2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L tops three-row SUV top

The Jeep Grand Cherokee finally comes with a third line. Dubbed L as large and responsible, the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L offers more space without sacrificing the style that has helped it define the SUV segment since its 1993 launch.

Stylish and robust, sophisticated yet brutal, the timeless design of the Grand Cherokee has helped make it a recurring winner of The car connection ‘Best SUV to buy. Yet it had not been redone since 2011. So much has changed. Without a three-wheeled SUV to compete with all other car manufacturers, from the Subaru Ascent newcomer to the faithful Ford Explorer segment, not to mention all the luxury family’s liners, Jeep now fills the range gap with its bestseller.

Terrain-capable but still with luxurious elegance in the cabin of the Summit Reserve I tested, the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L establishes a new benchmark for the fifth-generation Grand Cherokee five-seater, which debuts in August.

The $ 64,280 Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve topper heralds the return of the sleek, full-size Grand Wagoneer SUV. There is money to be made, and three-row SUVs are almost completely green.

From the outside, that price can make you blush; only the Hellcat-powered Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is more expensive, and it’s made for power and training days, not power lunches and game dates.

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L

The seven-compartment grille, trapezoidal wheel arches over 21-inch wheels and wide vertical surface remain, but sleek LED headlights and taillights provide a longer body that resembles the Grand Wagoneer concept as much as the Grand Cherokee classic. The JGCL is more than 15 inches longer than the Grand Cherokee with a 7.0-inch wheelbase to accommodate the two seats in the third row. It’s 2.2 inches wider, though the redesigned five-seater will likely match the perimeter of its platform mate.

The extra length holds seven passengers or six with the available captain’s seats in my tester. There is 17.2 cubic feet of space behind the third row, which is competitive for the segment, although the standard Grand Cherokee holds 36.3 cubic feet behind the rear seats. Fold down the 50/50 split third row, preferably with the power buttons that fold the headrests and fold both rows of seats, and the space behind the second row is increased to 46.2 cubes.

More importantly, the Grand Cherokee L fits six adults comfortably. Only the largest passengers may want more headroom on the third row, but leg, hip and shoulder space is ample thanks to the comfortable, sloping second-row captain’s seats that slide more than 7.0 inches. However, the seats in the third row do not tilt, so they may be too upright for longer journeys.

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L

Summit Reserve treats second-row passengers on a par with front-end drivers with heated and cooled seats. A nice center console folds up to create a flat floor, but Jeep missed an opportunity by not including cup holders in up-and-down mode. Third-row riders get cup holders and USB-C / USB-A ports on the armrests above the wheel arches.

At the front, the Summit Reserve bridges the canyon between Grand Cherokee and Grand Wagoneer. Wonderful Palermo leather chairs contrast padded nappa leather on the doors and walnut wood with open pores underlined by a chrome band separates the lower and upper dashboard. Some fashionistas may want more variation between the caramel-colored leather and the blonde wood, but Jeep has options.

The 10.1-inch touch screen, with brilliant camera views, monitors a center console covered in high-gloss black plastic, but the climate controls are fixed buttons and knobs.

Instead of mechanical levers or thick steering wheels, GCL is trying an elegant, almost German attempt to control suspension and driving position. Two switches on the console can be pressed up or down a number of times to illuminate the desired setting. It is stylish, almost delicate, compared to American-made SUVs, SUVs and trucks.

The settings vary in character from comfortable cruiser to muscle machine with a range Dodge Durango can not match. Five driving modes fill the Selec-Terrain system with the Auto, Sport, Rock, Snow and Mud / Sand modes.

The sport mode gets the most out of the 293-hp 3.6-liter V-6 that is used extensively in the Jeep range. The throttle responds faster and the battle-tested 8-speed automatic transmission shifts when expected based on your inputs. The maximum torque of 260-lb ft comes at as early as 1,800 rpm, so the JGCL responds quickly despite its size. Shoppers who want more room do not have to get lost in the Durango SRT; The JGCL can be equipped with a 5.7-liter V-8 rated at 357 hp and 390 lb-ft.

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L

I did not have the opportunity to ride terrain (read about spring terrain test at The Motor Authority), but the Summit Reserve comes standard with the most advanced four-wheel drive of the three systems on offer. It has a 2-speed gearbox that requires a shift to neutral before settling in 4L and an electronic rear differential with limited slip that conducts up to 100% of the available torque to the rear wheel with the most traction.

The available air suspension automatically matches the driving mode, or it can be set manually in five positions that raise or lower the Grand Cherokee L by a total of 4.2 inches. The normal ride height with 8.3 inches of ground clearance increases in Off-road 2 to a Wrangler Rubicon-like 10.9 inches for up to 24 inches of wading, says Jeep. In Rock mode, it is raised so high above the large wheels that you can see the upper control arm forward or the four corner air springs in any wheel well.

With adaptive dampers, the suspension is tuned for comfort as much as climbing. The parking mode lowers the space to a minivan-like 6.5 inches, so going in and out requires no boost or grip, and the sport mode automatically lowers the suspension by 0.8 inches for better aero. It’s still a large three-wheeled SUV exposed to physics, so cornering as if you were in a Trackhawk will lead to problems. For road use, the suspension calms the road like a woobie and induces naps for both toddlers and adults.

The dual character of the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L balances off-road bonafides with impressive road comfort unlike any other three-wheeled SUV without a Land Rover brand. It is a welcome and delayed addition to the Jeep range to keep families in the brand.

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