By on June 17, 2021

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L. Tim Healey/TTAC

Jeep has offered all sorts of different utility vehicles over the years – it’s sort of the brand’s thing – but it hasn’t recently offered a three-row crossover. The last one it sold was the Commander, which left the market a decade ago.

I quite honestly forgot the Commander even existed – and I started in automotive journalism in 2007. While it was still on the market. I suspect most Jeep faithful have also memory holed that model.

That’s unlikely to happen with the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L, for better or for worse.

(Full disclosure: Jeep hosted me in a nice hotel in downtown Detroit and provided meals (including some excellent booze with dinner). The company offered a hat which I did not take. We also toured the Mack Avenue plant where the Grand Cherokee L will be built. No flight, as Detroit is within driving distance.)

The L isn’t just a stretched Grand Cherokee – Jeep calls it an “all-new vehicle architecture” in the media materials. The new unibody GC L will sell alongside the current two-row version for now, with the five-seater slated for replacement soon – probably for next year. Jeep folks tell me the new architecture is meant to facilitate electrification.

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L. Tim Healey/TTAC

The exterior design is refreshed and the cabin is revamped. Nothing too crazy, though – the signature seven-slot grille is retained, and it’s clear at first glance that you’re looking at a Grand Cherokee.

Just one that’s a bit longer. Unfortunately, that extra length looks a bit awkward from some angles.

Jeep being Jeep, there are three available four-wheel-drive systems. Quadra-Trac I has a single-speed active transfer case, Quadra-Trac II has a two-speed active transfer case with low-range gear reduction, and what Jeep calls Active 4-Low torque control and a 2.72:1 gear ration. Quadra-Drive II is a two-speed active transfer case with a rear electronic limited-slip differential. There are five drive modes for varying terrain – Auto, Mud/Sand, Rock, Sport, and Snow.

Meanwhile, the front and rear suspensions are independent (the rear is multi-link), and the available Quadra-Lift air suspension offers adaptive damping and 10.9 inches of ground clearance, with water-fording capability of up to 24 inches.

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L. Tim Healey/TTAC

There are two engines to choose from – the venerable 3.6-liter Pentastar V6, making 293 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque here, and the also-respected 5.7-liter V8. The latter makes 357 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque in this application, and Jeep promises a max towing capacity of up to 7,200 pounds.

A front-axle disconnect is supposed to reduce driveline drag and improve fuel economy.

LED lighting all around is now standard on all trims, and there are eight wheel choices, including 21-inches for the first time.

Among the interior changes: Standard 10-inch digital displays, LED ambient lighting, and available seat-back massage.

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L. Tim Healey/TTAC

There are several trim levels – Laredo, Altitude Package, Limited, Overland, Summit, and Summit Reserve Package. If you want a V8 – and as you’ll see below, you really should – you need to get an Overland or greater.

Your humble scribe hopped into a pre-production Limited before departing Detroit’s famed Eastern Market for Chrysler’s Stellantis’s Chelsea Proving Grounds outside of Chelsea, Michigan. Our route would take us out of Detroit via freeway before moving us over some country roads en route to the proving grounds.

I found the V6 fine for urban driving and easy freeway merging, but I needed to make a full-throttle pass on I-96 and found it lacking. Dropping my right foot to the floor summoned a lot of noise but not a lot of actual acceleration. It’s probably worth it to spring for the V8 – a $4K price increase over a V6 4×4 on the trims in which it’s available, and not available with two-wheel drive – despite the fuel-economy costs you’ll pay.

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L. Tim Healey/TTAC

Other dynamic flaws present themselves. The Grand Cherokee L exhibited a little too much body roll for my liking when cornering. To be fair, few soccer parents will ever blitz a backroad in this thing (eagle-eyed readers will note, based on the pictures, that we used part of the same route that I drove while testing the Volkswagen Taos last month), but body roll was also present in milder maneuvering, such as following gentle freeway curves or adjusting your lane line, though it was less noticeable. Sport mode made the proceedings only mildly sportier.

I also found the computer nannies that are supposed to keep you in your lane to be a little too aggressive.

The experience isn’t all bad – the GC L rode with admirable compliance and Detroit’s famed broken pavement didn’t trouble it. The cabin was also quite quiet – this vehicle will make for a good interstate road-tripper.

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L. Tim Healey/TTAC

It’s not a Jeep event if we don’t go off-road, and so we did. As per usual, no automaker will put journalists on a course its car can’t handle, but this setup was trickier and gnarlier than what Nissan put us through with its Pathfinder a few weeks prior. It showcased the electronic trickery and the five terrain modes – especially Rock – well enough, with the Grand Cherokee hardly sweating. It probably can’t do what a Wrangler Rubicon or Gladiator Mojave can, but it still seemed quite capable in the boonies, factoring in Jeep’s control of the playing field.

I did try to get my overfed body into the third row, with mixed results. It was a bit harder to get back there than it was in the Pathfinder, though manageable, and headroom was plentiful for my six-foot-one frame. However, legroom was so tight that I’d not want to ride back there for more than a few minutes. Shorter adults will be OK, but the third-row mostly remains the domain of the youths.

This Jeep gets the new Uconnect infotainment system, and it’s one of the more impressive elements of the GC L. It’s intuitive to use, with near-instant transitions from one menu to the next. It’s also customizable.

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L. Tim Healey/TTAC

The rest of the cabin also struck me as pleasant, with eye-pleasing materials that felt price-appropriate. I liked the digital gauge display and its ability to easily switch from an analog look to a style more appropriate for our digital era. It’s easy to quickly dial up key info.

Available features include wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, head-up display, digital rearview mirror, rear-seat monitoring camera, premium audio, hands-on Level 2 automated driving, 360-degree and night vision cameras, cooled first- and second-row seats, Intersection Collision Assist, Drowsy Driver Detection, Traffic Sign Recognition, Parallel and Perpendicular Park Assist, full-speed collision warning with active braking and pedestrian/cyclist detection, rear cross-path detection, adaptive cruise control, active lane management, LaneSense lane departure warning with lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, ParkAssist with rear-view camera, ParkSense rear park-assist sensors, and electronic parking brake.

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L. Tim Healey/TTAC

Fuel economy for the V6 4×4 I drove is listed at 18/25/21. For two-wheel-drive models it’s 19/26/21 and for the V8 it’s an eye-popping 14/22/17.

Pricing starts at $36,995 for a Laredo. It climbs to $40,195 for the Altitude Package, $43,995 for a Limited, and $52,995 for the Overland. A Summit will set you back at least $56,995, and the extra-luxurious Summit Reserve Package rings the bell at $61,995. Add $2K to those prices for four-wheel drive, and add $4K over the price of a V6 4×4 if you want a V8 and it’s available on your preferred trim.

The Summit Reserve is 4×4 only. Destination is $1,695 and not included in those prices above.

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L. Tim Healey/TTAC

My option-laden Limited, which included some of the features listed above (many were part of the $2,295 Luxury Tech Group II package, which added other features such as cooled front seats and an off-road camera) and added panoramic sunroof and Uconnect navigation, cost $53,815.

I’m hard-pressed to recommend the Grand Cherokee L over the five-seat version, especially with the Wagoneer on the way and the five-seat version slated to join the L on this new architecture soon. But if you love the Grand Cherokee’s tendency to mix upscale features and off-road capability and simply must have a third row of seating, you’ll find it to be a nice road-tripper.

What’s New for 2021

The 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L is a three-row unibody SUV on an all-new platform for the Grand Cherokee’s fifth generation. It’s separate from the fourth-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee, which remains on sale. The two-row GC will transition to this new platform soon.

The new L offers V6 or V8 power, two- or four-wheel drive, a new infotainment system, and other new features.

Who Should Buy It

The Jeep fan who really, really needs three-row seating.

[Images © 2021 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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67 Comments on “2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L First Drive – The Three-Row for the Jeep Stan...”


  • avatar
    Dave M.

    So soon your three row choices will be this and the Grand Wagoneer? What will be the difference when the GW arrives?

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      The Wagoneer starts at about $75,000, for one.

      I don’t know if the market buys it, I certainly don’t, but Jeep is acting as if they can Veblen their way into being a luxury brand.

    • 0 avatar
      B-BodyBuick84

      Other than the fact that the Grand Wagoneer will be a BOF SUV based off the 5th gen Ram 1500 chassis?? There will probably be a few noticeable differences between the two.

    • 0 avatar
      teddyc73

      How can you not figure out the what the differences will be? Does the Expedition and Explorer flummox you?

    • 0 avatar
      Rocket

      Other than the Wagoneer riding on a body-on-frame architecture, the difference will be about 10 inches in length and about five inches in width. When you see them side-by-side, you won’t have any trouble distinguishing the two.

  • avatar
    legacygt

    For starters, it’s absolutely crazy that Chrysler/FCA/Stalantas did not have a 3-row vehicle in the Jeep lineup for over a decade. People pay premiums for Jeeps. Would-be 3-row Jeep customers were taking their business elsewhere. Jeep probably has too many cars on the smaller end of the spectrum. (The Renegade, Compass and Cherokee end of the spectrum could probably make do with only 2 of those.) And we know the previous Grand Cherokee could be stretched for a 3rd row because that’s exactly what the Durango is. It makes absolutely no sense that they couldn’t figure this out 10 years ago.

    So now that it’s finally here, it looks like they did OK. Is it perfect? No. But it’s good enough and that makes the complaint above even more frustrating. It’s one thing if they had some commitment to make this thing Rubicon-ready but I don’t think that they did.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Yeah, I’m kind of puzzled that Jeep never did a three-row mommymobile before this, but I’m even more puzzled why FCA never did a full size, BOF Ram SUV to compete with Tahoe/Suburban/Expedition. I’m not a fan of vehicles like that, but a RAM SUV should have been a no-brainer.

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        The 63-91 Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer SJ were never offered as a three-row so maybe they were just sticking to tradition. Those were always marketed as a size below a Suburban or Travelall for folks who didn’t want a SUV that long and were popular in horse country.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      FCA left many millions of easy dollars on the table by not selling the current Durango with minor styling changes as a Jeep.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Attractive in an understated Jeep way. Will be a good seller.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I know it’s subjective but I think the exterior styling on the new Grand Cherokee and Grand Wagoneer is kind of bad.

    And as the review stated, putting the V8 behind a fairly high trim paywall is lame considering the heft of this thing taxes the standard Pentastar.

  • avatar

    I think it looks pretty good. They should sell quite a few. Grand Cherokees are everywhere here in the North East, most are loaded up ones too.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Wasn’t the QOTD the other day “what makes me shrug?”

    Well, here it is…makes no sense to me, but it ain’t my money, folks.

    • 0 avatar
      teddyc73

      A three row SUV doesn’t make sense to you? Um, ok.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        Unless I fall into the use case for one of the larger BOF 3 rows (a gaggle of kids I need to haul while also towing something heavy), It makes little sense to me. i’m not a minivan lover, but if I had to have that third row (minus the need to tow), it does everything better than one of these.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          You articulate my thoughts on this subject very well.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          “[A minivan] does everything better than one of these.”

          Except be seen as acceptable by most of the buyers.

          I own a Highlander Hybrid. I’d probably own a Pacifica Hybrid instead if it hadn’t faced an absolute veto from the wife.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            I certainly understand appeals to vanity, but I’ll likely never get how a minivan gives a definitely less acceptable image versus something like an Traverse or Palisade. To me it’s like comparing eggshell to off-white.

            Maybe I just don’t run in the right peer groups for such a distinction to exist.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            I don’t get it either, but I am told with great conviction that a Volvo XC90 is like designer leggings, a Highlander like Lululemon yoga pants, a Pacifica like Fila sweatpants, and a Sienna like stained sweatpants from Wal-Mart.

            In entirely unrelated news, we came very close to spending the same money that got us both a Bolt and a Highlander on a brand-new XC60 T8 Inscription, until a weekend when two cars were essential got in the way.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            “I don’t get it either, but I am told with great conviction that a Volvo XC90 is like designer leggings, a Highlander like Lululemon yoga pants, a Pacifica like Fila sweatpants, and a Sienna like stained sweatpants from Wal-Mart.”

            I wish I knew what any of that meant… Well, maybe not. As much as “car guys” hate to admit it, image has a big influence on what we buy. Anything with a Jeep badge trumps anything classified as a mini-van. We can say we appreciate the utility of a mini-van, but are damn glad the women in our lives would never allow it

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “image has a big influence on what we buy. ”

            It does. I just don’t see a Grand Cherokee L or Traverse having a superior image to an Odyssey or Carnival. They are all 3-row family wagons from nonpremium brands. If I needed to project a different image I’d get a used Escalade or something like that.
            Maybe if I’m ever in that situation I’d understand better.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            I’d say “women…watch my eyes roll”, but Lord knows guys do it too. I mean, no one NEEDS the Super D*ck Extender Power Wagon pickup, or a Challenger Hellcat (or an Audi A3 for that matter), but tons of dudes buy them.

            My girlfriend insisting on a CR-V because she “doesn’t like sitting low in a car” – when she’s almost 6’0″ – makes zero sense to me, but then again, me driving a performance car makes zero sense to her.

            The car biz is very much a fashion business. If it weren’t, we’d all be driving Corollas. Thank God that’s not the case.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            It’s an equal opportunity thing.

            The very first thing lots of guys do when they get their new trucks home from the dealership is to install suspension lifts and improperly sized wheel and tire packages. Those mods make the trucks worse in every quantifiable way (including off-road, where they become too wide to fit through two-track), but project the right image.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        @teddy:

        I was under the impression that what I buy only has to make sense to me. Something along the lines of “if it’s my money I get to spend it the way I like.” Perhaps I was wrong? Golly gee, thanks for setting the record straight!

        Move on, troll…you add nothing here.

  • avatar
    kcflyer

    Tim,

    Please share your opinion of this vs the Durango, pros and cons.

  • avatar
    tonycd

    This thing’s a minivan with Euroguts, styled like the box it is. The “Jeep essence” of vehicles like this has been diluted to an almost homeopathic quantity.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Ooh, big daddy Jeep. A little late to the game, but I like :)

  • avatar
    bpscarguy

    I am glad this is finally here, looking forward to checking one out in person. I am focusing on this GCL as a replacement to our Town & Country. Thinking a fully loaded Summit version (I like the wheels). Had been wanting an Aviator but the quality issues have scared me off, and this looks just as nice inside with many of the same features (if not more) for less money than the Aviator.

  • avatar
    carcomment

    Do they send the TTAC writers to school to learn to overuse well beyond their expiration date tropes in every review. If we dont say ‘soccer parents wont notice’ in every review, editor will shed actual tears. Give the nonsense a rest. For example, most drivers will never push this vehicle to the limits and as a result the body roll i found a excessive wont be noticable. And another piece of unsolicited advice, more ink dedicated to the review and driving experience less on regurgitating the specs-you got to drive it, we didnt. I can go anywhere to learn specs but not how you think it behaves. Finally the last line is another well worn masterpiece…for the Jeep fan… Again it adds nothing-say what you mean ie only a real Jeep fan would consider this vehicle as there are so many better 3 row options at these price points. Or do the advertising guys complain so you wont write that?

    PS where can i find your review of the new 5 seat Grand Cherokee-the one you are recommending? I havent read any yet and want to understand how you reached that conclusion. Unless you are saying this is so bad that the existing nearly 10 year old GC trumps this new one-which would be a very helpful opinion to read.

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      We provide the specs so that you don’t have to look around online. And I am saying that both the current “old” two-row and the upcoming new two-row — which will likely have most of what the three-row has — are better choices unless you really need three rows. Even the “old” one offers most (though not all) of the convenience/safety features, and it has the same engines (more or less) and similar off-road capability.

      Thanks for reading!

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Meh. I’m not going to take my three-row CUV on any harder terrain than a gravel two-track, so I’d rather devote the space that this Jeep devotes to off-road hardware to more interior room. For the price of the high trims I would rather have an Acura MDX Advance.

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    What is difference between a Jeep Fan and Jeep Stan?

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    I know that Jeep for their more modern SUVs (not Wrangler) have gravitated toward understated.

    This is just a blob.

    It will sell – Jeep logo – but meh – this is pretty boring.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Chip shortage, but yes let’s put in an LED screen instead of a dash pod.

    • 0 avatar
      mmreeses

      since this model was years in the making and (likely):forecasted to sell well, old FCA likely locked long-term chip contracts pre-corona.

      It’s only a shortage for badly run companies who gambled (and lost) by building procurement chains on an as-needed basis.

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    Once again Jeep does it right. But this time, it shows how pathetic the 202 Explorer refresh really was. Ford can’t even figure out how to do something as easy as full LED lighting on the Explorer (or the recently announced Escape El Camino). Actually this makes a joke of MKExplorer too.

  • avatar
    rw33

    The portions and some angles for the L are a bit off but overall it’s a good looking vehicle. I’m really looking forward to the 2-row version as my next vehicle. If they kept the weight in check for a much larger version then the weight loss for the smaller version will do wonders for the driving dynamics.

  • avatar
    NJRide

    So what happens to the Durango? Unless it becomes discounted since all the showrooms are combined now it makes little sense to keep it in current form. And if the Durango dies what’s left of Dodge? Can’t see Challenger/Charger sustaining the brand with the Jurassic Caravan/Journey finally extinct.

    What might make sense is for Jeep to go down to one compact SUV and then for Dodge to get maybe the Compass. The Compass/Renegade seems like a 1980’s GM “half-a-size” product confusion.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      The only future for Dodge is death or rebadged French cars.
      The current Durango, Charger, and Challenger will just soldier on until they are no longer profitable (whether due to regulations or consumer preferences).

  • avatar
    Rocket

    It’ll sell just fine, but I’m not overly impressed. The powertrains are lackluster, and the fuel efficiency isn’t even that good. The 4xe can’t get here soon enough. Then there’s the awkward front end styling. I keep thinking I’ll get used to it, but no luck … still not feeling it. The current Grand Cherokee still looks great to my eyes. I certainly hope the new one wears this front end better than the L does.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    “I quite honestly forgot the Commander even existed”

    And not remembering quite a lot of things makes me wonder if you concentrate on your chosen industry. I’ve noted it before and commented. You don’t seem sharp. I find you lack an overall view of any authority, which surely is what a seasoned editor should have. Thus I disregard your reviews as so much blather because of it. The comparison between this review and C/D’s is invidious. This collection of words tells me almost nothing.

    “I took ‘er out for a quick jaunt and it seemed okay to me” is not much of a review.

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    Perfect platform for a new TWO DOOR Comanche (with stick).
    ;-)

  • avatar
    Scalewoodman

    Too bad TTAC didn’t send someone a little more open-minded on a sponsored junket. Or maybe a masseur could have added some insight?

  • avatar
    alfasgofast2

    Don’t buy a Jeep with the “venerable Pentastar V6” The engines have a valve train that is junk. The rocker arms and hydraulic lash adjusters wear out starting at 80,000 miles, even with regular oil and filter changes. Chrysler has redesigned the cylinder heads, cams, and valve train three times so far. Just search these motors on YouTube and watch all the videos about premature valve train failures, as well as the secret cylinder head replacement program. I have a 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk with 85,000 miles and now have to replace the exhaust cam lifters and lash adjusters due to their failure and throwing a P302 misfire code constantly.

  • avatar
    wjtinfwb

    Jeep & RAM desperately need access to more powertrain options, particularly Jeep. The Pentastar V6 is fine in a rental Charger, but overmatched in a Grand Cherokee or this new larger and heavier version requiring way too many revs to make any power. The Hemi is a decent performer but heavy, thirsty and getting out-classed by Ford and GM and perhaps the upcoming Toyota Twin-Turbo V6. Ford has had great success with the turbo V6, the Pentastar would benefit from strengthened internals and a couple small turbos. The 5.7L and 6.4L Hemi’s could be recast in aluminum for a weight savings and improvements to it’s breathing could bump both the power and efficiency. FCA did a good job on the chassis and interior of these new vehicles, don’t let the engines let down an otherwise solid product.

  • avatar
    finderskeepers

    As the owner of a Grand Cherokee Overland from 2014, I won’t be trading it in any time soon for a new one..why? Because mine is powered by the Ecodiesel. Last weekend I took our 24’ trailer 400 miles, something that couldn’t even be done by the current pentastar, and the fuel economy of the hemi is laughable. With a simple stage one delete I have 280hp and 480lb/ft available almost off idle, which running light can get me into the 30mpg club, and pulling a 7000 lb trailer can still get me 18mpg. This would be the only engine choice that would get me to consider buying another one…Jeep are you listening ?

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