CHELSEA, Mich. — As I’m bouncing this huge, three-row Jeep over boulders whereas fording water, I can’t assist however assume again to my childhood. My sister, cousins and I all discovered to drive on terrain much like this in a 1946 Jeep CJ-2A. It wasn’t normally fairly as furry as what we would get into at Grandpa’s ranch, however this path was nonetheless designed to judge Wranglers for off-roadworthiness on the automaker’s Chelsea Proving Grounds. And the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L is a far cry from that outdated Military-copy Willys. However regardless of the swish leather-based, ahead digicam feed and precise roof of this 75-years-younger Jeep, the expertise is acquainted on an elemental stage.
If you happen to had been involved that Jeep was working astray of its identification because it strikes right into a way forward for extra family-friendly and electrified SUVs, fret not. This new Grand Cherokee is a Jeep by way of and thru. It’s simply actually posh in its higher trims, and rather more comfy to drive and be pushed in than what we’re used to. That’s an excellent factor.
In comparison with the usual, two-row Grand Cherokee — which doesn’t see its next-gen updates till the 2022 mannequin 12 months — the brand new L expands in a number of methods to accommodate the additional row of seating and all-around extra space. It’s 15 inches longer total than the present two-row Grand Cherokee, with a further 6.9 inches of wheelbase. Most cargo quantity is 84.6 cubic ft, up from 68.3 cubic ft within the present two-row Grand Cherokee. Weight, nevertheless, hasn’t elevated by as a lot as you’d assume. The Grand Cherokee L’s curb weight begins at 4,524 kilos within the Laredo 4×2, and reaches 5,279 kilos within the V8-powered Summit 4×4. That compares to the 2021 Grand Cherokee Laredo’s 4,513 kilos and the V8 Summit’s 5,258 kilos, which is in regards to the distinction of 1 well-fed home cat.
Jeep pulled off this weight financial savings by way of engineering. Tom Seel, automobile line government for the Jeep Grand Cherokee L explains that his group optimized out 175 kilos of weight on this new three-row. Half selections like forged aluminum shock towers and extruded aluminum cross bars, plus strategies like mounting the engine to the entrance axle not solely lowered weight however lead to a extra managed, quiet journey as effectively. The Grand Cherokee L additionally makes use of quite a lot of high-strength metal for physique rigidity — leaving lower than 29% delicate metal within the automobile.
On the skin, the L undoubtedly appears to be like greater than the common Grand Cherokee (duh) however the proportions are all nonetheless agreeable. The glasshouse appears to be like large, with a lowered beltline and the curved windshield bulging out forward of the A-pillars. One’s eyes can’t assist however be drawn to the standard seven-slot grille, which within the occasion of the L is canted ahead, harking back to the Wagoneer my dad drove after I was wee. I used to be skeptical of this contact when the L was first revealed, however I have to admit it’s fairly comely in individual. All trims have full LED lighting, whereas the Summit grade gives an out there black roof, in addition to a 21-inch wheel bundle.
Inside the upper trims, the inside feels downright premium. The Summit Reserve bundle is especially spectacular, with quilted leather-based, real open-pore waxed walnut trim and a microfiber headliner. Each materials appears to be like and feels substantial, each element feels intentional and totally different surfaces have their very own distinctive really feel, just like the smoothness of the leather-based, suppleness of the wooden, the cool weight of the scalloped metallic on the rotary gear selector. It’s all simply so sensual … however in that rugged, unique searching lodge form of manner that feels applicable for the Jeep model.
After all, it wouldn’t be a real Jeep with out off-road chops, and the Grand Cherokee L gives it at varied ranges. All 4×4 variations characteristic an energetic switch case that may handle torque among the many axles, in addition to 5 totally different terrain modes (Auto, Sport, Rock, Snow and Mud/Sand). The fundamental Quadra-Trac I is a full-time four-wheel-drive, single-speed unit, and is customary within the Laredo and Restricted trims. It’s able to transferring as much as 100% of torque to both axle when it detects or predicts slippage. The Overland mannequin comes customary with the Quadra-Trac II two-speed switch case, which encompasses a 2.72:1 low-range gear ratio. Optionally available in Overland and customary in Summit is the Quadra-Drive II, which provides an digital rear limited-slip differential. Hill-descent management is customary in Overland and Summit, and works in each ahead and reverse.
Moreover, Overland and Summit trims get Jeep’s Quadra-Raise air suspension with the flexibility to mechanically or manually alter the journey top. It may well decrease it from its regular 8.3 inches of clearance to enhance aerodynamics or ease ingress and egress when parked, or it might elevate it as much as a top of 10.9 inches for clearing off-road obstacles or fording water depths as much as 24 inches. At full stretch, the Jeep Grand Cherokee L boasts an strategy angle of 30.1 levels, a departure angle of 23.6 levels and a breakover angle of twenty-two.6 levels. The suspension encompasses a closed-loop air system with two tanks beneath the rear seat and cargo space.
“For a Jeep that goes off-road in dusty environments — every kind of environments — to have an open-air system actually isn’t sensible for the longevity of the automobile,” Seel mentioned. “So we selected a closed-loop system, however we added quick-down leveling this 12 months,” which permits the suspension to drop 1.8 inches in 7 seconds.
To take issues even additional, an out there Off-Street Group provides extra safety to the Overland when venturing far off the overwhelmed path. This bundle provides skid plates to guard the gasoline tank, switch case, underbody and entrance suspension. It additionally provides the aforementioned eLSD, 18-inch polished aluminum wheels and all-season tires. This tools all proved helpful on the proving grounds, because the Grand Cherokee L tackled trails meant for placing the Wrangler by way of its paces. Even with the L’s longer wheelbase, it nonetheless managed to clear breakover angles and articulated terrain that gave me pause on strategy. The sounds of rocks scraping the skid plates was unnerving, however this three-row Jeep proved itself worthy of the Path Rated badge that additionally comes with the Off-Street bundle.
Powering the Grand Cherokee L are the identical two engine choices seen within the non-SRT/Trackhawk variations of the present two-row Grand Cherokee. The usual powerplant is the trusty 3.6-liter Pentastar V6, supplying 293 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Pentastar-equipped variations are rated to tow as much as 6,200 kilos in each 4×2 and 4×4 layouts. That is way over the standard three-row household crossover. The V6 additionally returns 19 miles per gallon metropolis, 26 mpg freeway and 21 mpg mixed in rear-drive variations. 4×4 V6 fashions get 18/25/21 mpg. These figures are about the identical as the standard three-row household crossover.
Within the Overland trim and up, prospects who need extra energy can go for the 5.7-liter V8 in 4×4 format, offering 357 hp, 390 lb-ft of torque and seven,200 kilos of towing capability. The V8 is rated at 14/22/17 mpg. Each engines mate to the TorqueFlite eight-speed automated transmission.
My time was spent in solely V6-powered variations of the Grand Cherokee L, in varied trims. Contemplating its power-to-weight ratio in comparison with the competitors, I frightened that this powerplant might make the hulking Grand Cherokee L really feel sluggish. However even the heaviest Summit Reserve bundle/trim (and most costly, at $63,690 with the V6 — pricing breakdown could be discovered right here), didn’t really feel any lazier attending to freeway speeds or passing slower autos than our long-term Hyundai Palisade. It appears like loads of motor for the Grand Cherokee L, each on-road and off, nevertheless it’s good to have the V8 out there for many who must tow extra, or who identical to the sound and really feel of a Hemi below the hood.
Our drive began in Detroit’s Japanese Market and took us to Stellantis’ Chelsea Proving floor by the use of each expressway and the lake-dotted winding rural roads of Southeast Michigan. On the freeway, we made use of the Grand Cherokee L’s Energetic Driving Help system, which is actually adaptive cruise management paired with lane-centering steering help. We had no qualms with the cruise management perform throughout our drive. The lane centering labored, however required early driver help when the freeway will get even a little bit curvy.
The air suspension additionally options new energetic damping, which Seel says allowed Jeep “to tune the particular management and stability of this automobile to the three-row SUV necessities.” In apply, this gives a snug but nonetheless truck-like journey within the Grand Chereokee L. The L will bounce over bumps within the freeway, however the rebound feels effectively managed — an ideal mix of a conventional Jeep really feel with a stunning stage of consolation. Humorous sufficient, in testing a Restricted trim with out the Quadra-Raise later within the day, I seen the suspension much less — maybe I’m simply used to feeling extra of the bumps and jitters of Michigan roads, or possibly my off-road session desensitized me. Both manner, the air suspension stands out as one other luxurious indulgence.