Of Jeep's many SUV offerings, none so effortlessly blends the brand's off-road ethos with refinement and luxury quite like the Grand Cherokee. For 2021, Jeep is adding an all-new L model to the lineup with three rows of seats that's built on an entirely new mechanical platform. The current two-row version returns this year virtually unchanged and will likely migrate to the new platform in 2022. (Yes, it's a little confusing.) To accommodate every lifestyle, Jeep offers both two- and three-row models in a variety of trims, from the affordable Laredo to the classy Summit. The standard V-6 should suit most buyers' needs, but for buyers who want more grunt, Jeep offers a potent V-8. Those with off-road adventure on their minds should consider the Trailhawk, which comes with a two-speed transfer case, an electronically controlled limited-slip rear differential, hill-descent control, an air suspension that provides additional ground clearance and tires better suited for rough terrain. Inside, the Grand Cherokee offers a comfortable cabin with plenty of convenience and luxury features. A touchscreen infotainment system and lots of connectivity tech help keep the GC current, but Jeep's driver-assistance tech is mostly optional—even though several of its rivals offer such features as standard.
What's New for 2021?
This year marks the beginning of a new generation of Grand Cherokee with the arrival of the three-row L model. It makes its debut alongside the 2021 two-row model, which carries over from 2020 with few changes. The two-row Grand Cherokee is expected to switch over to the all-new platform for the 2022 model year and should feature the same tech and luxury upgrades as the 2021 L model shown here. Jeep hasn't released pricing for the new Grand Cherokee L yet, but we expect a starting price under $40,000.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
We think it's worth it to put the new generation three-row Grand Cherokee L in your garage this year rather than the outgoing two-row model. Of the four trim levels the new model is offered in, the Limited should best balance features and pricing. Luxuries such as a power-operated rear liftgate, automatic high-beam headlamps, remote start, interior ambient lighting, driver memory settings, leather upholstery, and heated second row seats seem well worth the cost of the upgrade.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Your Grand Cherokee will come with a V-6 unless you opt for the V-8, available only on Limited trims and above. The base engine pulls strongly and transmits very little vibration into the cabin, so it's the powerplant we prefer. Although we haven't yet driven the all-new three-row Grand Cherokee L, the V-6 has proven to be well matched to the two-row Grand Cherokee's heft, and it does an admirable job of motivating this SUV around town and on the highway. No matter the configuration, the Grand Cherokee has brawny towing capacity—6200 pounds for V-6 models, 7200 pounds with the V-8—that kicks its usefulness up another notch. We have driven the older two-row model extensively and can tell you that there's nothing sporty about it. Rough stretches of pockmarked pavement send shivers through the chassis and into the cabin, something we are hoping will be addressed in the all-new L model. For those seeking the ultimate in GC performance, check out the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, which we review separately.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
With the V-6 under its hood, the two-row Grand Cherokee is fuel efficient by SUV standards. In our testing, its highway fuel-economy score of 25 mpg held true to its EPA rating. The V-8 may have greater towing capacity, but it's noticeably thirstier. EPA fuel economy estimates for the all-new Grand Cherokee L have not yet been released.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Stepping into the Grand Cherokee's cabin provides either a sense of ruggedness or luxury— depending on the model. In the older two-row model, Jeep designers use soft-touch materials and leather where it counts—armrests, upper door panels, the dashboard—but hard plastic persists elsewhere. In comparison, the newer L model benefits from a much more modern interior design and materials that appear to be a cut above. Behind its second row of seats, the two-row Grand Cherokee has space for 11 carry-on cases. That count expands to 24 when we fold the rear seat, which splits in a 60/40 fashion; the operation is neat and tidy, too, requiring just one action to release the headrest and flop the seat down to its flat position. We haven't had the chance to test out the all-new Grand Cherokee L, but we expect more luggage space in this longer variant with the third row of seats stowed. When we get a Grand Cherokee L in for testing, we'll update this story with results.
Infotainment and Connectivity
Jeep's excellent Uconnect infotainment system is one of our favorites for its ease of use and snappy response times. In the two-row Grand Cherokee, a dinky 5.0-inch display is standard; we'd recommend stepping up to the large 8.4-inch touchscreen in that model. The all-new Grand Cherokee L boasts a 10.1-inch infotainment touchscreen as standard, which can be upgraded with optional in-dash navigation. Available rear-seat entertainment and in-car Wi-Fi make the Grand Cherokee a movie theater on wheels. While a six-speaker audio system is the base setup on both the two- and three-row models, an array of more advanced options—including a six-speaker Boston Acoustics stereo, a nine-speaker Alpine system, a 19-speaker Harman/Kardon setup, and a 19-speaker McIntosh high-performance arrangement—are all available on certain trims.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The two-row Grand Cherokee did not perform well in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) small-overlap front crash test, something we expect to be remedied with the incoming new generation model. The Grand Cherokee L has not been tested by the IIHS or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) but we expect it to undergo those agency's evaluations soon. Both the two-row and new three-row models offer a comprehensive list of optional driver-assistance features. Key safety features include:
- Available automated emergency braking
- Available lane-departure warning
- Available adaptive cruise control
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
The Jeep's warranty is nothing special. The Kia Sorento and the Hyundai Santa Fe both provide much better plans, including 10-year powertrain warranties and five years of bumper-to-bumper coverage. However, all 2021 models do come with three years of free maintenance.
- Limited warranty covers three years or 36,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers five years or 60,000 miles
- Three years of complimentary scheduled maintenance is included