The 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Is The First Three-Row Grand Cherokee Ever. It's About Damn Time

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Photo: Jeep
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Jeep, a brand that sells so many SUVs that it almost seems to compete with itself, has not offered a three-row option in the U.S. since the “Unfit For Human Consumption” Jeep Commander left the market in 2010. Now that changes with the fifth-generation “WL” Jeep Grand Cherokee, which takes what has for many years been Jeep’s most luxurious model, and for the first time ever adds a third-row option.

This is all quite interesting, as Jeep is expected to debut a Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer in the near future, and both models will almost certainly offer three rows. Granted, those two are likely to be body-on-frame and quite a bit larger than this unibody 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L, but it’s interesting to note that, when Jeep finally decides to stop giving up free money and jump into the three-row segment, the brand will do it with multiple vehicles all at the same time.

Anyway, let’s look at the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L’s specs. Per Motor1, the machine seems to share quite a bit with the outgoing WK II-generation Grand Cherokee. Like the SUV that debuted for the 2011 model year, the 2021 Grand Cherokee will offer either a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 or a 5.7-liter Hemi V8. Horsepower figures are 290 for the six (torque is 257 pound-feet) and 357 for the V8 (which makes 390 lb-ft of torque). Like on the current Grand Cherokee, all motors come bolted to an eight-speed automatic transmission, which sends power to either just the rear wheels or to all four wheels via multiple available four-wheel-drive systems.

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Per Car And Driver, a “4xe” plug-in hybrid model will enter production sometime this year, which is also when Jeep plans to start building two-row variants (for the 2021 model year Jeep will sell this three-row Grand Cherokee L alongside the older-generation two-row “WK”).

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Photo: Jeep

It should be no surprise that the Grand Cherokee L is significantly bigger than the current WK, with a wheelbase that spans roughly seven more inches and overall length up to over a foot. Width and height also grow a bit from the soon-to-be-outgoing Grand Cherokee.

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As for off-road geometry, the Jeep’s front overhang remains short, and with the optional Quadra-Lift air suspension jacked up to the Off-Road 2 setting (which yields a great 10.9-inches of ground clearance), the approach angle is fairly impressive at 30.1. That actually makes it better than the outgoing Grand Cherokee at keeping the face out of the dirt and off the rocks, though the Grand Cherokee L’s length does it no favors off-road. A 22.6-degree breakover angle and 23.6-degree departure angle are likely to send the Jeep’s belly and rear bumper bashing on all sorts of off-road terrain if someone dares to take this luxury machine off the pavement.

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The new Jeep’s interior looks much, much better than the current Grand Cherokee’s, which is nice but still shares a lot with the cabin that debuted with the 2011 WK Grand Cherokee. The WL’s optional 10.1-inch touchscreen looks nicely integrated into the dashboard, the rotary transmission saves space from the outgoing “PRNDL” shifter, the new three-spoke steering wheel looks great, and the seats, dashboard, and door panels—it all appears top-notch. I’ll have to sit in the new WL before I can make a final judgment, but the WL’s guts look promising.

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You can expect a bunch of luxury options like heated and cooled seats with a massaging function, as well as safety features like adaptive cruise control (which Car and Driver says will offer hands-free driving capability), a night vision camera, and a digital rearview mirror. Per the car website, all Grand Cherokee Ls will come standard with “collision warning with active braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist with lane departure warning, brake assist, and blind-spot monitoring.”

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There’s no official word on the handsome new three-row SUV’s cost, but Car and Driver expects a starting price of under 40 grand for the base Laredo model and $55,000 for the Summit, with Limited and Overland landing somewhere in between.

That’s quite a bit pricier than other three-row SUVs on the market like the Chevy Traverse and Ford Explorer, though — and I’ll have to see a base Laredo model before making any conclusion — neither of those SUVs looks this good (though I do like the Explorer):

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The grille, the slim headlights, the wide and skinny taillights, the overall profile with the lightly bulging wheel arches — the new Jeep Grand Cherokee’s styling is on point. The strongest SUV brand in the world is finally filling a gaping hole in its product lineup, and it’s doing so with style.

Update: Here are some photos of the third row: 

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Sr. Tech Editor, Jalopnik. Always interested in hearing from engineers—email me. Cars: Jeep J10 ('85), Jeep Cherokee ('79, '91, '92, '00), Jeep Grand Cherokee 5spd ('94), Chrysler Voyager Diesel ('94)

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DISCUSSION

ptgreenphone
ptgreenphone

With the exception of one vehicle I drove, the third seats always hit me as “I am losing cargo space for a seat that a small child would struggle to get to.”

Not sure why that is a selling point.

NOTE: The Escalate ESV I rented for a week had enough room for adults in the third row and still had room for stuff.