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I just kept thinking a vehicle like this isn’t supposed to do that. First when I watched the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L bob and dip over a series of cement moguls. Then when I was behind the wheel climbing a rock wall or tipping sideways more than 30 degrees.

This is a three-row family vehicle – complete with available FamCam technology.

It shouldn’t be able to point its nose to the sky and then plunge over a precipice with ease.

It just shouldn’t.

But it did.

It’s not Jeep Wrangler trail ready, but the Overland model is trail rated.

Tom Seel, vehicle line executive for Grand Cherokee L, summed it up simply: “It’s a three-row vehicle, but it’s still a Jeep.”

Yes. It is. And I was very impressed with its off-road capability.

On-road comfort

But it also does darn well on road as well. The first portion of our drive was on Michigan highways, then we hit wending country roads, complete with a double-wide tractor blocking a lane and a half in a no-passing zone.

All-told, I was on solid pavement for about two hours, and I really liked the cabin quietness and seat comfort as well as the planted feeling you get while driving at higher speeds.

One of the biggest differences I noticed was in terms of visibility. The audio system speaker is removed from the A Pillar, which means it gets a bit narrower. Usually, I must duck around the pillar to check front blind spots, but I didn’t find myself doing that in the Grand Cherokee L.

Another design change that helps with visibility: a lower belt line. In addition to bigger window coverage, the lower belt line helps this three-row SUV drive much smaller than it is.

I constantly forgot I was actually driving a three-row vehicle with enough third-row legroom for a 6-foot, 4-inch man to sit back there in moderate comfort.

Grand Cherokee L

Managing Editor Jill Ciminillo and Mario Holmes, model responsible for the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L, sit in the third row without being squished. (Photo by Jill Ciminillo)

‘Real’ adults in the third row of the Grand Cherokee L

I always say I’m the size of a 10-year-old. So, for me to sit in a third row and be comfortable is NBD, but to put someone who’s more than 6-feet tall back there? BFD. During the video review, I pulled Mario Holmes, an engineering manager at Jeep, into the third row with me and we didn’t bump shoulders. Plus, he still had a couple inches of legroom.

While his knees did pop off the seat bottom, the extra cushioning will help prevent any tailbone soreness.

It’s also worth noting that Jeep moved the air vents in the third row from the ceiling and floor to the C Pillars so that the air can more easily hit the upper body of the third-row passenger. Other amenities back here include a couple of Easter eggs on the windows, cup holders and phone storage as well as USB-C and USB-A charge ports.

If equipped with a center console, the third-row passenger also has rear-flip access to that storage bin.

So, speaking of storage, before we leave the third row, let’s talk about cargo volume behind the third row, which is about 17 cubic feet. This is about as much as you’ll get in the trunk of a midsize sedan, and one thing the Grand Cherokee L has going for it is the fact the tail end design is more upright, so you should be able to fit smaller roller boards upright, stacked next to each other – and still shut the door.

We’ll have to wait for an at-home test to see how many roller boards will actually fit back there, though.

Grand Cherokee L

The second row of the Jeep Grand Cherokee L in the Summit Reserve trim is pretty plush. (Photo by Jill Ciminillo)

Second-row amenities

As you would expect, if the third row is comfy(ish), the second row will be even better. Holmes was able to sit here with plenty of leg room as well, and in addition to comfy seats, it has a lot of available amenities including USB-A and USB-C ports, a 110-volt outlet, heated and cooled seats and sunshades.

One of the coolest available features, however, has to be the quad-zone climate control that lets outboard middle-row passengers set their own temperature. Just like the dual climate control in the front is a marriage saver, this quad-zone system is a family saver. Me? I’d be in the back with the heat up to 80 and heated seat on – pretty much no matter the weather –  which means I wouldn’t have to disrupt the rest of the car that likely wants much cooler temperatures.

Power packed

I spent all my time during the press preview in an Overland model equipped with the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine, which delivers 293 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. And, from highway merges to passing maneuvers, I thought this engine did well. It’s not going to give you heart-pounding acceleration or a throaty V-8 growl, but it gets the job done. And that’s a good thing, since Jeep anticipates this will be the volume seller.

There is, of course, a V-8 option in the form of the 5.7-liter Hemi that delivers 357 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque. That engine will also deliver a max towing capacity of 7,200 pounds. So, maybe that’s the luggage solution if you want to fill all the passenger seats. Tow it.

Devil in the details

The focal point of the cockpit area has to be the dial gearshift. With metal surrounding the edges and a glass top, it’s one of those things you want to examine from every angle.

Frankly, everywhere you look in the cabin, the details are well thought out. From the stitching on the seats to the textures on the volume and tuning knobs.

And that’s without getting into the available McIntosh premium audio system. From the speaker designs to the illuminated emblems to output level pages in the infotainment, this system not only sounds good with 19-speakers and 950 watts of power but also looks good.

I got to sneak a peek inside one of the more basic models with the smaller screen, middle-row bench and cloth seating surfaces, and I was still impressed with the material selections, stitching on the dash and overall look and feel.

Jeep paid a lot of attention to the details in the Grand Cherokee L, and it really shows.

Pricing and stuff

The first thing to note is all trims are available in 4X2 and 4X4 configurations, with the 4X4 adding $2K. Second, the bottom three trims/packages are only available with the V-6 engine. You’ll get the V-8 option starting at the Overland trim, and it is only available with the 4X4 configuration. The V-8 engine is a $3,295 add.

Other than that, here’s the trim-by-trim breakdown of pricing – both with and without destination fees.

Trim/PackagePrice w/o destinationPrice w/ destination
Laredo 4X2 V-6$36,995 $38,690
Laredo 4X4 V-6$38,995 $40,690
Altitude 4X2 V-6$40,195 $41,890
Altitude 4X4 V-6$42,195 $43,890
Limited 4X2 V-6$43,995 $45,690
Limited 4X4 V-6$45,995 $47,690
Overland 4X2 V-6$52,995 $54,690
Overland 4X4 V-6$54,995 $56,690
Overland 4X4 V-8$58,290 $59,985
Summit 4X2 V-6$56,995 $58,690
Summit 4X4 V-6$58,995 $60,690
Summit 4X4 V-8$62,290 $63,985
Summit Reserve 4X4 V-6$61,995 $63,690
Summit Reserve 4X4 V-8$65,290 $66,985

The bottom line on the Grand Cherokee L

This review only scratches the surface of the details on the Grand Cherokee L. There is so much more information and detail to share, but I figure about 1,000 words is the max reading limit for anyone on the web, so I’m going to stop while I’m behind.

I focused on the on-road on the interior, but I’m sure we’ll have another review down the road by Publisher Tim Esterdahl, which gets into the nitty gritty of the off-road tech and capabilities. So stay tuned.

From my perspective, though, Jeep knocked this all-new full-size SUV out of the park with the handling and attention to detail. Now, bring on that mid-size two-row Grand Cherokee! I can’t wait to see it.

Oh, and before I sign off, I have three other (quick) things I need to say: This is not the same as the Grand Wagoneer, this is not built on the same platform as the Dodge Durango, and a two-row version of the Grand Cherokee is coming later this year.

Editor’s note: Driving impressions in this “First Drive” review are from an invitation-only automaker launch event that allowed special access to the vehicle and executives. Jeep covered our accommodations, meals and transportation costs.

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Jill Ciminillo

Jill Ciminillo is a syndicated automotive writer. Jill also manages the “Drive, She Said” blog for ChicagoNow and posts reviews to DriveChicago. She is the president emeritus of the Midwest Automotive Media Association and has the distinction of being the first female president for that organization. She also serves as a judge for the Automotive Heritage Foundation Journalism Awards. Previously, Jill has been the automotive editor for the Sinclair Broadcast Group, the Chicago Sun-Times News Group and Pioneer Press Newspapers.

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