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For a brand so synonymous with SUVs, Jeep, surprisingly, hasn't been super competitive in the full-size three-row space. In fact, the last three-row it sold in the US was the Commander, which was so unpleasant that we probably don't need to expand on it. The new 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L – as the “L” in the name implies – is the brand's first serious competitor in this segment and it arrives packing plenty of ammunition.
Look past the Grand Cherokee's modest exterior and you'll find a properly upscale cabin with enough room for seven passengers to sit comfortably in this configuration. Uconnect 5 also makes its debut in the Grand Cherokee, as does the Active Driver Assist – and both of those systems rival the best alternatives in the business. And this is also one of the few mid-size three-rows with an available V8, if you feel so inclined. Bottom line: while Jeep may have arrived late to the space, it’s instantly one of the best options in the class.
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|Quick Stats||2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Overland 4x4|
|Output:||293 Horsepower / 260 Pound-Feet|
Gallery: 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L: Review
The Grand Cherokee L doesn’t immediately wow you with its good looks. Instead, it builds upon its predecessor's rugged styling with a flat hood line, slim headlights, and a large lower opening beneath the iconic seven-slat grille. This Overland model also gets polished silvery trim around the grille pieces and lower opening. We're not too fond of the faux chrome treatment, but some customers will probably appreciate the upscale add-on compared to lesser trims.
The wheels are a set of 20-inch, 10-spoke units that fit the personality of the Grand Cherokee exceptionally well, and the Velvet Red paint is common on the Grand Cherokee – even though it is a $345 option. The shiny stuff on the front fascia extends to the side profile and across the trunk lid, and it doesn't look any better in the rear. Thankfully, the slim LED taillights with a two-tone red-and-white housing do most of the heavy lifting stylistically.
The cabin looks clean, with a mix of high-quality materials like aluminum, wood – and on this Overland model – standard Nappa leather. There are some chintzy plastics within reach and wood on the steering wheel is clearly fake, but that's not uncommon for the class. The center screen looks sleek though; it's a 10.1-inch display that blends seamlessly into the center console.
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- Seating Capacity: 8
- Seating Configuration: 2 / 3 / 3
- Cargo Volume: 17.2 / 46.9 / 84.6 Cubic Feet
The Jeep Grand Cherokee L feels spacious, which is kind of the point. The three-row model is 15.1 inches longer than the previous two-row Grand Cherokee and has a wheelbase that is 7.0 inches longer too. With that, the 39.8 inches of front headroom and 41.3 inches of legroom are more than plenty. Neither of those numbers is best-in-class, but they are on the upper end of the segment. By comparison, the Nissan Pathfinder has the most headroom in the class at 42.3 inches, while the Ford Explorer has the most legroom at 43.0 inches.
The front- and second-row seats are both comfortable places to sit, with standard Nappa leather on the Overland model. Bolstering is solid, butt and back support are ample, and there's enough adjustability in both rows to easily find a comfortable seating position. And while the first row may not be the most palatial in the class, the Grand Cherokee L's 159.1 cubic feet of total passenger volume beats the Pathfinder, Hyundai Palisade, Chevrolet Traverse, and a few others.
Average to above-average adults should have an easy time squeezing into the third row, even with the traditional second-row bench seat equipped on our tester (a $695 option). Pull the shoulder-mounted lever and the entire left side of the bench lifts and lunges forward, revealing a spacious-enough opening for easy access. Jeep calls it a “tip-and-slide” function. And once back there, the Grand Cherokee L has a class-leading 37.3 inches of headroom and 30.3 inches of legroom, which is suitable over modest distances.
With the optional Quadra-Trac air suspension (which will hopefully return to the lineup soon), the Grand Cherokee L has an ultra-cushy ride. It soaks up imperfections like a luxury vehicle, and manages body roll expertly. On top of that, the cabin is quiet and refined – apart from a bit of engine whine when you push it.
- Center Display: 10.1-Inch touchscreen
- Instrument Cluster: 10.3-Inch Display
- Wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto: Yes
An 8.4-inch screen is the standard display in the Grand Cherokee L Laredo, Altitude, and Limited, but our Overland tester (and Summit and Summit Reserve) sports the larger, crisper 10.1-inch display with the new UConnect 5 infotainment system. UConnect 5 is one of our favorite user interfaces; the new home layout is clean and easy to parse, the graphics are sharp, and the response times are now smartphone-fast. The navigation is also cleaner and more seamless, while wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available at no extra cost.
Just behind the steering wheel is a highly configurable 10.3-inch digital cluster that displays things like navigation, audio, and more. There's even an available night vision feature. But the one feature that the Grand Cherokee L boasts above all others is the McIntosh Laboratory audio system – the American hi-fi brand’s first automotive venture.
With 19 speakers, a 10-inch subwoofer, and 950 watts of power, the McIntosh audio system is absolutely bangin'. The quality is crystal clear, and the range of tones comes close to rivaling that of high-end alternatives like Lexicon and ELS.
- Engine: 3.6-liter V6
- Output: 290 Horsepower / 260 Pound-Feet
- Transmission: Eight-Speed Automatic
The Jeep Grand Cherokee L comes with your choice of two engines: a base 3.6-liter V6 and an optional 5.7-liter Hemi V8. The only way to get the larger V8 is by opting for the Overland or Summit models with four-wheel drive, as well as the range-topping Summit Reserve, which has 4WD standard. And on all trims, that engine is a $3,295 option.
The Overland tested here is a 4WD model, but it still uses the base V6. That unit produces 290 hp and 260 pound-feet, paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission. “Powerful” wouldn't be the best word to describe this Grand Cherokee L; the V6 offers just enough oomph to get the 4,997-pound SUV up to speed, but it wheezes and whines all the way. The optional Hemi would probably do this SUV wonders in a straight line.
Once at speed though, the V6 is refined and smooth, the eight-speed automatic shifts anonymously, and body movements remain well in check for an SUV this large. The Grand Cherokee feels more truck-like in the corners than counterparts like the Kia Telluride or Nissan Pathfinder, but it still yields a pleasant driving experience nonetheless.
Unlike those alternatives, the Grand Cherokee L is also more capable off the beaten path. This SUV has a locking differential and an optional Quadra-Trac air suspension that gives the SUV an impressive approach angle of up to 31.0 degrees and a departure angle of up to 23.6 degrees.
- Driver Assistance Level: Level 2 (Hands-On)
- NHTSA Overall Rating: Not Rated
- IIHS Rating: Not Rated
The Jeep Grand Cherokee has made huge strides in the active safety department over its ill-equipped predecessor. Now things like adaptive cruise control, a lane-departure warning with lane-keep assist, and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection come standard on all models.
With the Advanced ProTech Group III equipped ($1,995), this Overland model also offers the brand's advanced Active Driver Assist feature, which is so good that it rivals luxury brands like BMW and Mercedes-Benz in its abilities.
Simply turn on the adaptive cruise control and tick a button on the steering wheel to activate Active Driver Assist and the Grand Cherokee L cruises in a drama-free fashion. The lane assist features keep the Jeep perfectly established between the lines, braking and acceleration are smooth too, and the Grand Cherokee keeps a close eye out for any possible lane intrusions. The Grand Cherokee will even navigate its way around some corners without issue.
- City Fuel Economy: 18 MPG
- Highway Fuel Economy: 25 MPG
- Combined Fuel Economy: 21 MPG
This four-wheel-drive Overland model achieves 18 miles per gallon city, 25 highway, and 21 combined, which puts it right in the middle of the pack in terms of fuel economy. Of the all-wheel-drive alternatives, the Ford Explorer and Toyota Highlander both achieve 23 combined, while the Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade match the Jeep with 21 combined.
- Starting Price: $36,995 + $1,695 (Destination Charge)
- Trim Base Price: $55,135
- As-Tested Price: $63,315
The base Jeep Grand Cherokee L Laredo with rear-wheel drive costs $38,635 plus $1,695 in destination fees. That’s a touch higher than average, given that the Kia Telluride costs $32,790, the Ford Explorer costs $32,925, and the new Nissan Pathfinder starts at $33,410. The aging but related Dodge Durango starts at $32,962, while a V8 is avaliable for around $47,000 – dramatically less than the Hemi-powered Jeep, which starts at $58,290.
The Grand Cherokee L Overland starts at $55,135 with rear-wheel drive or $56,935 with four-wheel drive, while our tester clocks in at $63,315 post-options (only about $7,000 below the max). The two priciest add-ons of the bunch are the Advanced ProTech Group III and the Luxury Tech Group IV, which each cost $1,995. It should be noted that you can’t option the ProTech Group without the Luxury Tech Group, but you can do the reverse. The iconic Velvet Red paint is another $345, the second-row bench is $695, and Uconnect 5 with the larger screen is $1,795.
We recommend all of these options, even the paint since the only no-cost shade is Bright White, which is boring. All of the tech inside of the Grand Cherokee is phenomenal, the second-row bench is more useful than captain’s chairs, and the active safety equipment is fantastic, too. But if you live in an area that doesn’t see as much snow or inclement weather, you could save $1,800 by opting for the rear-drive model instead.
Grand Cherokee L Competitor Reviews:
Gallery: 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L: Review
2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Overland 4x4