This is the Jeep you’ve been waiting for.
It’s the car I dreamed of. Rugged and capable, yet comfortable and luxe-filled, the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L is everything you love in a Jeep and finally, it has a third row. And with a starting price of about $39K and a fully loaded price of about $63K, it is able to climb tall snow mounds and high curbs and challenge even the ugliest of potholes with hardly a jiggle. It cradles us in plush leather seats, holds our coffees and blasts our favorite tunes. And now, the Grand Cherokee allows us to bring along a couple of extra passengers, a large dog and oversized luggage (hello golf bags and beach chairs!) without compromise. The third row is full-sized, roomy enough for tall passengers, and with center row captains chairs, easy to access.
We Loved Our Grand Cherokee BatmoJeep… Until We Needed a 3 Row SUV
We owned a Jeep Grand Cherokee, Jeep’s most elegant and luxurious model, when our oldest daughter was born. In fact, we owned two. When we bought our second Jeep, one with modern black on black details, our friend Debra dubbed it the BatmoJeep and the name stuck. We loved how capable our Jeeps were even though the closest we got to off roading was driving across muddy fields and rutted dirt driveways. It was perfect for driving Manhattan’s famously construction-scarred roads and weekend getaways to the Outer Banks, rural Pennsylvania and Upstate New York. It gave us confidence that when outside the city we wouldn’t get stuck in the mud or in a snowstorm, and that was priceless.
But then, we had a second child and soon were looking for a carpool group for dance team so I wouldn’t have to drive three days a week – and so our daughter could build friendships with the other girls. And occasionally we had friends, a baby sitter or in laws with us and it was clear: we needed a third row.
I was heartbroken to give up my Grand Cherokee. It hauled home play houses and dining tables and even a mini-Barbie Jeep for our daughters. It held strollers and diaper bags and golf clubs – all at once and without blocking the rear window. Salty snow mush and beach sand didn’t ruin the seats or floor mats and the V6 engine gave me confidence on the highway.
And most of all, I learned a sore lesson on an extended trip: After several months of driving a sedan and lifting my 2 and 5 year olds into their car seats and bending at an unnatural angle to buckle their seatbelts, I spent a few months with the chiropractor trying to repair the damage. I couldn’t wait to get back into my Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Customers Clammered for a 3-Row Jeep Grand Cherokee—And Jeep Heard You
When we had to give up our Jeep I was heartbroken. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones and Jeep heard this loud and clear. As the popularity of full-sized 3-row SUVs grew — 3 row SUV models account for 75% of all full-size SUVs sold— the Grand Cherokee needed to evolve and that’s not easy; it seems you can’t just tuck a couple of extra seats into the cargo area and call it a day.
As the brand explored how to best grow its lineup, they heard again and again, “build a 3-row Jeep Grand Cherokee, please.” So they studied what it would take to add a third row and still make it as capable and comfortable as the original. They had to accommodate seating and preserve interior space and produce an SUV that is truly a Jeep. And without that last part, well, they would break the Jeep promise of integrity, confidence and ability.
Jeep Grand Cherokee L Offers Two Engines: V6 and V8, Both Powerful and With Great Towing Capacity
During our test drive we were offered the opportunity to connect a full size 30‘ boat to a Jeep Grand Cherokee L models and take it for a spin. The V6 engine can tow up to 6,200 lbs. and the V8 can tow up to 7,200, or a full size boat or RV.
The V8 of course carries a bit more power, at 357 horsepower, than the V6 with 293 HP, but the difference is more about your needs: id you need towing and passengers, the V8 is the better choice. I found the V6 to be powerful and easy to drive, perfect for us since we don’t tow. But if I were regularly bringing along a boat, RV or trailer, I’d opt for the V8.
Finally, a Jeep with a 3rd Row – and Design that Feels So Posh!
The Jeep Grand Cherokee L 3-row SUV is being built in a new $1.6 billion assembly plant in the city of Detroit– the first new assembly plant to be built in the city in 30 years– and rolls into dealerships at the end of June. Its modern exterior and interior design evolve the Grand Cherokee’s look and feel. It has a longer body and wheel base, a smarter off road system and updated technology. In most models the second row has two captains chairs and total seating capacity for 6 though you can get a center row bench if you really want one. The center row captains chairs make the cabin feel open and roomy, and doesn’t make third row passengers feel claustrophobic. And, it’s fairly easy to reach, both by passing between the center seats or pulling the tab on the shoulder of one of the center seats; it folds and slides forward in one swift motion.
The rear cargo area, which is quite large behind the second row and smaller behind the third, is pretty accessible, too; there is an air suspension system that can raise or lower the Jeep about two inches in either direction. This is great for getting your fur babies to hop in to the cargo area or to keep luggage-lugging teens from scratching the bumper while loading suitcases (I’m sure you know what I mean).
The Grand Cherokee has long been known for its spaciousness – it’s the largest Jeep in the family – and fine details like leather seating and a refined interior. The L edition elevates this idea with more space, and new details such as a media screen that houses the newly redesigned and much better functioning UConnect 5 system. The gear selector is an elegant textured metal and glass dial at the center of the command center, which is surrounded in a piano gloss black finish for a clean, elegant look. The dash is covered in leather and accented with open pore wood, and the seats are not just covered with leather, but finished with details like stitching and piping. Overall, the cabin feels more refined than rugged.
Early Dismissal: The Term That Sends Parents into Panic
There’s a statistic that makes me feel so much better about being a Jeep owner: something like 90% of 4WD owners never actually drive off road. That doesn’t mean we don’t use the 4WD features to get out of a pickle. But the off road parks, Jeep Jamborees and mudding events are more for enthusiasts than families who just want to get to the ski slopes or to the beach cottage.
And we really love our Jeep on those days when snow prompts early dismissal from school. The roads turn sloppy and frozen and everyone heads inside for the next 24 hours. Jeep owners, though, can still go about their business, stopping at the grocery store, picking up extra firewood and hitting the pizzeria. They relish the empty snow-covered roads, being the first to the sledding hill or getting photos of untouched snowy landscapes.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee L needed to be all that, capable on even the most rugged trails and have the confidence to conquer challenging situations. A significant increase in size might have jeopardized this.
Still Able to Climb Rocks and Trudge Through Mud
With the new look, feel and performance of Jeep, and with the addition of the 3rd row, the Jeep team still had to master the challenge of off roading. Scott Tallon, head of Jeep’s brand marketing, hopped into the passenger seat with me and we headed off to a trail to test the Grand Cherokee’s ability. I saw a hill of rocks and nearly went around it, thinking that was something to be avoided.
But no, that was the point. The rocks formed a hill that we climbed before making a sharp right turn to drive across more boulders, cresting a hill with a blind drop on the other side and driving through nearly two feet of water. It was often difficult to see where we were going, but Scott clicked on the front facing camera. I could see exactly where the wheels were, where to turn and how much; the Jeep Grand Cherokee L would do the rest. And, it did. Masterfully.
World Class Luxury, But Not Obnoxiously So
So here’s the thing about Jeep Grand Cherokee: it’s a luxury car. Yes, it has a resilient interior but it also has finishes you might find in a Land Rover, Lexus or Mercedes-Benz. The real luxury here is capability: true 4 wheel drive (versus all wheel drive), innovative systems that continually challenge the status quo and a history of conquering the road’s challenges.
Because of this deep integrity–an 80 year reputation for capability–Jeep is a brand that is as at home at the country club as it is on mountain tops. Though, it’s more the strong silent type rather than brash or flashy. Its exterior design and capability are the same in every model, from the Laredo base model to the Summit Reserve, which has a price tag that is nearly double the Laredo’s. The difference is just how much pampering buyers would like.
Buyers can choose their level of luxury in the Grand Cherokee L, from the
Laredo which has all the standard features like leather seats, carpets that repel pet hair, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, USB ports in all rows, even the third row, and driver assist and safety features including blind spot monitor, adaptive cruise control, lane management control and forward crash mitigation.
From there, the Altitude, Limited, Overland, Summit and Summit Reserve each bring a bit more luxury with things like heated and cooled seats, refined quilted leather, head up display, night vision, MacIntosh premium sound and more. All models offer the choice of standard front wheel drive or 4 wheel drive for an additional $2,000, though the Summit Reserve is only available in 4 wheel drive. And all have standard center row captains chairs for seating for 6 except the Laredo, which comes with a center row bench.
Who The Jeep Grand Cherokee L is For
Jeep people, you know who you are. Capability matters, a flashy badge does not. You keep your cars for a long time and you expect them to live up to all you do. You expect it to be your companion, you give it a name, it’s a member of the family. You relish your time at the club or at fine hotels, but a campsite on a sandbar is just as much a luxury. This is who else will also love the Jeep Grand Cherokee L:
- Families who love adventure
- Families who road trip
- Drivers who often need a third row
- Drivers who regularly drive in rough weather, hilly terrain, or on gravel, dirt or rutted roads or trails
- Dog owners who need space and comfort for their four legged family
- Buyers who want the luxury of the experience, both were the Jeep takes you and the interior that gets you there
When I heard that Jeep was finally adding a third row to the Grand Cherokee I was cheering inside just a little bit (OK, maybe a lot). Yes, I’m a bit jealous that it came about after I no longer need a third row. But I know that families will appreciate a Jeep that can manage all our adventures, and a full size third row for those other adventures like dance team carpool. And all of it without compromising comfort and conveniences.
Disclosure: I was Jeep’s guest for this test drive; travel and accommodations were provided but all opinions are my own.