Edmunds compares Jeep Grand Cherokee L and Kia Telluride

Cars

This photo from Kia shows the Kia Telluride. An adult-friendly third row and plenty of cargo space are among its many highlights. Associated Press

Jeep’s Grand Cherokee has long been a solid choice for shoppers looking for an upscale and rugged SUV. Now there’s something new: the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L. It ushers in the model’s complete redesign and debuts a third seat, something the Grand Cherokee never had.

The third row of seats adds versatility, but it also pits this L version against a dynamic set of competing models. Among the best is the 2021 Kia Telluride. Introduced just a couple of years ago, the Telluride has impressed Edmunds experts with its spacious interior, nicely appointed cabin and competitive pricing. Which SUV is the best buy? Edmunds compared them to find out.

COMFORT AND INTERIOR

Both of these SUVs have a smooth ride quality and well-cushioned seats. And unlike many rivals, the Telluride and Grand Cherokee L offer plenty of legroom and headroom in all three rows. This means that even 6-footers have no problem sitting comfortably in the back.

However, there are some minor differences. The Kia’s interior is noticeably quieter when traveling at highway speeds, and its seats do a better job of holding you in place when you’re going around corners. The Telluride also has an advantage in storage space, providing 21 cubic feet of storage behind its third seat compared to the Grand Cherokee L’s 17.2 cubes.

Winner: Kia Telluride

PERFORMANCE

Every SUV comes standard with a capable V6 engine. In Kia’s case, it’s a 3.8-liter engine that produces 291 horsepower. The Jeep 3.6-liter engine makes an almost identical 293 horsepower. However, the Telluride is up to nearly 700 pounds lighter than the Grand Cherokee, and that helps it accelerate faster than the Jeep. Edmunds testing reveals that the Telluride pulls from zero to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds, compared to the Grand Cherokee L’s 8.6 seconds. There’s enough of a difference to notice when accelerating quickly to enter a freeway or pass a slow-moving vehicle.

But the Grand Cherokee L has three aces up brand new sheet metal. The first is an available 5.7-liter V8, which produces a similar 357 horsepower. In addition, the Jeep can tow more. While the Telluride maxes out at 5,000 pounds, the Grand Cherokee L’s V6 can tow up to 6,200 pounds. Opting for the V8 bumps towing capacity to a hefty 7,200 pounds. Finally, the Jeep is one of the few vehicles in this class that is focused on off-road driving, with available add-ons such as Hill Descent Control and an advanced traction control system.

Winner: Jeep Grand Cherokee L

TECHNOLOGY

We think Jeep’s Uconnect 5 infotainment system has one of the most intuitive touchscreen interfaces on the market. The digital buttons are quite large and the generous screen size means there’s plenty of virtual real estate to work with. Not to be outdone, Kia has an equally easy-to-use system with sharp, clear graphics.

The two SUVs are also fairly evenly matched in terms of the power and clarity of their high-range sound systems, breadth of advanced driving aids and safety features, and smartphone integration. The two are so evenly matched that we consider this a dead heat.

Winner: Tie

VALUE

The rear-wheel-drive Jeep Grand Cherokee L starts at $40,085, including destination and handling charges. You get a lot for your money, with desirable features such as a power tailgate, heated front seats and adaptive cruise control all standard. A fully loaded Summit Reserve V6 will set you back $65,430, or $68,725 if you opt for the V8. The Grand Cherokee L has plenty of features across the range to back up the hefty price tag, but interior materials quality is a bit underwhelming.

Telluride is much cheaper; it costs $34,015 in its base form and tops out at $51,805 with every major option box checked. Kia doesn’t offer any fancy features you can get on the Jeep, like massaging seats or four-zone climate control. But unless you’re considering the top-spec Grand Cherokee L, you’ll generally find that the Telluride offers a similar range of features at a significantly lower price. Its interior also exudes a more premium feel once you start examining the fit and finish of the materials.

Winner: Kia Telluride

EDMUNDS SAYS: The Kia Telluride and Jeep Grand Cherokee L are two of the hottest three-row SUVs on the market, but only one can take the crown in a head-to-head comparison. While the Grand Cherokee L certainly has appealing features, the Telluride wins with its well-rounded nature and superior value.

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