgate, suspension links, and shocks. . The loaded 4×4 Overland I tested weighed less than 50 pounds more than a V8 4×4 Overland model of the smaller model from the previous generation.

Weight is vital because it affects fuel economy and off-road capability: the more weight, the harder it is to climb over rocks or get out of a bog.

Jeep, which is part of Stellantis, the newly formed automaker that includes former Fiat Chrysler brands and French brands Peugeot, Citroën and DS, is building the Grand Cherokee L at a sparkling new assembly plant in Detroit. It is next to the building that currently assembles the old two-row Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango. The new $ 1.6 billion plant will add production of a new five-seat Grand Cherokee based on the same new platform – and offering many of the same features – as the larger L later this year.

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee The 'family cam' interior view.

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Safety and Driver Assistance Features

  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Head-up display
  • Lane Keeping Aid
  • Parking sensors
  • Parallel and perpendicular parking aid
  • Blind spot and cross traffic alert
  • Indoor video “Family-cam”
  • 360 degree surround views
  • Night vision with detection of pedestrians and animals
  • Drowsy driver detection
  • Full-speed collision warning and brake assist
  • Collision assistance at intersections
  • Pedestrian and cyclist detection

Driving impressions

I drove a loaded Grand Cherokee L Overland 4×4 through downtown Detroit on a variety of freeways and winding country roads. I also spent a few hours off-road on rocks, around trees and other obstacles at the Chrysler proving ground near Chelsea. My truck had the optional 5.7L Hemi V8, which produces 357 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque. A 3.6L V6 that produces 293 horsepower and 260 pound-feet is standard. There is no diesel, but it wouldn’t be a shock if Jeep added one.

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L gauge cluster with map display

A hybrid seems less likely, although a plug-in hybrid version of the new five-passenger Grand Cherokee will be available later this year.

An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard on all Grand Cherokee L.

My GCL had the most advanced of Jeep’s three 4×4 systems, Quadra-Drive II with an electronic limited-slip rear differential. This combination proved to be extremely capable off-road and was surprisingly smooth and quiet on the highway.

There was very little road noise, despite the Overland’s large 20-inch tires. The steering was light and precise on the road, with a firm feel in the middle.

The drive mode selector offered settings including sport and various types of off-road challenges. The air suspension lowered the ride height at high speeds in sport mode, contributing to both handling and lack of wind noise.

The suspension kept the long SUV stable on twisty roads. There was not a lot of body roll in the turns and very little diving or squatting in hard braking and accelerating.

Masterful all-terrain

None of the competing three-row SUVs can match the all-terrain capabilities of the Grand Cherokee L.

The Overland I tested scaled craggy rock piles, crested hills, and mud pits that also test smaller, lighter vehicles on the Chrysler proving ground. The low gear range, electronically controlled transfer case and differential handled power smoothly, carrying me to the top without an instant of skidding.

The 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L negotiates

At the top, the new front-facing camera paid off. I couldn’t see anything other than the sky through the windshield, but the camera showed me exactly where to aim the wheels to stay on the track. More and more electronic controls offer hill descent control, so I never had to touch the brake pedal to come back down.

The Grand Cherokee L can wade up to 24 inches of water, which is 4 more than the previous Grand Cherokee. The GCL’s extra length will exclude some off-road trails with particularly tight turning radii for rocks and trees, but with its side mirrors folded in, the new SUV is actually slightly narrower than the old model. I was surprised at how narrow some of the gaps I was able to get over were.

At the end of the day, Tom Seel, vehicle line manager, had one final trick up his sleeve: the camel bumps, a series of parallel 14-inch concrete bumps and pits to test the suspension and drivetrain. of the vehicle. The Grand Cherokee L negotiated them with ease, rocking up and down, one wheel high in the air while its counterpart was 14 inches below the road surface.

Comfortable and luxurious

Tupelo interior theme in 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L.

The extra length of the Grand Cherokee L improves space in the second row of seats – 2 inches of additional legroom – as well as the creation of the new third row. Standard bucket seats – bench seat option – slide up to 7 inches to adjust legroom.

In addition to the usual console between the front seats, an optional second row console includes cup holders and storage. The passenger space benefits from a subtle adaptation of the dashboard and doors to increase the interior width without widening the vehicle.

The ceiling height benefits from an air conditioning system that replaces the ceiling mounted vents with face-level vents in the window jambs. A large double-glazed sunroof that opens above the roof rather than between the roof and the headliner also increased the headroom. An available “family view” camera provides a bird’s eye view of the cabin to mediate disputes and spot lost toys. Matching available 360-degree exterior view provides the same perspective for parking.

The interior also benefits from beautiful themes which include ‘Tupleo’, a warm honey-colored combination of leather and open-pore waxed walnut wood.

McIntosh audio system in 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L.

A new 19-speaker audio system from McIntosh delivers excellent sound, with the company’s recognizable front grille design and “dancing needle” counters.

Connectivity includes the latest version of Stellantis’ Uconnect infotainment system, a 10.1-inch touchscreen, wireless charging, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L turbo at a glance

Base price: $ 36,995

SUV with three-row drive wheels

On sale July 2021

Specifications tested:

Tested model: Grand Cherokee L Overland 4×4

Price as tested: $ 54,995 (est.)

Engine: 5.7L Hemi V8

Power: 357 hp at 5,150 rpm; 390 lb-ft of torque at 4,250 rpm

Transmission: eight-speed automatic

EPA fuel economy estimate: 14 mpg city / 22 Highway / 17 combined. Medium grade 89 octane fuel

EPA estimated annual fuel cost: $ 3,050

Wheelbase: 121.7 inches

Length: 204.9 inches

Width: 77.3 inches (mirrors folded)

Height: 71.5 inches

Ground clearance: 8.5 inch standard suspension, 10.9 air suspension

Curb weight: 5,226 pounds

Towing capacity: 7,200 pounds

Payload: 1,250 pounds

Passenger volume: 159.1 cubic feet

Cargo volume: 17.2 cubic feet behind third row; 46.9 behind the second; 84.6 behind the first

Assembled in Detroit

About Melanie Tweed

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