After a slight delay due to the ongoing global pandemic, the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L is official. The Grand Cherokee L marks the first all-new Grand Cherokee in nearly a decade and the first to offer three rows of seats. Paired with a new platform and a host of luxurious, the Grand Cherokee L is aiming for the heart of the SUV market.
Starting with the three-row option comes as little surprise. Over 70-percent of sales in the midsize SUV segment consist of three-row haulers. Fiat Chrysler also alleges that Jeep customers have been asking them for a longer, three-row variant of the Grand Cherokee. So, ask and you shall receive. Think of the Grand Cherokee L as Jeep’s direct answer to the Ford Explorer and Chevrolet Traverse.
Given the age of the current WK Grand Cherokee, we’re pleased to say the new one is underpinned by a new architecture. Grand Cherokee L is based on FCA’s Giorgio platform, which underpins the Alfa Romeo Guilia and Stelvio models. This new platform also means the Grand Cherokee remains a rear-wheel-drive based product. Of course, there’s an all-wheel-drive system in tow since this is a Jeep.
Despite over a decade between the penning of the current Grand Cherokee and the new one, the new one is clearly evolutionary. Just about anyone can look at the Grand Cherokee L and identify it as a Grand Cherokee, which is unquestionably intentional on FCA’s part. The only jarring aspect of the vehicle is its added 14-inches of length, which looks slightly out of place on a Grand Cherokee. Seven inches of the added length is between the wheels, which also dramatically changes the exterior proportions.
Interlaced with the Grand Cherokee design bones are new heritage-inspired design traits. Jeep designers say many of the cues are pulled from the original Jeep CJ, such as the the iconic seven-slot grille. Other traits have been pulled from the original Wagoneer, including a lower beltline and a slight dip in the back of the roof. The Wagoneer traits also align the new Grand Cherokee visually with the upcoming Grand Wagoneer for a family theme.
While the exterior is laced with heritage, the interior is quite modern. The centerpiece of the cabin is a new standard 8.4-inch touchscreen display that’s upgradable to a 10.1-inch variant. Regardless of size, both screens are housed in black glass, which contrasts against a plethora of real walnut and oak wood. Various metallic trim pieces and real quilted leather seating also add to a fairly upscale vibe.
Speaking of upscale, front seat passengers will enjoy optional massage functionality, while both front and second rows offer heating and ventilation. Personalized climate zones and air vents in all of the pillars will also ensure comfort for all six or seven passengers.
When hauling six or seven people, there’s still a generous 46.9 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row. Folding down the third row expands the cargo area to 84.6 cubic feet.
Debuting New Tech Features
Grand Cherokee L is ushering in a host of new technologies to the Jeep badge. Both the touchscreen display and 10.3-inch gauge cluster display are powered by a new iteration of UConnect. This new UConnect is based on the Android OS, promising ongoing over-the-air updates. There’s also a new 10-inch heads-up display system to keep drivers engaged.
Jeep is also using the Grand Cherokee L to debut its new partnership with McIntosh. The premium home audio system provider will be providing sound systems for higher-end Jeep products. In the Grand Cherokee L’s case, there is an optional 19-speaker sound system. The McIntosh app allows you to see the audio power meters on the touchscreen.
Multiple devices can serve as DJ in the Grand Cherokee L. Jeep says it will feature wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality. Subsequently, there’s two wireless device chargers and a dozen USB ports throughout the interior. Yes, a dozen.
If there’s any area of slight disappointment with the Grand Cherokee L, it is the engine lineup. At launch buyers will have the familiar choice of FCA’s 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 or the 5.7-liter HEMI V-8. The 3.6-liter generates 290 horsepower and 257 pound-feet of torque, while the HEMI ups it to 357 and 390, respectively. Both engines are mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The more interesting powertrain options are coming later. Jeep has confirmed plans to launch a Grand Cherokee L 4xe later this year. The 4xe will add electric motors to form a plug-in hybrid. One can safely assume Jeep will eventually rollout a more-powerful version of the Grand Cherokee L with the SRT badge as well.
Despite the carryover engines at launch, performance improvements are likely. The Giorgio platform is considerably lighter than the outgoing WK architecture. Jeep is also transitioning the hood and tailgate to aluminum to cut mass, suggesting there will be some fuel efficiency gains.
Built For Off-Roading
The Grand Cherokee L is a big boy, but Jeep is adamant it is still an off-roader. In fact, they claim it was tested on many of the same off-road courses the Wrangler tackles. There are three different flavors all-wheel-drive, all feature an active transfer case that can send torque to any wheel. Optional two-speed transfer cases and a rear electronic limited slip-differential are found on higher-end trim levels.
From a suspension perspective the new Grand Cherokee features front and rear multilink independent suspension and optional air suspension. The air suspension system has been upgraded with electronic adaptive damping, allowing five different ride heights and various modes.
Jeep also claims the Grand Cherokee L has an approach angle of 30.1 degrees with a 23.6-degree departure angle and 22.6-degree breakover angle.
The existing Jeep Grand Cherokee is one of those vehicles that’s defied inertia. It’s nearly a decade old and is still a sales success and critically acclaimed in a way that is just unheard of in a business where five-year product cycles are the norm. Given Jeep’s careful but purposeful approach with this fifth-generation Grand Cherokee, it’s almost a guaranteed success for them.
Sales success will likely be stifled a bit early on given the three-row option is the only option for now. Expect the two-row Grand Cherokee to arrive later this year. Once it and the 4xe hybrid version are launched, the Grand Cherokee becomes one of the most formidable competitors in a cut-throat segment.
The 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L begins production later this quarter.