Jeep Grand Cherokee has most of what lots of people will, as evidenced by the fact that the GC is Jeep’s best-selling model. But that’s not a thing many people have requires — it’s a third row.
Enter the Grand Cherokee L, which does.
What it is
The Grand Cherokee L is a longer version of the standard Grand Cherokee. It comes standard with a third row and seats up to seven versus five in the GC with only two rows.
Other than that – and the price – they’re essentially the same.
Prices start at $40,325 for the base Laredo on the Grand Cherokee L as opposed to $38,325 for the same thing in a two-row Grand Cherokee without the L (and the extra length). Both come standard with the same 3.6-liter V6, along with an eight-speed automatic – and the option to buy all-wheel drive.
Both are also available with V8 power in Overland and Summit trims, which sticker for $56,240 and $60,300 to start, respectively, for the GC L, and $54,240 and $58,300, respectively, for the GC.
What is new
The GC L is now available with the passenger-side LCD screen that made its debut in the two-row GC. You can also get the L with Amazon Fire TV for the back seats.
What is good
One more line, not much more cost.
More total cargo capacity too.
Standard V6; available V8.
What is not so good
Less cargo capacity behind the third row than the second row has behind its second row.
The V8 is limited to much more expensive Overland and Summit trims.
Auto stop/start must be turned off every time you start — unless you want the engine to stop/start every time you drive.
Under the hood
The GC L comes standard with the same 3.6-liter V6 that’s standard in the … standard GC. It makes 293 horsepower and 260 foot-pounds of torque and is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.
This sends power to either the rear wheels or your choice of three different 4WD systems: Quadra Trac 1, Quadra Trac II or Quadra Drive II. The Quadra Trac 1 is more similar to the all-wheel-drive setups available in most crossovers in that it does not have a two-speed transmission and therefore does not have the benefit of down-low leverage with 4WD low gear.
The next available 4WD system—Quadra Trac II—adds a two-speed transmission and low-range, greatly increasing the available mechanical leverage at low speeds.
The Quadra Drive II is mechanically similar but differs by having a 4WD high range that engages automatically (without the driver having to activate it).
For more engines, there’s the optional 5.7-liter Hemi V8, which makes 357 horsepower and 390 foot-pounds of torque.
On the road
What the GC L offers is the luxury full-size SUV experience, which can be experienced at a price far below that of luxury-branded models such as the Genesis GV80 and Land Rover Range Rover which are also smaller (standard GC size) and only two rows — or, as in the case of the Benz GLE, usually two rows.
This Jeep’s main competitor may turn out to be the newest Jeep model, the even bigger Wagoneer. It also comes standard with a 392-horsepower version of the GC L’s available Hemi V8. An even stronger (and larger) version is also available in the Grand Wagoneer.
But these are also priced well above the price of the GC L, which still offers much of the same ultra-premium equipment, such as multi-mode massage seats and ruggedness/capacity that is hard to find in another SUV at a comparable price.
At The Curb
Size matters – literally.
The GC L is large enough to accommodate an adult-usable third row without being so big that it’s too big for people who want the extra seats but not if it means upgrading to something really big, like Wagoneer. It’s 214.7 inches long versus 204.9 inches for the GC L (and 193.5 inches for the two-row GC).
The GC L thus bridges the gap between mid-size SUVs like the two-row GC and full-size SUVs like its Wagoneer big brother.
You can slide the second-row captain’s chairs through seven inches of travel to fine-tune legroom in both the second and third rows. The third row is available with individually adjustable push buttons, and the other seats also tilt individually forward to open access to the third for passengers.
With the third row down, you can carry longer items with the tailgate down that would require it to be left partially open in the two-row GC. The total cargo capacity goes up to 84.6 cubic feet compared to 70.8 cubic feet in its smaller sibling. It is enough to draw an 80-inch window frame in timber frame without having to push forward the seats in the second row.
With the third row in use, however, cargo capacity drops to 17.2 cubic feet from 37.7 cubic feet in the second row.
The Jeep LCD interface – UConnect – is one of the best available because it’s as easy to use as old-school buttons and dials because it has them. For example, you can fine-tune the station you’re listening to manually using a dial rather than a clumsy tap/swipe.
That business is about not too small, not too big but exactly right applies to the Grand Cherokee L.
See the Jeep Grand Cherokee L this week.
Eric’s latest book, “Domed: Good Cars Gone Wrong!” will be available soon. To find out more about Eric and read his previous columns, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.