2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Review

Jack R. Nerad, Independent Expert | Jun 17, 2021

Introduction - Find the best Jeep deals!

The Jeep Grand Cherokee L answers a question many Jeep fans have been asking: When is Jeep going to build another 3-row SUV? The brand has made some quixotic attempts at a 3-row vehicle in the past, but they all failed. 

Now, though, Jeep believes that it has cracked the code that will enable it to build a useful 7-passenger vehicle while still retaining all the attributes that make a vehicle a Jeep. "Worthy of its seven slots" is how vehicle line manager Tom Seel describes the new Grand Cherokee L, which Jeep engineers say will provide more-than-adequate third-row space for adults while maintaining the off-pavement abilities for which the brand's SUVs are known.

However, the all-new 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L doesn't just add seating capacity and call it a day. Instead, it delivers a new level of sophistication and luxury in four trim levels: Laredo, Limited, Overland, and Summit. A Summit Reserve package is also available, providing the ultimate in luxury and equipment.

The new Grand Cherokee L ensures its off-road superiority with three 4-wheel-drive systems: Quadra-Trac I, Quadra-Trac II, and Quadra-Drive II with rear electronic limited slip-differential. The systems feature an active transfer case that channels torque to the wheel with the most grip, one of several features designed to give the Grand Cherokee L serious off-road ability.

The closely related, next-generation 2-row Jeep Grand Cherokee and a 4xe plug-in hybrid version will follow as 2022 models. 

What Owners Say About the Jeep Grand Cherokee - Find the best Jeep deals!

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Limited Red Front Quarter View

Photo: Jack Nerad

According to data collected from verified owners for the J.D Power 2020 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, 62% of Jeep Grand Cherokee buyers are male (vs. 58% for the segment), and the median age of a Grand Cherokee buyer is 54 years (vs. 58).

Owners say their favorite things about the Grand Cherokee are (in descending order) the:

  • Exterior styling
  • Driving feel
  • Feeling of safety and Powertrain (in a tie)
  • Setting up and starting

Owners indicate their least favorite things about the Grand Cherokee are (in descending order) the: 

  • Interior design
  • Driving comfort
  • Getting in and out
  • Infotainment system
  • Fuel economy

In the J.D. Power 2020 APEAL Study, the Grand Cherokee ranked number six out of eight midsize SUVs.

What Our Independent Expert Says About the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L - Find the best Jeep deals!

In the sections that follow, our independent expert provides an analysis of a Jeep Grand Cherokee L Limited equipped with Quadra-Trac I full-time single-speed 4-wheel-drive.

The test vehicle had a suggested retail price of $45,995, plus a $1,695 destination charge.

Getting In and Getting Comfortable

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Limited Red Front Seats

Photo: Jack Nerad

The Grand Cherokee L Limited resides toward the bottom of the model's trim level hierarchy. Still, it has high-quality interior design and materials that could grace a much more expensive vehicle. The interiors of other Grand Cherokee Ls raise the bar even higher.

The test vehicle had standard leather seats with front- and second-row heating. As you ascend the trim ladder, the leather seats grow ever more elaborate and luxurious, culminating in the quilted Palermo chairs included in the Summit Reserve option package.

A panoramic sunroof is optional on the Limited and standard on the two highest trim levels. The Limited-level package that includes the panoramic roof also contains a rear-monitor interior camera system to help the driver keep an eye on the passengers in the back.

The Grand Cherokee L's standard seating arrangement is for six passengers — three rows of two bucket seats. A second-row bench seat accommodating three passengers is optional. Power-adjustable 8-way driver and front passenger seats with adjustable lumbar support are standard on the Limited trim. The driver's and front passenger's seats in Overland and Summit models are 12-way power-adjustable, and seatback massage is available on the Summit trim.

The second-row bucket seats "tip and slide," offering seven inches of fore-and-aft travel. This movement makes entry into the third row a relatively straightforward process, aided by the wide rear doors that open to an impressive 64-degree angle. If child seats are installed in the second-row seats, you need not remove them to enter or exit the third row.

The third-row bucket seats are among the largest and most accommodating in any 3-row vehicle. They will accommodate two adults for long stretches with significantly more headroom than most third-row seats. Power-folding third-row seats are optional. 

Even with a family of seven aboard, the 2021 Grand Cherokee L provides good luggage space. With all three rows of seats in use, it has 17.2 cubic feet of cargo area, enough for six standard carry-on suitcases. With the third row folded, cargo space is 46.9 cubic feet, and with the second and third rows folded, cargo room climbs to 84.6 cubic feet.

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Uconnect 5 Infotainment System Review

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Limited Interior Dashboard

Photo: Jack Nerad

The 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L features Uconnect 5, the brand's fastest and most advanced infotainment management system ever. It is Android-based and enables over-the-air updates. Laredo and Limited trims have 8.4-inch touchscreen displays, while Overland and Summit trims have 10.1-inch touchscreens. All Grand Cherokee Ls, regardless of trim, are fitted with a 10.1-inch digital instrumentation display.

In the test vehicle, the infotainment system included:

  • 8.4-inch touchscreen
  • Apple CarPlay (wireless and wired)
  • Android Auto (wireless and wired)
  • SiriusXM 360L satellite radio
  • Amazon Alexa compatibility
  • Dual smartphone connectivity

The Uconnect 5 NAV systems in the upper Overland and Summit trims add TomTom-powered navigation, SiriusXM real-time traffic information, and SiriusXM Travel Link. A wireless smartphone charging pad is optional as part of a package on all Grand Cherokee L trim levels.

The new Jeep SUV offers two up-level sound systems. An Alpine audio system with nine speakers, a subwoofer, and a 506-watt amplifier is available on the Limited trim and standard on the Overland. A McIntosh high-performance audio sound system with 19 speakers, 10-inch subwoofer, and 17-channel, 950-watt amplifier is part of a package on the Overland, a standalone option on the Summit model, and included in the Summit Reserve package.

No matter their size, the Grand Cherokee L's infotainment touchscreens are well-located and immediately intuitive. The configurable and highly legible digital driver information cluster is another solid plus. A customizable color head-up display supplements it, so information is hard to miss.

The Uconnect series of operating systems have been highly praised through the years, and the Grand Cherokee L's Uconnect 5 version continues in that tradition. For various tasks that included phone calls, navigation, podcast listening, and satellite radio information, it was simple to use and required no learning curve. As infotainment systems go, it is top of the charts.

What It's Like to Drive the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Limited Red Side View

Photo: Jack Nerad

The American new-car market is filled with midsize 3-row SUVs, and now it has another one. But the primary differentiator of the Jeep Grand Cherokee L is its superior off-road ability. Many crossover SUVs hint at off-roading with all-wheel-drive systems and reasonably high ground clearance. But the Grand Cherokee L walks the walk in ways that the others don't.

One example is the availability of not just one 4-wheel-drive system but three. Another is the Quadra-Lift air suspension system that is available on the Overland and Summit trims. Yet another is the Off-road Group option package that includes skid plates for the fuel tank, transfer case, underbody, and front suspension plus electronic limited-slip rear differential.

What Jeep engineers and designers have accomplished in the Grand Cherokee L is putting together a vehicle that is perfectly appropriate for shuttling kids to softball practice while at the same time endowing it with serious rock-crawling and water-fording abilities that others in the class can't match. That is a difficult trick to pull off.

Are there tradeoffs? Yes, most notably the Grand Cherokee L's highway ride, which isn't quite as comfy as some crossovers that suburbanites might also consider. The steering is responsive, and the brakes are solid and well-measured, but the Grand Cherokee L is not as agile as some others in the midsize SUV class when roads turn twisty. But with its advanced array of driver aids like Active Driving Assist – Jeep's name for its Level 2 hands-on-the-wheel automated driving capability – the Grand Cherokee is an excellent choice for extended Interstate cruising.

The Grand Cherokee's powertrain choices aren't as leading-edge as is much of its technology, but they perform the job admirably. The base and primary engine is a tried-and-true 3.6-liter naturally aspirated V6. It delivers 293 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Backing the engine was an 8-speed automatic transmission, standard across the entire Grand Cherokee L lineup.

Base models are rear-drive, but the test vehicle had the Quadra-Trac I full-time single-speed 4WD system. A 5.7-liter, 357-horsepower V8 engine is optional on the Limited, Overland, and Summit 4WD trims. Two more sophisticated 4WD systems — Quadra-Trac II active 4WD with 2-speed transfer case and hill-descent control and Quadra-Drive II with electronic limited-slip differential — are available on the top trims.

Negotiating challenging obstacles that included mud pits, logs, steep grades, and boulder-strewn hills at Stellantis' Chelsea Proving Grounds, a properly equipped Overland model passed every test. The Selec-Terrain system helped by offering five driving modes — Auto, Sport, Rock, Snow, and Mud/Sand — but the key was the vehicle's ruggedness, ground clearance, traction, and skid plates.

The Grand Cherokee L starts with a suspension engineered to deal with the rigors of serious off-roading as well as the comfort demands of driving to the big-box store on a Saturday afternoon. It uses multi-link suspension front and rear. A shock-to-shock tower brace improves lateral stiffness in its area by 125 percent. Beyond that, the optional air suspension takes it all to an even higher level, enabling near-instantaneous adjustment of ride height, among its other tricks.

One of the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L beauties is that all its systems go about their work silently, unobtrusively, and effectively, enabling the driver and passenger to enjoy excellent comfort and uncommon convenience.

 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Active Driving Assist Review

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Limited Active Driving Assist

Photo: Jack Nerad

The Jeep Grand Cherokee L offers a virtually unprecedented array of electronic advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS) for a vehicle in its class. 

Leading the list is the hands-on-the-wheel Active Driving Assist that offers Level 2 semi-autonomous driving using lane-centering technology combined with adaptive cruise control. Jeep promises a hands-free version of the Level 2 system is forthcoming late in 2021 on 2022 model-year vehicles. Beyond that, another compelling driving aid is a night-vision camera system available on Overland and Summit models.

All 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee Ls have the following standard ADAS features:

  • Forward collision warning with pedestrian and cyclist detection
  • Automatic emergency braking 
  • Lane-departure warning
  • Blind-spot warning
  • Rear cross-traffic warning
  • Lane-keeping assistance
  • Adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability

The following features are optionally available:

  • Driver attention monitor
  • Traffic sign recognition
  • Intersection turn assistance

On a southeastern Michigan Interstate highway, the Level 2 automated driving assist in a Summit model proved its worth. It was easy to deploy, and it did an excellent job of maintaining the set interval between the Grand Cherokee and vehicles ahead in the same lane, slowing and steering the vehicle as necessary.

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L FAQ - Find the best Jeep deals!

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Limited Red Cargo Space

Photo: Jack Nerad

How much cargo space does the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L have?

The 2021 Grand Cherokee L has 17.2 cubic feet of cargo area behind the third-row seatbacks. With the third row folded, cargo space is 46.9 cubic feet, and with the second and third rows folded space climbs to 84.6 cubic feet. 

Optional power-fold third-row seats offer versatility in positioning people and cargo. The optional power rear liftgate offers programmable height, so you don't smash it into the rafters of your garage.

Does the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L get good gas mileage?

The 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L with the standard V6 engine is EPA-rated to get 21 miles per gallon in combined driving in rear-drive form. Interestingly, that figure remains the same with 4WD. The 4WD-only V8-equipped Grand Cherokee L is rated at 17 mpg combined.

It was impossible to conduct a comprehensive fuel-economy test during the test day with various Jeep Grand Cherokee L models. Observed fuel economy over the test drive route using Jeep's instrumentation was 20 mpg.

With a 23-gallon fuel tank, the Grand Cherokee L V6 will have a range of 400-450 miles on a full tank of fuel in cross-country driving.

Is the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L safe?

Because the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L is so new, at this writing, it has not been safety rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

How much is the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L?

The base 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Laredo has a starting MSRP of $36,995 for rear-wheel drive and $38,995 for 4x4 models. The top-of-the-line Grand Cherokee L Summit starts at $56,995, with the Summit Reserve starting at $61,995. All prices do not include the $1,695 destination charge.

What are the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L competitors?

In the J.D. Power 2020 Initial Quality Study (IQS), the Kia Sorento ranked highest in the Upper Midsize SUV segment. The Dodge Durango and the Toyota Highlander were the next highest-ranked models.

In the J.D. Power 2020 Automotive Performance, Execution, and Layout Study (APEAL), the Kia Telluride ranked highest in the Upper Midsize SUV segment. The Hyundai Palisade and the Dodge Durango were the next highest-ranked models.

Other competitors to the 2021 Grand Cherokee L include the Chevrolet TraverseFord Explorer, and Honda Pilot.

Independent Expert Opinion - Find the best Jeep deals!

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Limited Red Rear Quarter View

Photo: Jack Nerad

The all-new Grand Cherokee L accomplishes the challenging task of delivering Jeep-level off-road capabilities with the ride quality, creature comforts, and advanced safety items its customers will demand. Not only that, it looks great inside and out, bringing a high-water mark in luxury to the segment.

One thing is sure: This is no Wrangler Unlimited. It boasts a level of urban sophistication that the "original Jeep" doesn't aspire to and couldn't be bothered with. Jeep executives are pretty candid about the fact that most Grand Cherokee L buyers will rarely, if ever, use all the capabilities the vehicle boasts. But at the same time, they believe those buyers like to know they are there if needed.

Jeep worked a long time on a 3-row vehicle before they got it right, but they did get it right in the 2021 Grand Cherokee L.

Jack R. Nerad has been road testing and writing about vehicles for decades for Web and print publications, including JDPower.com and others. He has a weekly podcast called America on the Road, and his work has appeared in scores of prestigious newspapers, magazines, and online publications.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2022 J.D. Power

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