This is the Jeep for the long haul.
A lifetime ago I dreamed of the Jeep Grand Cherokee L. The one that I could pile my kids, our dogs and all our stuff— beach chairs, coolers, luggage, toys—into and head to the beach to unplug and reconnect. To be a family, to let those precious moments unfold. And to be unrestricted by the travel rules of airlines, hotels or resorts.
It’s why we drive.
I was more than excited when Jeep introduced (finally!) the first Grand Cherokee with a third row: The Jeep Grand Cherokee L. L stands for Long… as in a longer wheel base and body to accommodate that third row, and it’s also larger and more comfortable for all passengers, especially those in the third row. This modern Jeep has grown up a bit, with a more elegant and refined look, inside and out. But, at it’s heart it’s still the hardy Jeep we know and love.
Related: Longer, Larger and More Luxe: The 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L 3 Row SUV Will Rock Your World
Putting the Jeep Grand Cherokee L to the Test: Making the Long Haul with Kids, Dogs and Stuff
We got a chance to really put the Jeep Grand Cherokee L, with a starting price of about $38,000 and topping out at about $64,000 for the model we drove, to the test on a long-awaited family vacation. We sought time together, to amble through a road trip, make plans based on the weather forecast, follow what the family activities vote yielded, make last minute decisions. Things you can’t always do when you’re hemmed in by flights, hotels and car rentals. Jeep calls it “Freedom” in its new ad campaign, and while that’s true, it goes beyond that. The Jeep Grand Cherokee L gives you freedom to bring everyone and everything along.
So, what does that freedom really look like? When I first got a short test drive of the Jeep Grand Cherokee L I was impressed with many things: the space, the elegant design, the new UConnect 5 media system, the ease of driving this larger, more refined Jeep. And, the off road experience, which is stellar. At its heart, it’s a Jeep and all that Jeep promises.
And while yes, it’s impressive that this car can traverse almost any off road terrain that the Wrangler can, the truth is we mostly need 4WD to command the daily good and bad: winter snowstorms, rutted driveways and sandy beaches.
Related: Jeep Brought Back the Wagoneer (and Jeep Grand Wagoneer) and There is A lot to Love. These are Our Top 11
Family Time in the Jeep Grand Cherokee L: Teens, Dogs and Gear
The Summit edition that we drove during our week with the Jeep Grand Cherokee L had the ideal features for families with teens and who occasionally need a third row for friends or grandparents. The third row was easy to get in and out of and when folded flat, gave us lots of space for all our stuff. In fact, it’s so large that we were able to pile in all the luggage, beach chairs, totes, groceries and more and still had plenty of rear window visibility. That’s something I really appreciate, especially when stopping along the way and backing, turning and merging on unfamiliar roads.
There are several key things, though, that made this car great for our daughters: captains chairs in the center row, lots of charge ports, the McIntosh premium sound system and the panoramic sun roof. Once we were all tucked into our seats and on our way, the girls were able to put on a playlist for all of us to enjoy, stretch out and take a nap and until the sun was too hot and we had to close the screen over the panoramic sun roof, enjoy an open and airy cabin.
Can This Third Row Really Accommodate Passengers? How About Car Seats?
We took a side trip with my cousin Cory and his kids, littles who need car seats. He wanted to put the kids in the third row so he and his wife Paola could ride more comfortably in the center row. I honestly didn’t think this was a great idea; would the car seats be impossible to install? Could the kids get into the third row by themselves? And what about securing their harnesses so they are safe?
Well, turns out he had the right idea. He easily slid the center row seats forward (which will slide and forward and tilt even with a car seat LATCH installed), installed the kids car seats and attached them to the rear tethers (there are not LATCH anchors in the third row, so the seats were secured with the car’s seat belts). The kids climbed into the third row and buckled their harnesses; Cory could easily check their work to ensure they were properly buckled. And, I really loved how I could see those darling faces in the rear view mirror; the added height of the third row seats plus their car seats practically put them on a stage. I could chat with them (thanks to a speaker system that allows first and third row passengers to hear each other) and see their faces plainly. At first I was doubtful that a family with three kids could use the third row on a daily basis if their kids are still in car seats but now, I’m sure it’ll work. The one bit of advice I might offer is to skip the center row middle console, an option that was installed on our test model. Having that pass-through space makes getting into the third row faster and easier.
The Third Row Is Nicely Planned for Big Kids, Too
And how was third row seating for taller passengers? Well, I can only speak for myself, and, it’s fine. I tested it out, finding it easy enough to climb in and out of with lots of head room and leg room. And, I liked that the third row is accessible via a tab on the center seat’s shoulder. Pull it up to slide and tilt the seat forward to get in, to position the center seat once you’re in and to move the seat again to get out. Plus, third row passengers have cup holders large enough to hold a cell phone or a big water bottle, there are four USB ports (one USB C and one standard port on each side) and climate vents. In all it’s a well done third row.
Bigger and Overland-able, But Not Oversized
The Jeep Grand Cherokee L is big, but it’s not huge. Sitting along side some other full size SUVs, it’s slightly smaller and for normal driving conditions, not as tall. However, it has an air suspension system that allows you to add height when you need it, which we did when we went to the beach. I loved that I could park in almost any parking space and on the road it had a lot of visibility—including forward and rear facing cameras that we could access while driving.
We took the Jeep Grand Cherokee L to St. Augustine Beach, a beach that allows cars but recommends 4×4 capability. Vehicles are relegated to the area next to the dunes; the sand is soft and deep and cars can get stuck. Only pedestrians are allowed on the hard-packed sand closer to the surf line.
Looking at the deep rutted trails left by the SUVs and pickups that had been through that day, I thought I might need to put the Jeep Grand Cherokee L into 4 low mode. But first, I adjusted the suspension to its next to highest setting to give us plenty of clearance over the ruts. And from there, I just drove in Auto mode which uses full time 4 wheel drive and adapts to the road conditions. And it was great. I didn’t feel any wheel slip or that heart -wrenching loss of traction that triggers your deepest fears of getting stuck. The Jeep Grand Cherokee L was completely in control.
Cleaning Up the Jeep Grand Cherokee L is Easy, Peasy
After our road trip, excursion and beach time, I felt compelled to take the Jeep Grand Cherokee L to the local carwash for a quick clean up before we headed home. I always find that a mid-trip clean up makes it easier to get the car clean once you get home and keeps you from brining home unwanted souvenirs, like sand and empty water bottles. I took the Jeep Grand Cherokee L to a local carwash and ran it through, then hit the vacuum station.
The leather seats cleaned up easily with a cleaning cloth and the mats, once removed, were super easy to vacuum. But maybe the easiest was cleaning the third row: pushing the center row seats forward (that lovely shoulder tab!) allowed me access to the third row seats and floor; I could even access the space under the center row seats to get all the sand and little kid flotsam out of the rails. In minutes the entire car looked sparkling clean and like new. Ready for us to put it through the paces again on the return trip.
‘Hey Jeep:’ Jeep Grand Cherokee L Gets a Voice Assistant as Part of Its New Media System
The Jeep Grand Cherokee L is among the first in the Jeep family to get the updated UConnect 5 system and wow, what an improvement. Never mind the lovely screen that is ideally positioned to be at your fingertips, glare-free and easy to see. Stellantis, the parent company of Jeep, hired a team of more than 30 game and video designers to redesign this system. As a result, the system is easy to see and use, icons are large and intuitive, there are lots of options so you can really customize the system, and then, there’s this: Hey Jeep. Or you can call it something else if you want— you can select your own activation term. I set it to respond to ‘Hey Jeep’ and from there used it all the time. Really, all the time. “Hey Jeep?” “How may I help you?” “Navigate to the closest Publix.” And we were on our way. ‘Hey Jeep’ wasn’t able to do everything I asked it to do (or possibly it was limited by internet signal); it was able to change the radio station, set the cabin temperature and start navigation.
Another improvement to the UConnect 5 system is that many functions are accessible via the media screen as well as hard buttons on the console. Things like climate control, heated or cooled seats and radio settings are available via the screen or buttons located just under the screen. Getting to that cooled seat and fan setting quickly in the summer heat is the key to peace in our family.
A Posh Interior That Delivers an Elegant, Refined Feeling — and Massaging Seats
The changes to the media system are just the start of what I liked about the command center in the Jeep Grand Cherokee L. The overall effect of the cabin, in all three rows, is as elegant as it is sturdy – what you expect from Jeep. The design details start with quilted leather and open pore walnut; a sweep of leather across the dash and linear chrome and air vents draw your eye across the relatively uncluttered front cabin and to the view from the window, which is what you’re there for. The panoramic sun roof, surrounded by a microsuede headliner, completes the feeling of being swathed in goodness. The Jeep Grand Cherokee L’s design is in company with what you might expect from Mercedes-Benz or BMW: Rich, elegant, refined.
Anchoring the front cabin is a command center and media screen that is angled so it’s easy to see; under the media system is a cubby with a wireless charger and four USB ports: two USB C fast chargers and two standard ports. Plug in your phone to access Apple CarPlay or Android Auto and then tuck it away in the cubby, out of sight but still accessible.
The command center in our test model was covered in an elegant gloss black with the dial gear selector and drive controls, including mode, vehicle hight and 4WD, front and center. Each control is crafted from textured metal for a jewel-like feel that was, surprisingly, didn’t heat up with the summer sun.
On either side of the gear selector are retractable panels that cover the cup holders and the phone cubby. A leather covered arm rest sits between the seats and tops a small center console for storage of small to medium sized things.
Framing the command center are long swaths of open pore wood, in our case a beautiful golden walnut. The walnut accents are also on the steering wheel and door panels, adding a warmth to the interior. The heated and cooled leather seats (which are heated in the second row, too!) are quilted and double stitched in a contrasting gold, adding a layer of elegance and tying the colors together. Looking at the interior, or just taking a glimpse of the seats in the rear view mirror, you instantly have a feeling of ‘ahhhh,” it’s so refined.
Can the Jeep Grand Cherokee L Tow? Tow Capacity For Even More Extra
Of Jeeps that can tow, the Grand Cherokee, with its size, shape and power is among the most capable. The L version simply adds to that, with 6,200 lbs. tow capacity across all models. That’s enough to tow a 20′ to 30′ boat or mid-sized RV. Buyers can add a tow package for $995 to make towing easier, but buyers who upgrade to the V8 engine in the Summit Reserve will not add more towing capacity; it remains at 6,200.
What The Jeep Grand Cherokee L Costs
- Base Laredo model price, which includes a V 6 290 HP engine, Connect 5 infotainment system with 8.4” touch screen, wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, wireless phone charge pad, wifi hot spot, slide and tilt second row seats, LED headlights and driver assist and safety systems including adaptive cruise control, lane departure assist, blind spot monitor, automatic emergency braking and rear park assist, about $38,635;
- Altitude, which adds leather trimmed seats, 4 way adjustable front seat head rests, second row captains chairs, 20” wheels, gloss black exterior details and remote start, about $40,195;
- Limited, which adds a leather trimmed interior, heated front and second row seats, six speaker premium audio system, GPS navigation and power liftgate with adjustable height, about $46,830;
- Overland, which adds Nappa leather, heated and vented front seats, ambient interior lighting, power folding third row seats, panoramic sun roof and a power front passenger seat, additional driver assist features including drowsy driver warning, traffic sign recognition, 360-degree surround view camera and park assist semiautonomous parking, about $55,135;
- Summit, which adds Palermo quilted leather seats, 16-way memory seats with massage, second row console with storage, 4 zone climate control, 10.1” media display, 21” wheels, premium floor mats and a 19 speaker premium sound system, about $57,340;
- The Summit Reserve we test drove, which has four wheel drive standard, trailer tow package, active noise control, vented second row seats, microsuede headliner and second row window shades, about $63,635 with $1,695 delivery charge
- The Summit Reserve model has a V8 357 HP engine option for an additional $3,295
What We Loved
There’s so much to share here, but I’ll try:
- The classic look and feel of a Jeep Grand Cherokee
- The beautiful look and details in the interior
- The third row! Plus easy to fold seats in both the second and third row, and second row seats that slide and tilt for third row access
- A third row that is big enough for full size humans
- Jeep’s driver assist features —these make hectic highway driving much easier
- Massaging seats
- The Palermo interior and real wood accents
- The UConnect 5 system— this is a great upgrade
- “Hey Jeep” voice assistant — it’s not perfect but it’s pretty good
- The adaptive air suspension system
- It was super easy to clean
- A 21 gallon fuel tank means not so many fuel stops
- That underneath all the pretty details this is a Jeep—a real Jeep
What You Need to Know
- Four wheel drive is a $2,000 addition on all models except the Summit Reserve, which includes 4WD standard
- This is still a tall SUV so you may want to add running boards for $875 for black or $975 for a bright metal finish
- Fuel economy estimated to be 18 city/25 highway, which is about what we experienced
- Other features you can add include head up display and night vision for $1,995
- The center row console is probably better suited to buyers who don’t often need to access the third row
- 3 year/36,000 mile basic warranty
- 5 year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty
Oh, the Tech: Lane Keep Assist and Massaging Seats Make the Road Trip Miles Fly By
What may have been my favorite part of the Jeep Grand Cherokee L, however, was driving it. It is large, but not so large it was difficult to park or merge onto the highway. And once on the road, I simply set the adaptive cruise control, ensured that lane departure assist was set (via a button at the top of the media screen) and let the Jeep do most of the work. It followed traffic and the curves of the road while I maintained a light hold on the wheel, my hands relaxed. And, when I tapped a button on the door panel just above the memory seat buttons, the Jeep’s massage system went into action: a gentle full back roll ensued, giving me just enough pressure to keep it interesting, not enough to lull me to sleep. My passengers always enjoyed the seat massagers, too; it was a competition to sit up front with me.
Add to that the ‘Hey Jeep’ voice assistant, turn by turn navigation, the McIntosh premium sound system—a heritage detail that harkens back to the Jeeps of yore—and the powerful V6 with 290 horsepower (a V8 with 357 HP is available for an additional $3,295), with all seats filled with smiling passengers, and we were set for the long haul. Family adventure, as it should be.
What We Listened to in the Jeep Grand Cherokee L
This many people means a varied and fun playlist. And, with premium sound from McIntosh, everyone wants to hear their song played, so they forgo tuning out to their headphones for tuning in to the in-car sounds. This is what got us singing along.
Disclosure: Jeep provided the Grand Cherokee L for this test drive; all opinions are my own.