The Right Spec: 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy

If you’re initially confused between the Grand Cherokee L and Wagoneer (both Grand and not), we don’t blame you. They are distinguishable side-by-each – but separately? Not so much. Think of it this way: The GCL is a unibody design with V6 and V8 options while the Wago is body-on-frame and has two V8 choices.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee L was put through its First Drive paces on this site just a month ago. With that top-tier entrée having settled nicely, it is time to paw through the chaff six different trim levels and figure out which one makes for The Right Spec.

We’ll start with the opinion that any machine bearing the Jeep badge should have power going to all four wheels. This choice doesn’t limit us from any of the six trims on offer but it does bump the price of entry to just over 40 grand. While your author recognizes the only off-road driving the vast majority of these rigs will experience is that patch of broken pavement at the mall, he still firmly believes in the value of a two-speed transfer case and a limited-slip rear diff.

These requirements put us in league with the Quadra-Trac II system, first appearing on Grand Cherokee L in the pricey Overland trim. Even then, gaining ownership of a locking diff requires a $1,995 Off-Road Group. In addition to the diff, skid plates pepper the underside, and 18-inch on/off-road 265/60 rubber replaces the pretentious 20-inch dubs. I’ll note right here and now that tasty BFGoodrich KO2 tires are available in this size, making me probably the only person on Earth who’d gladly mount aggressive all-terrain rubber on a $60,000 luxury SUV. Hey, they’ll make good use of the Overland’s Quadra-Lift air suspension which includes a tip-toe setting. So equipped it’ll ford 24 inches of water.

Speaking of decisions, the Grand Cherokee L has me in a quandary. The 5.7L V8 is a pricey $3,295 option and is down on power compared to its deployment in Ram pickups; just 357 horses are produced by the mill, 38 fewer than the truck; it gives up 20 lb-ft of torque as well. With the proven 3.6L V6 making near-as-makes-no-difference 300 horsepower, that’s the surprising recommendation from this particular peanut gallery.

Irritatingly, Jeep nickel-and-dimes the customer by charging extra for every single paint shade save for Bright White. The contrasting roof treatment doesn’t seem to fit the GCL’s image in these jaundiced eyes, so a monotone Velvet Red Pearl will have to suffice. And, as a bonus, some of the neighbors might mistake the thing for a bucks-deluxe Grand Wagoneer.

Creature comforts like a dual-pane panoramic moonroof and tri-zone climate control are standard at this price level, as they should be now that we’ve optioned the vehicle to $59,925. Perforated Nappa leather, heated second-row buckets, and a nine-speaker Alpine audio system are all present and accounted for. Infotainment is handled by a jumbo display packing all the communication and entertainment features you’d expect in this segment.

In this case, the Right Spec is definitely not the cheap spec. Whether that’s down to my own largesse or Jeep’s optimistic pricing choices is a debate we hope to see in the comments.

Please note the prices listed here are in Freedom dollars and currently accurate for base prices exclusive of any fees, taxes, or rebates. Your dealer may (and should) sell for less (obscene market conditions notwithstanding). Keep your foot down, bone up on available rebates, and bargain hard.

Matthew Guy
Matthew Guy

Matthew buys, sells, fixes, & races cars. As a human index of auto & auction knowledge, he is fond of making money and offering loud opinions.

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  • Ajla Ajla on Jul 21, 2021

    Anyway, - Laredo AWD - White - Towing package $42,900

  • Nrd515 Nrd515 on Jul 22, 2021

    I would pass on this and buy a "normal" JGC. I never needed 3 rows even when I had three fairly big dogs. But if I did buy one of these, I don't see how the 3.6 V6 will satisfy many people. Both my JGC's had the 4.0 six and they were not fantastic, just adequate. Several friends have bought GC's since 2010 and most were 5.7's and the ones who bought 3.6's admitted they wished they had just bought 5.7's too. My one friend has a loaded '19, and I really like it. It was very pleasant driving it down to Columbus, Oh and back.

    • EBFlex EBFlex on Jul 22, 2021

      The 3.6/8-speed performs very well in this. It’s geared very well. Also, this Grand Cherokee L, despite being much bigger than the WK2 Grand Cherokee, is 150ish pounds lighter.

  • Bob65688581 We bought zillions of German cars, despite knowing about WWII slave labor. Refusing to buy something for ideological reasons is foolish.Both the US and the EU have imposed tariffs, so the playing field is level. I'll buy the best price/quality, regardless of nationality.Another interesting question would be "Would you buy one of the many new European moderate-price EVs?" but of course they aren't sold here.Third interesting question: "Why won't Stellantis sell its best products in America?"
  • Freshblather No. Worried there will be malicious executable code built into the cars motherboard that could disable the Chinese cars in the event of hostilities between the west and China.
  • Bd2 Absolutely not - do not want to support a fascist, totalitarian regime.
  • SCE to AUX The original Capri was beautiful. The abomination from the 90s was no Capri, and neither is this.It looks good, but too similar to a Polestar. And what's with the whacked price?
  • Rover Sig Absolutely not. Ever.