In the world of reliable, affordable off-roaders, the Jeep Grand Cherokee has long reigned supreme. Take a glance at Jeep’s website, and they’ll proudly call their mid-size adventure vehicle “the most awarded SUV ever.” But is that due to change? 2021 brings a new set of GCs to the mix, specifically the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L, a more enhanced and partially redesigned effort that could be the best yet, or take the SUV in the wrong direction.
This larger, three-row version of their more compact adventure SUV offers more seating and cargo room, but some may fear that it loses something in the process, something like leisurely on-road driving and responsive off-road driving, for instance. While the regular-old Grand Cherokee has also been a long-standing favorite for SUV drivers on a budget, the 2021 Grand Cherokee L charges more for the extra feet you get. Is it still worth the price? Take a close look at the top features you’re getting from the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L, some of the controversial views it has garnered, and our take on this new, 5th-generation Cherokee.
A Brief Overview of the Grand Cherokee L
For those unfamiliar, the new Grand Cherokee L is Jeep’s bridge between large, family SUVs, borderline vans, and the same lightweight, all-terrain perks you get from their smaller vehicles like the standard Grand Cherokee. It’s a three-row SUV with seating for up to seven passengers and is actually Jeep’s first vehicle in this body style for several years. The L edition will offer two different engines and a host of available off-road equipment.
Of course, this bulked-up vehicle is priced higher than the smaller Grand Cherokee, over $6,000 higher, that is. However, it starts at under $40,000, meaning that it’s not too outrageous for most families. After all, let’s not forget that some truck brands charge tens of thousands more for their roomier, heavy-duty models. While pricing seems fair enough, there’s still the question of the Grand Cherokee L’s capability.
Why Go Bigger?
One may wonder why Jeep decided to extend the Grand Cherokee rather than the more family-oriented Compass. It seems that Jeep wanted their newer, heftier offering to ride on the back of the already-popular Grand Cherokee – don’t forget its “most awarded” designation. This may make the Grand Cherokee L seem like the perfect balance of a roomy, 7-seater cabin with the kind of all-terrain preparedness you’d expect from a smaller SUV by Jeep.
Some large SUVs are content with being fully family-oriented rather than adventurous and off-the-beaten-path. Nobody expects to come across a Honda Odyssey or Ford Explorer while on their morning hike, nor would anybody expect an entire family to cram into the two-row Grand Cherokee. Rather, this new Jeep is branding itself as the do-it-all SUV. How successful is it, though? Let’s start with performance.
Driving the 2021 Grand Cherokee L
The L edition has classic Jeep looks, with a tapered exterior and dominant, seven-slot front grille that spell adventure. This isn’t just a commuter SUV; it’s designed to do much more. Take a look at its two available engines: a 3.6-liter V-6 is standard, while you can upgrade to a 5.7-liter V-8 that offers more horsepower and torque. The V-8 is particularly responsive and fast, especially if you enable the optional Sport mode setting.
Despite all this driving power, you also get towing strength with a respectable 7,200-pound maximum capacity. The Grand Cherokee L has available towing equipment that optimizes it to haul more cargo, so you can take advantage of its roomier interior while also towing a trailer or off-road vehicles. That’s more capability than you get from the more compact Grand Cherokee.
As for drivetrains, choose from three 4×4 systems, each of which is designed for different drivers. The Quadra-Trac I system can automatically transition from two-wheel to four-wheel drive giving you the efficiency of two-wheel and better traction of four-wheel when each is appropriate. Quadra-Trac II provides a 2-speed transfer case with maximum power, while Quadra-Drive offers maximum 4×4 capability with a rear electronic limited-slip differential. The latter also provides smooth air suspension and a range of up to 10.9 inches of ground clearance.
Can It Veer Off the Beaten Path?
Jeep advertises the 2021 Grand Cherokee L in all kinds of wild scenarios, like splashing through a river or grinding up a mountain trail. Should you actually treat a Grand Cherokee L this way? The answer, surprisingly, may be yes.
This Jeep is equipped with the off-roader features you’d expect, like the available Selec-Terrain Management System that can adjust to five different driving conditions: Rock, Snow, Mud/Sand, Auto, and Sport. That’s more modes than you get from Ford’s Terrain Management System and more intuitive controls as well, thanks to its simple toggle switch and mode displays. Meanwhile, extra tech like Hill Descent control and optimized wheelbases improve maneuverability and control even in tough surroundings.
Upgrade to the Overland trim of the Grand Cherokee L for even more all-terrain features, like higher articulation levels that keep all four tires in contact with the ground. That means stability and a smooth ride on uneven trails. The Grand Cherokee L is also water-capable, built to withstand up to two feet of water thanks to its water fording capability. Ultimately, these features take care of any off-road driver’s biggest concerns on wild terrain; this large SUV has you covered.
Three Rows of Functionality
It turns out that the 2021 Grand Cherokee L may live up to its smaller, more experienced counterparts in the Jeep lineup, at least when it comes to off-roading. However, let’s also look at how successfully this vehicle acts as a family bus. First of all, its elongated shape doesn’t betray the interior: you get up to 47 cubic feet of storage behind the second row or a max of 85 cubic feet of cargo volume thanks to its flat-folding seats that give you a smooth load floor. All three rows of seating are generous, so up to six full-size adults can ride along with you. Sliding seats make access to all three rows a breeze, and there’s enough infotainment technology like music streaming to keep two rows of children in their seats.
Safety is a definite concern for family driving, to which Jeep responds with a suite of 110 safety features, a few standard with most available by upgrade. These features include staples of any 2021 vehicle, like Full-Speed Collision Warning, Blind Spot Monitoring, and Active Braking. However, you get some signature touches, too, like Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop and Go. This cruise control system keeps you appropriately spaced from preceding vehicles according to the following distance you set and will even stop or slow down to prevent rear-ending.
The 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L may be a new addition to the Jeep family, but we anticipate that this big SUV will be around for quite some time. It’s a welcome option for those who want to combine large cargo bays and extra passenger seating with all the off-road capability you’d expect from Jeep. Those who take care of a large family but still have one foot in the wild years of the youth would love this vehicle that does it all – commutes in the city and sears through the countryside. Jeep just may have released its most versatile vehicle yet.