When it comes to car shopping, larger families are largely limited to two types of vehicles: minivans and three-wheeled SUVs. Those who thumb at things with sliding doors have only one type left, but the options are expanded. More and more car manufacturers are adding new three-row SUVs to their series and pops an extra line in existing nameplates. Jeep does both with new Grand Wagoneer and Grand Cherokee L.
Related: 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L First Drive Review: A Benchmark Just Got Better (and Bigger)
My family of five put the Grand Cherokee L to the test and found a lot to like – especially in the ornate top of the Summit outfit we tried, but the Jeep could go a little further to make the SUV stand out to make family travel easier.
Here are three ways Grand Cherokee L can improve its family game:
1. Add Uconnect Theater
The Grand Cherokee L is quite packed with available family-friendly features, such as plenty of USB ports (you can get up to 12 USB-A and -C ports throughout the cabin), parasols in the side windows, fantastic storage spaces for small items for electronic devices, a reminder system for the rear seat and a camera in the cabin. But the Chrysler makes the entertainment system in the back seat really good, and the Grand Cherokee L has none.
The Uconnect Theater system in the Chrysler Pacifica minivan is my family’s favorite – and we’ve tested them all in the minivan class. Its dual touchscreens on the second row can display DVDs or anything you can play from an HDMI-connected device, and they have built-in game apps that my kids love. On a recent trip, my two daughters played these games (plays, a pun and tic-tac-toe were favorites) for hours.
Like Pacifica, the Grand Cherokee L uses the latest version of Chrysler’s Uconnect 5 multimedia system, but it does not offer Uconnect Theater functionality – yet. Jeep spokeswoman Amy Grundman told us that it is possible that the Uconnect Theater may be in the future of the SUV.
“The next-generation Uconnect 5 system standard on the Grand Cherokee L has a global architecture that is scalable across all Stellantis brands and prepared for the integration of advanced technology,” she said.
Yes, the new Jeep Grand Wagoneer has dual backrest-mounted touch screens.
2. Add the third row locking anchor
Installing car seats can often be difficult, so anything that makes this task a little easier is welcome. Grand Cherokee L’s child car seats are excellent on the second row: Models with captain’s seats have easily accessible lower ratchet anchors and visible top anchors on the backrests for quick fitting of car seats. In addition, models equipped with a second row bench have one extra set of restraints to accommodate a third car seat in the middle position, something that not all SUVs in this class can do.
My beef is with the third row, where there are zero lower locking anchors. Adding them would make the SUV more flexible for families with children in car seats. This would also make the Grand Cherokee L more competitive, given that other three-wheel drive SUVs, such as the Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride and Volkswagen Atlas, have them.
When I asked Grundman about the lack of lower anchors in the third row, she pointed out that customers can instead install the car seat with a seat belt, and the Grand Cherokee L, however, has top mounts to support the installation of a forward-facing car seats (required by law). However, some parents prefer to use the lower anchors to secure a car seat and do not feel comfortable finding out how to fasten the seat belt.
Check out the entire car seat control.
Make the headrests adjustable or removable
When installing a booster or forward-facing car seat, it is important to place the car seat in line with the backrest to get a snug fit. On both the second and third row, the head restraints get in the way and push our car seats away from the backrests. In both rows, the head restraints fold down when the seat is stored but do not extend or raise. This made it difficult to get a good fit when we installed our booster in both rows, and it also caused problems when connecting to the upper tether anchor for our forward-facing car seat. This in turn required you to flip through the instructions for use, which said that you should pull the strap around outboard side of the headrest before connection, as the strap would not fit under it.
Is this a problem only for the Summit trim we tested? No, Grundman said that the head restraints do not fall into any price range, as they are mechanically maneuvered when folded.
Overall, the Grand Cherokee L managed the family duty with a bit of drama, but I’m a no drama mom, and I see these three areas as room for improvement.
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