by Jay Traugott
Since debuting in 1993, the Jeep Grand Cherokee has become an icon in its own right, alongside the Cherokee and Wrangler. It's now one of the brand's best-selling models ever with over 200,000 examples sold in the US last year alone. But there was one thing the tried and true SUV was always lacking: a third row of seats. In this day and age, having that additional seating is a requirement for millions of families.
Introducing the all-new 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L. "L" signifies its extended platform status. A regular-length two-row redesigned Grand Cherokee will debut later in the year as a 2022 model, but for model year 2021, the outgoing generation will be sold alongside the new Grand Cherokee L.
Like the Grand Wagoneer Concept from last year, the new Grand Cherokee L looks and feels more premium than any previous Jeep yet remains distinctly as a Jeep. It has all the potential to be a major player in the three-row SUV segment.
While the 2021 Grand Cherokee L is undeniably a Jeep, bold styling departures from its immediate predecessor give it a unique personality. There are some traditional touches, such as the seven-slot grille, and a more prominent hood with narrow LED headlights flanking both sides. From the side and rear views, the SUV looks quite a bit different than before thanks to a sharp roofline that flows nicely into the rear. The tailgate also boasts LED taillights that wrap from the center trunk lid to the rear fender.
To further enhance its appearance, a set of 21-inch wheels are available for the first time. Depending on trim level, the lower front fascia design is slightly different.
Size-wise, the SUV is significantly bigger than before, thanks to its three rows. The wheelbase measures at 121.7 inches and there's a total length of 204.9 inches. To compare, the current two-row Grand Cherokee has a 114.8-inch wheelbase and ia 189.8 inches in length. The new model is also wider by 1.4 inches.
The Grand Cherokee L's cabin is another major departure from before; after a decade the interior has been completely redesigned. Everything is now slick and modern. There's an optional 10.1-inch Uconnect 5 infotainment system and a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster. Wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot are included. An 8.4-inch touchscreen is standard. There's also a multi-function steering wheel, leather upholstery, and plenty of wood and metal trim.
The new top-of-the-line Summit Reserve trim boasts hand-wrapped Palermo leather seat covers and genuine open-pore waxed walnut wood coverings on the dash. Overland and Summit trims also have 16-way power-adjustable, heated and ventilated seats with a massage function. Both trims offer heated second-row seats but come standard on the Summit Reserve.
All passengers benefit from up to 12 USB Type A and Type C ports, five-color LED lighting, four-zone automatic climate control with vents for all three rows, and an optional McIntosh audio system with 19 speakers.
There's a total of 17.1 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row, 46.9 cu ft. behind the second, and 84.6 cu ft. when the seats are folded flat.
Those expecting major changes under the hood won't find them here; everything is carried over from last year. The 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 with 290 horsepower and 257 lb-ft of torque remains the base engine. The 5.7-liter Hemi V8 with 357 hp and 390 lb-ft returns for the Overland and Summit trims, with both engines paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Two-wheel-drive is standard and four-wheel-drive is optional. V6 models can tow up to 6,200 pounds in both 2WD and 4WD configurations while the V8 can tow up to 7,200 pounds with 4WD.
Off-road enthusiasts will be pleased to see the SUV offered with three 4x4 systems: Quadra-Trac 1, Quadra-Trac II, and Quadra-Drive II. The latter boasts a rear electronic limited-slip differential, and all three systems have an active transfer case. The Quadra-Lift adaptive air suspension is also carried over from 2020 and has five unique firmness settings for a variety of conditions.
In Normal ride height, the SUV has 8.3 inches of ground clearance, while Off-Road increases that by 1.6 inches, and Off-Road 2 adds 2.4 inches to 10.9 inches. Park mode lowers ride height by 1.8 inches from Normal while Aero reduces it by a further 0.8 inches.
Official pricing details are not yet available but the 2021 Grand Cherokee L is expected to arrive in dealerships by mid-2021. As previously mentioned, the 2021 regular-length Grand Cherokee carries over unchanged from 2020 and has a starting price of $37,765. Expect pricing for the three-row to be higher, probably beginning at around $40,000. A fully-equipped Grand Cherokee L could even reach around $70,000.
Competition in the three-row SUV segment continues to grow and the Grand Cherokee L will face off against the likes of the Ford Explorer, Lincoln Aviator, Chevrolet Tahoe, and GMC Yukon. The Subaru Ascent should perhaps be considered the most significant rival for lower and mid-range trims. Jeep also intends to launch an even bigger and equally luxurious (if not more so) Grand Wagoneer later this year.