We’ve been expecting Jeep to reveal a new Grand Cherokee for 2021. But I have to admit, the fact there are three rows in the launch model is a surprise. Jeep is calling it the Grand Cherokee L.
This is a few months after the reveal of the Grand Wagoneer Concept – also a three-row SUV. So, what does the launch of the Grand Cherokee L mean not only for Grand Wagoneer but also the rest of the Grand Cherokee lineup?
Well, we have some answers, and it looks like Jeep is going to have a very busy year. Here’s what you need to know about the all-new Grand Cherokee L.
This does not replace the Grand Wagoneer
As I listened to the hour-long press briefing, I started to panic. We had all seen the Grand Wagoneer last fall, which the Jeep folks steadfastly called a concept. And we loved it. And now they’re talking about an all-new three-row SUV and calling it the Jeep Grand Cherokee L.
What in the what?
I literally started holding my breath, waiting for mention of the Grand Wagoneer. Then I started texting my colleagues: Are you listening to the briefing? Does this replace the Grand Wagoneer?
It wasn’t until the end of the Q&A session, where at least some of my colleagues who had the same panicked thought, got the answer from Jim Morrison, head of the Jeep Brand in North America, who said there’s “more to come.”
How the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L will be differentiated
First and foremost, executives on the briefing confirmed the Grand Wagoneer will be a body-on-frame vehicle, whereas the Grand Cherokee L will have a unibody construction. So, obviously, this is the biggie as platform will affect everything from driving dynamics to interior volume.
This puts the Grand Wagoneer solidly in the same camp as the Cadillac Escalade, Infiniti QX80 and Lexus GX460. In my mind, that means the Grand Cherokee L will be in the same competitive set as the Kia Telluride, Ford Explorer and Subaru Ascent.
Jeep execs also said there would “significant” differentiation through the pricing of the Grand Cherokee and Grand Wagoneer products. Of course, pricing hasn’t yet been announced for either, so we can’t tell you exactly what that means yet.
The two-row model is coming
The Grand Cherokee L ushers in the fifth generation of Jeep’s large SUV, and this is the first time the large SUV will be offered in a three-row format. It will offer both 6- and 7-passenger configurations.
We don’t expect the two-row version Grand Cherokee to be too far behind, and Jeep confirms this model will make its debut “later in 2021.”
We wouldn’t be surprised if “later” means late summer, early fall – especially since Jeep is planning an electrified 4XE version as well. Not to mention the fact we’ll likely see the production version of the Grand Wagoneer slotted in here as well – probably sandwiched in the middle.
There will be two engine options
The new Grand Cherokee L will launch with two engine options, and if you know anything about Fiat Chrysler brands, this won’t come as a surprise. The base engine will be a 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 that delivers 290 horsepower and 257 pound-feet of torque. The up-level engine will be the (you guessed it) 5.7-liter V-8 Hemi that will deliver 357 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque.
The V-6 will have a max tow rating of 6,200 pounds, and the V-8 will top out at 7,200 pounds.
It’s built in Detroit
Not only will the Grand Cherokee L be built in the Motor City, but it will also be built at an all-new plant created specifically for this vehicle. The Detroit Assembly Complex – Mack Plant is the result of a $1.6 billion investment that converted the original two engine plants into an entirely new assembly plant.
The regular Grand Cherokee and 4XE models will also be built here.
Self-driving technology is coming
Jumping on the hands-free driving bandwagon, the Grand Cherokee L will have Level 2 driver assist technology that will allow drivers to take their hands off the wheel under certain conditions. This system, called Hands-free Active Driving Assist, will be similar to General Motors’ Super Cruise, and combines adaptive cruise control with lane keeping technology to allow for hand-free but attentive driving.
Though not overtly stated, we assume there will be an interior camera system that monitors driver attention, and the hands-free tech will only be available on specific four-lane highways.
Hands-free Active Driving Assist will be available in late 2021 for the 2022 model year.
It’ll have even more cool tech
The Grand Cherokee L is going to showcase some of the newest technology the brand has to offer. In addition to hands-free driving capability, you’ll see available features such as a night-vision camera, a rear-view camera mirror, intersection collision assist, a full-color head up display, wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, a 10.1-inch digital touch screen, over-the-air updates and a 4G LTE hotspot for up to eight devices.
Another big tech add for Jeep will be the rear-seat monitoring camera, which is similar to the Chrysler Pacifica’s FamCam with zoom-to-seat functionality.
Another cool addition: a McIntosh sound system. We saw this foreshadowed in the Grand Wagoneer Concept, and in the Grand Cherokee L it will take the form of 19 custom-designed speakers, 10-inch subwoofer and 17-channel, 950-watt amplifier.
Yes, it can still go off-road
Even though the Grand Cherokee L sports a third row, it doesn’t sacrifice Jeep capability, and in fact, it will offer three different 4X4 systems: Quadra-Trac I, Quadra-Trac II and Quadra-Drive II. All three systems are equipped with an active transfer case, but the I has a single speed active transfer case whereas both the II’s have a two-speed one. The Quadra-Drive II will also have an electronic limited slip differential. The latter is available on the Overland 4X4 model when equipped with the Off-Road Group and is standard on the Summit.
The Grand Cherokee L will also have some impressive off-road specs when equipped with the Quadra-Lift air suspension, including a 10.9-inch ground clearance and 24-inch water fording depth.
The Select-Terrain system is standard and will include five different modes: Auto, Sport, Rock, Snow and Mud/Sand.
It’ll have 4 trims
At launch, the Grand Cherokee L will have just four trims, and if you’re familiar with Jeep, they’ll all sound familiar: Laredo, Limited, Overland and Summit. It will come standard as a rear-wheel drive vehicle with four-wheel drive being optional.
No pricing information has been announced, and since we aren’t expected to see the Grand Cherokee L hit the streets until Q2, it’ll likely be closer to the end of Q1 before we get an inkling of how much this will cost. For reference, the current two-row model starts at $34,220, with 4WD adding $2k.
If we had to venture a guess on pricing, we’d anticipate the Grand Cherokee L will start under $40K, but we’re not sure by how much. All this is keeping in mind a future larger model that will likely start around, but less than, $50K.
The bottom line on the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L
Our jury is still out about the Grand Cherokee L. Jeep is definitely missing a three-row vehicle – last filled by the failed Commander (2006-2010). One of the reasons that vehicle didn’t make it beyond a single generation is likely that third row, which was mostly pointless for anyone larger than a small child. In fact, during the press briefing, the Jeep executives made a point of calling the Grand Cherokee L’s third-row “usable,” which means it’ll be more of a Kia Telluride third-row and less of a Lexus RX-L third row. That’s promising.
But we’re not quite sure how it fits with the soon-to-be launched Grand Wagoneer, which is also a three-row SUV. Then again, if recent purchasing practices tell us anything: More SUVs equals more better.