2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L front driving

Jeep is ushering in the next-generation Grand Cherokee starting with the three-row version Grand Cherokee L. It will be followed by a two-row version, as the current model is retired.

This new SUV promises to bring added sophistication to the moniker, while persevering the brand’s go-anywhere reputation. The carryover powertrains behind the distinct seven-slot grille will be familiar to loyalists as will the V6 and V8 engines. The interior presents a major upgrade with a modern design and many convenience features. The SUV comes with a generous list of standard active safety systems. It will also offer a night vision camera with infrared sensors that can detect pedestrians, and later in the year hands-free driver assistance will become available.

The 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L will be built at the new Detroit Assembly Complex, known as the Mack Plant.

This new era for the company is bringing fresh SUVs. Here is what we know about this one so far.

What it competes with: Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride, Toyota Highlander, Volkswagen Atlas
What it looks like: A cross between the current two-row Grand Cherokee and the Grand Wagoneer concept.
Powertrains: 3.6-liter V6 and 5.7-liter V8 with an 8-speed automatic transmission; rear- and four-wheel drive.
Price: $40,000-$60,000 (estimated)
On sale: Spring 2021  

CR's Take

The current Grand Cherokee has benefited from its long production run, enabling a promising model to steadily improve over time. It is a well-rounded vehicle, with a quiet, well-finished cabin, composed ride, and impressive towing capability with the V8.

One notable shortcoming has been fuel economy. Jeep has aimed to address this through aggressive use of lightweight aluminum and steel throughout the body and components, such as engine mounts, steering gear, and shock mounts.

Moving the Grand Cherokee into the three-row arena will put it on many more shopping lists. There continues to be strong interest in family-focused models, such as the Honda Pilot, Kia Telluride, and Toyota Highlander. The new Grand might even attract potential customers for the BMW X7 and Mercedes-Benz GLS.

Jeep is doubling down on the large luxury SUV segment, with a Wagoneer to follow that will compete directly with the Chevrolet Tahoe and Ford Expedition, and an even more upscale version dubbed Grand Wagoneer positioned against the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator.

SUV buyers attracted to the Jeep brand for its capabilities, heritage, and lifestyle will find much to like in this new, feature-rich offering. 

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L pair

Outside

The exterior draws clear influence from the current model, with its simple, squared-off lines. But it feels fresh, thanks to elements borrowed from the Grand Wagoneer concept, such as the contrasting roof, rear pillar shape, upright grille, and use of chrome. The wheel arches again have a somewhat squared shape.

The body has a masculine shape, with simple sculpting. The contrasting roof, when so equipped, looks a bit like a toupée.

Following Jeep trends, aside from the Wrangler, the LED headlights and taillights are horizontal. Even the seven-slot grille is rather short, offset by a large lower grille opening.

The Grand Cherokee L measures 205 inches, bumper to bumper, making it 15 inches longer than the current Grand Cherokee and similar to the Chevrolet Traverse. Ground clearance is 8.5 inches.  

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L interior

Inside

The cabin, also reminiscent of the Grand Wagoneer Concept, looks inviting and modern, and arguably a bit more upscale than some rivals. Of course, the presentation will vary across the Laredo, Limited, Overland, and Summit trim levels. Among the luxe touches is abundant ambient lighting that can be cast in a choice of five colors on top trim versions.

The chief attraction is the 8.4-inch or 10.1-inch screen that houses the Uconnect 5 infotainment system. FCA has shined with its Uconnect system in other models, for its clear graphics and ease of use.

Two seating configurations can accommodate six or seven passengers. The driver’s seats on top trims have 16-way adjustments, with heat and massage functions. Second-row heated seats are available. To help everyone stay comfortable, there are four climate zones: two for front, and one for each other row.

Top trims can rock out to a 19-speaker audio system from Mcintosh, a company known for their premium, and pricey, stereos. 

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L back seat

What Drives It

The core powertrains carry over from the current two-row Grand Cherokee. This means the base engine is the ubiquitous 290-horsepower, 3.6-liter V6 that is used throughout the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles portfolio. As with several other models, the step up is a 5.7-liter V8, here putting out 357 horsepower. Both engines are mated with an eight-speed automatic transmission. A plug-in hybrid version, badged 4xe, is expected to be added later. Such a powertrain is offered for 2021 on the Jeep Wrangler.

Tow capacities are up to 6,200 pounds for the V6 and up to 7,200 pounds for the V8.

There are three four-wheel-drive systems offered ranging from a single-speed transfer case to low-range gearing and a locking rear differential. To further tailor the SUV to road or trail conditions, there are several driver-selectable modes that adjust the engine, transmission, steering, and on some variations, the suspension. These modes include Auto, Sport, Mud/Sand, Rock, and Snow.

The Grand Cherokee uses an all-new architecture, with front and rear independent suspensions. An available air suspension will enable the driver to lower the vehicle for access and raise it to a 10.9-inch maximum ground clearance.  

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L cargo area

Safety and Driver Assistance Systems

All Grand Cherokee L trims will be equipped with automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, blind spot warning, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, rear cross traffic warning, and adaptive cruise control.

A head-up display and night vision camera with infrared sensors to detect heat signatures of pedestrians and animals will be offered.

Later this year, Jeep will offer a hands-free driver assistance system that operates at all speeds, with lane centering, on approved roads. The system will adjust speed for curves automatically. It will take control only when it knows the driver is paying attention.  

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L rear