Review: 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L makes a rough but ready landing
The 2021 Grand Cherokee L ushers in a new generation version of the Grand Cherokee and heralds a new lineup with that name. Like a trainee co-pilot bringing in a jetliner, the all-new Jeep Grand Cherokee L is a little bumpy on the approach and makes a couple of side hops in what is otherwise a perfect landing.
At a Glance
- All-new design adds Jeep brand elements to the exterior and spaciousness to the interior.
- Technology is a high point in the new Jeep lineup and at the fore in this new Grand Cherokee L.
- Engine options are a carryover and therefore a real low point for this Jeep.
- This SUV gets expensive quickly and upper trims don’t live up to their premium price point.
- Off-road and towing capability are second to none for the Grand Cherokee L.
Ten years after the last redesign for the Jeep Grand Cherokee, the 2021 Grand Cherokee L heralds a new generation of Grand Cherokee models. It is the largest of the Jeep SUV models, offering three rows of seating in a large format sport utility, and the 2022 model year will see it joined by other Grand Cherokee models aimed at luxury and refinement – with fewer seats.
From the outside, the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L holds the new Jeep SUV design theme, with a flatter front fascia, taller bodywork, and Jeep’s signature off-pavement readiness. Inside, there's more space, better seating, and a lot more technology than in the previous generation. In fact, about the only carryovers from the previous gen are the engine options and the prodigious off-road credibility of the brand.
It has seating for six or seven, depending on seating choices, with the middle row bench or captain’s chairs having a full seven inches of slide to allow more legroom in the third row. Although not as roomy as the third rows found in minivans, the 2021 Grand Cherokee L’s third row seats are much more accommodating than most SUV third rows. Head and legroom is plentiful and the row is wide enough that three can sit across without too much cramping. Access is also pretty good, thanks to that aforementioned seat slide and the tilt-forward design of the optional second row captain’s chairs.
From the get-go, the base model (“Laredo”) has a lot of technology as standard. The driver’s 10.25-inch information display provides a well-done virtual gauge cluster that never seems to have glare or readability issues. An 8.4-inch touchscreen is standard for infotainment, but can be upgraded to a larger 10.1-inch option. Either way, it houses Stellantis’ Uconnect user interface, one of the best in the industry for usability and capability. That includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with wireless connectivity and a six-speaker sound system at the base model level. Forward collision mitigation, blind-spot monitoring, and adaptive cruise control are also standard in the Grand Cherokee L.
Other comfort items like tri-zone climate, proximity keyless entry, and push-button start are also standard in the Grand Cherokee L, as are LED headlamps, working roof rails, and 18-inch alloy wheels. Not bad for a base price of US$38,085.
The carryover engines from the previous-gen Grand Cherokee hold back this new-generation SUV. The 3.6-liter V6, found in a host of Jeep models, produces just 290 horsepower (216 kW) and 257 lb-ft (348.5 Nm) of torque. Neither of which sounds like enough to feel anything but sluggish in this 4,600-plus pound (2,086+ kg) SUV. The upgrade engine, which we drove, is another staple in the Dodge-Jeep-Ram Truck lineup: the 5.7-liter Hemi. This V8 produces 357 hp (266 kW) and 390 lb-ft (539 Nm), but is only available in the upper Overland and Summit trims. The starting price for the Overland trim level is $54,000, a pretty big leap from the base model’s introductory price tag (our test model Overland was priced at over $67,000).
Fuel economy in either version of the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L is surprisingly abysmal. The V6 models return just 25 mpg (9.4 l/100km) on the highway. A great number a decade ago, but not much better than full-sized body-on-frame sport utilities today. The 5.7L V8 Grand Cherokee L reduces that number to 22 mpg (10.7 l/100km). For comparison, the larger, heavier, truck-based Ford Expedition returns 23 mpg (10.2 l/100km) on the highway. Jeep has made no announcements regarding the plug-in hybrid (“4xe”) powertrain coming to the Grand Cherokee L.
If you can live with those downsides, however, the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L has impressive towing and off-road capabilities. The V6 offers only 3,500 lb (1,588 kg) of towing (though an upgrade package can bump that up to 6,200 lb/2,812 kg), but the V8 jumps to an impressive 7,200 lb (3,266 kg) of towing. The vehicle also features nearly 11 inches (28 cm) of ground clearance and a payload capacity of 1,250 lb (567 kg). The legendary four-wheel drive system that Jeep is known for includes drive modes for various types of terrain and inclement weather.
During our time with the 2021 Grand Cherokee L, we performed some moderate and mid-level off-roading and it proved itself more than capable of tackling anything we’d expect a non-Wrangler Jeep to handle. A few surprises, like the amount of wheel reach and the intelligence of the all-wheel-drive-like 4WD system were noted. Wheel grip is very good and the V8 engine provides enough power and speed control to be intuitive when off the pavement.
Overall, the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L is a good introduction to the Grand Cherokees to come. It brings the SUV up to date with most modern standards for technology and capability, but we feel it will quickly become dated as larger truck-based models continue to improve. The gap between the unibody advantages of the Grand Cherokee L and the body-on-frame designs of its rivals has been narrowing lately.
Product Page: 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L