By on July 21, 2021

Jeep GCL front

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.

Jeep GCL front

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.

Jeep GCL front

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.

Jeep GCL front

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.

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37 Comments on “The Right Spec: 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L...”


  • avatar
    dwford

    Can’t I get a loaded Kia Telluride for $10k less (dealer markup notwithstanding)?

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      It’s a Jeep thing. You wouldn’t understand. /s

      • 0 avatar
        dwford

        It’s a Ford thing too. Everyone was complaining about $60k Explorers when it came out.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Well, the difference is that the $60,000 Explorer would be the ST, and it’ll run rings around this Jeep (assuming that’s what you’re into, of course).

          Too bad the interior on those says “thirty-five,” not “sixty large.”

          Basically, what you have here is a three row mommy mobile with off-road cred that mommies aren’t going to ever use. I have no idea why those mommies wouldn’t just save twenty grand and buy a Highlander or Pilot instead.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Because the husband insisted since he’s going to drive it once a year to that vacation in the mountains

    • 0 avatar
      teddyc73

      Maybe, I don’t know. But why would you?

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    The dimensions on this seem awkward and there is a heavy “Jeep” tax with the sticker price.

    I’m a pass.

  • avatar
    jack4x

    “With the proven 3.6L V6 making near-as-makes-no-difference 300 horsepower”

    You will notice the difference any time you load this large a vehicle up with passengers and/or a trailer. The V8 upgrade is the easiest choice imaginable.

    That said, the Wagoneer seems like a better buy than this.

  • avatar

    Altitude 4×4 in Velvet Red Pearl (Seriously, only FIVE colors available? Other four are greyscale. Ugh. WTF?) Trailer tow group. $45,230. Done.

  • avatar
    ajla

    “With the proven 3.6L V6 making near-as-makes-no-difference 300 horsepower, that’s the surprising recommendation from this particular peanut gallery.”

    Lol, f*ck that.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    At 60 large, there are a lot of choices out there. I have to disagree with some of your picks. First, this doesn’t seem like something I would want for hard-core off-roading. For that, I’d get a 4-Runner. So I would skip the skid plates, the rear locker and the 2-speed center transfer case. For me, it’s enough that the lowest priced Jeep 4wd setup is better than the “slip and grip” systems fitted to various crossovers. As such, I would expect this to give a decent account of itself in snow, mud and sand, fitted with appropriate tires.

    The engine choice is tougher. First, because I have to step up to a higher trim level than I otherwise would want to get the V-8 and second, because of the upcharge for that engine and its probably significantly worse fuel economy in urban/suburban driving. The horsepower and torque deficiencies no doubt would be noticeable with 4 passengers and their stuff on a family vacation.

    The larger question, which you alluded to, is whether it would be best to wait a year or two for the revised JGC. Presumably, it will share the all-independent suspension, drivetrains and engine choices of its big brother, but with a little less weight and at somewhat lower prices. Among crossover/SUVs etc. there are practically no choices available at less than the gargantuan Tahoe/Yukon/Grand Wagoneer size that have a third row of seats that is truly usable for any but elementary school age children. When my family included 3 children, we had a minivan. So, I’m not seeing much value in a price premium for that 3rd row.

    Verdict: wait until next year.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Assuming you really want a Fake-Outdoorsy, loaded-up three-row mommy-mobile, here’s my Right Spec:

    https://www.hyundaiusa.com/us/en/build/summary/#/41572N4A2S0

    Just saved you fourteen grand. Thank me anytime!

    (Sixty grand for this? Good Lord…)

    • 0 avatar
      teddyc73

      But then you have to drive around in a hideous vehicle. At least with the Jeep you get a much more attractive car.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        Then get the fantastic looking Telluride and still pocket that $14K

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Well, that’s kind of like saying Andrea Merkel is more attractive than Theresa May. But YMMV, I suppose.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          Thanks, I’ll never look at a Telluride quite the same again :(

        • 0 avatar
          here4aSammich

          Who is Andrea Merkel? Is she related to Angela Merkel?

          Saw my first GCL on the road today. I have no need for 3 rows, so pass. But it made me interested in the 5 seater. Color choices are needed. Red Velvet Pearl needs to be retired. I think Chrysler has been using it since their name was, well, Chrysler!

          I personally can’t make the case for much of what you think this vehicle needs. I can be perfectly happy for less.

    • 0 avatar
      Daveo

      But the one thing that the Palisade will never overcome is the cheap interior materials that are present even in their Autograph trim. The JGC will have some too but not in such obvious places. And don’t get me started on the exterior. And the Telluride looks wall-eyed like Milhouse from the Simpsons.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    “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.”

    I want full-time 4WD, ideally.

    (And the LSD is less important these days with brake control being able to manage traction, since we live in THE FUTURE.)

  • avatar
    slavuta

    Wasn’t this thing just recently called…. Durango?

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “The GCL is a unibody design with V6 and V8 options while the Wago is body-on-frame and has two V8 choices.”

    Wait, what?

  • avatar
    teddyc73

    Why is the difference between this and the Wagoneer a constant source of confusion for people?

  • avatar
    teddyc73

    The limited number of colors available on this car is really quite stunning and kind of odd. Such a nice, well executed new vehicle and hardly any colors to choose from. No greens, rich browns (bring back Deep Auburn!), steel blues, deep maroons…nothing. Very strange.

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    You don’t need to spend $60k to get 95% of that same content.

    Two good friends of mine bought a JGC L recently (a day apart) and the amount of content you get for $50k is astounding. Tri-zone climate control, 10” screen (which is buttery smooth, not like infotainment from Ford), all LED lighting (again cannot be had on the Ford), a beautiful screen for the gauge cluster (all models get that), adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, heated wheel and seats, dual power front seats, etc. it’s amazing the content you get for the price point.

    This is by far best in class. It’s done to the SUV world what the 2019 Ram did to the truck world.

  • avatar
    Aceman

    I think the Altitude is enough for me. Leather interior, 4×4, single moonroof and black badging. $45K.

  • avatar
    ajla

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

  • avatar
    nrd515

    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.

    • 0 avatar
      EBFlex

      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.

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