It was high time the old (but still very good) Jeep Grand Cherokee experienced a full redesign, having been around since way back in 2011. Ten years is a long time in car years, so the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee had to accomplish a lot, on top of an already well-reviewed fourth-generation SUV. We got to drive the new three-row version of the new Grand Cherokee in the near-top Overland trim.
For the record, it's not just a Grand Cherokee with a third row crammed in. The objective was to create a true three-row space for families. It's still technically a mid-size SUV, but it's larger than most with 30.3 inches of third-row legroom and impressive best-in-class 39.7 inches of second-row legroom. Not only is the L's wheelbase is 6.9 inches longer than the last Grand Cherokee, but it's also five inches longer in wheelbase than the new two-row, so it truly is upsized and potential buyers should take note.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee L has two powertrain choices. The first is a 296-horsepower V6, and then there's the optional HEMI V8 engine good for 357 horsepower. Both are mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. Here's the breakdown of our Overland-trim tester in terms of powertrain and pricing:
- Engine: 5.7L V8 HEMI MDS VVT Engine
- Horsepower: 357
- Torque: 390 lb-ft
- Transmission: 8-Speed Automatic
- Base Price: $55,635
- As-Tested Price: $68,365
Styling: Jeep and Then Some
There was nothing wrong with the last Jeep Grand Cherokee. We honestly loved (and still love) it for its toughness, versatility, power, and its styling. The styling of the last Grand Cherokee held up remarkably well, but it was due for a redesign or at least a significant refresh. The L takes the design language of the two-row Grand Cherokee and provides additional elegance via length.
The signature Jeep grille is still present but wider and more refined. The taillights are streamlined, and some character has been added with the inner indentation. In Overland trim, the fender trim matches the body color for a truly upscale look.
The flat hood is nicely creased in the right places, and the leading edge meets with the top of the grille openings. There are some eyebrow DLRs over the LED headlights, and the lower grille/fascial includes tow hooks and the LED fog lights. We especially like the single crease that extends from the outer edge of the headlights all the way to the tail section.
While the overall Jeep Grand Cherokee look carries over in a fresh form, it's clear that Jeep was going for a more upscale look in both the two-row and three-row versions. We think they pulled off the exterior look well, and it goes up against the likes of the Kia Telluride, Ford Explorer, Volkswagen Atlas, Honda Pilot, and Dodge Durango. Not only does the new Grand Cherokee L still embody the Jeep ethos well, but it also manages to echelon up to a premium level in its style.
Interior: Kingly Appointments
If you were to step inside the Jeep Grand Cherokee L's interior without seeing the exterior, you would never guess this was a Jeep. The new SUV has gone all posh and tech-y on us, and we're pretty impressed with both the look and feel. Whereas the old Grand Cherokee used a lot of bulky plastics, the new model might as well have come out of Europe with its expansive and linear dashboard, beautiful center stack and controls, and contrast stitching all over the seats and cabin.
The standard features list in the Overland trim is tremendous. It includes 20-inch alloy wheels, adaptive suspension, a hands-free liftgate, branded puddle lights, front parking sensors, self-dimming/auto-tilt driver’s-side mirror, dual-pane panoramic sunroof with power shade, perforated Nappa leather seating surfaces, heated/ventilated front seats, a power-adjustable steering column, 5-color ambient cabin lighting, wood trim, and satellite navigation.
In terms of space, there's seating for six (Captain's chairs are standard on the Overland), but you can opt for a bench seat in row two. There's a whopping 39.4 inches of second-row legroom, and the third row has 30.3 inches of legroom, mostly suitable for kids or shorter adults. Again, this is a mid-sized SUV, not a full-sizer like a Chevy Suburban. The second row Captain's Chairs are excellent with good adjustability and gobs of space. If you don't need to maximize passenger capacity, this is the way to go.
The cargo space is better than most mid-sizers with 17.2 cubic feet behind row three, 46.9 behind row two, and a very capacious 84.6 cubes with the seats folded flat. That's right up there with the big Hyundai Palisade.
The great news in terms of tech is, first, that there are two big screens: a 10.25-inch configurable digital driver information display and a 10.1-inch infotainment touchscreen. The updated Uconnect 5.0 system also allows for personalization for up to five users. The system works well, looks more refined and better organized than any prior Uconnect system, and has a nice angled position on the dash.
The system also has standard Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, Amazon Alexa compatibility, satellite radio, 12 USB ports throughout the interior (USB-C included), voice control, and over-the-air software updates. The premium McIntosh audio system in our tester was optional and boasts 19-speakers and a 17-channel amplifier. Sound quality is truly excellent and worth the additional $1,495.
We really liked the rotary gear selector knob that has great grip and actuation. The fact that it's taller than most other knobs makes it really easy to find and operate without looking. The drive mode and ride height levers flank the gear shift knob and are similarly easy to use. We also applaud the central location of all of these driving-related controls. In terms of safety features, there's full-speed forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian/cyclist detection, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-path detection, rear parking sensors with automatic braking, lane-keeping assistance, and adaptive cruise control with full stop and go.
The Overland also gets off-road tires, an upgraded 4-wheel-drive system, 4-zone automatic climate control, massaging front seats, a 360-degree view camera system, intersection assistance, and Active Driving Assist that works with the adaptive cruise control to keep you centered in your lane and distanced from the vehicle in front of you. The system works very well, and the operation is very smooth. The $68,365 price tag of our tester might seem high, but you get quite a bit for the money.
The Driving Experience: Powerful and Commanding
One thing Jeep didn't do is get rid of the V8 option. When a lot of automakers are killing V8s in favor of turbo V6s, it's great to see the Grand Cherokee L with the available 357 hp V8 that's powerful, smooth, and sonorous. It's actually really the only good choice for the Grand Cherokee L, as we imagine the non-turbo V6 doesn't have enough gumption to move the two-and-a-half ton vehicle quickly enough, especially when the added weight of kids and gear come into play. .
In terms of that weight management, the adaptive suspension, great brakes, and good body control make the large Grand Cherokee L quite easy to drive. The steering is also good, and there's good precision in its operation. Most vehicles this size are ponderous and floaty, but the Grand Cherokee L is near the other end of the spectrum without compromising ride quality. The fact that the Overland has an upgraded off-road system is icing on the cake and very much Jeep. Too bad we didn't get a chance to test it out.
Is the Jeep Grand Cherokee L Worth Your Money?
There are a lot of choices out there when it comes to mid-size three-row SUVs. Most of them, frankly, are more crossovers than they are rugged SUVs. What the Jeep Grand Cherokee L Overland provides is a truly off-road capable machine that can also do urban commutes and weekend family outings with ease. Jeep has created a powerful, handsome, spacious, and tech-laden beast of burden that should draw buyers who want an SUV that can handle the rough stuff. It's definitely worth a look.