FIVE GENERATIONS GRANDER: Call it the original volume premium Sport Utility Vehicle which did not depend on a pickup truck or car for its off road chops. Label the 1992 debut of a coil suspended mid size SUV the active outdoor automotive smash hit of that decade, despite wearing some tacky [by today’s standards] gold colored wheels and accents. Credit the follow-up model for being the best selling American designed vehicle of its time sold in Europe. Pronounce the third generation a five year beginning of Daimler Chrysler relationship flop. Herald the fourth generation GC a revival of the original’s success with re-discovered refinement, beyond the pavement ability, and even [available] Hellcat power. Jeep Grand Cherokee irrevocably snapped the American Motors chains and has cemented the brand’s global cachet for posterity.
FIRST THREE ROW LWB GC: Ostensibly ousting a Dodge [Durango] from a continued role as Pentastar’s sole three row SUV, the 5th dimension of Jeep Grand Cherokee saw a Spring 2021 launch in lengthier, extra row format. The 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Overland 5.7L 4×4 arrives to take more occupants than ever before by highway to rocky trail.
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WHAT: 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Overland 4×4 3- Row full size sport utility vehicle. The all new Mark 5 GC, designated WL, replaces the highly successful WK2 4th generation Grand Cherokee.
Std. Power: 3.6L DI DOHC gas V-6 w/ idle Start/ Stop =293 hp / 260 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm + 8-spd. torque converter planetary automatic transaxle.
Opt. Power: 5.7L OHV pushrod gas V-8 w/ idle Start/ Stop = 357 hp / 390 lb-ft @ 4250 rpm + 8-spd. torque converter planetary automatic transaxle. (Included on test vehicle. Only available and optional on Overland and Summit trims.)
Available Drivetrain per each powerplant: 2-speed chain drive 4-wheel drive transfer case w/ electronic on the fly shifting.
WHAT (A) STYLING DIFFERENCE: The new WL Grand Cherokee isn’t shy about its intentions to take the entire model range upmarket nearer to the first relaunch of a Wagoneer / Grand Wagoneer flagship in 3 decades. A more imposing, chiseled large slabbed esoteric suit adorns the new GC eschewing its former chunky sporty self. Nobody would be surprised if the LWB three-row GC replaces the Dodge Durango altogether (as that brand glues itself exclusively to cars).
√ Flanking dual valley slight clamshell hood; √ Thinner trademark Jeep 6 vertical bar grille filled with dark latticing bridges winged thin wrap-around headlamps wearing upper directionals; Thin jutting mid front bumper; Chrome banded lower center radiator grille of darkened latticed + intersecting bars and outer chrome tow hooks; Dark latticed faux corner inlets; Tandem outlined trapezoid wheel arches with body color cladding; Subtle beltine fold, subtle lower cheatline crease and lower door indentation; Long wheel base pronounces sloping roof followed by matching roof spoiler; Chrome upper window banding, darkened remaining banding.
√ Tandem diagonal mid crease rear quarter panels supports wrap around thin; Chrome upper window frame banding follows to rear liftgate backlight dipping as a frame; Slight Kammback liftgate; Mid liftgate bump out with prominent trademark “JEEP” chromed lettering splits thin lateral inverted “L” taillamps; Deep center lower liftgate fold carves our license plate valley meeting rear quarter panel scoops followed by a bottom liftgate crease; Thin, wide lower bumper cover corner reflectors are bridged by a darkened lattice chrome band; Chrome outboard arrow dual corner exhaust outlets are embeeded in body colored lower rear fascia.
WHY: Fifth generation Grand Cherokee grows grander & adds more dimension
WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since Spring 2021
WHERE: Jeep new vehicle dealers
WHERE MADE: Jefferson Avenue, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A.
WHERE TO: Six or seven can now go where only five men (and women and children) could travel to before in a trail rated Grand Cherokee.
- Available full-time all-wheel drive:
- Quadra-Drive II (optional): Electronic two-speed MP 3022 chain driven helical gear transfer case + viscous multi clutch torque split + e-limited slip front, rear axle differentials
- Nominal / maximum front to rear torque split = 48:52% / 0:100%
- Ground clearance: 8.4″ inches nominal to variable 10.9″ inches (w/ optional Quadra-Lift air suspension)
- Water Fording: up to 24″ inches
- Selec-Terrain drive + traction management Modes x 5: Rock, Sand/ Mud, Snow, Auto, Sport
- ABS Hill descent control
HOW ROADWORTHY: The optional 5.7L V-8 aboard the tested 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Overland, flows power in such a mellow small block pushrod Hemi way. When needed but a one or two gear downshifts supplied by ZF designed TorqueFlite 8HP70 supply emits a healthy power burst without the need for strained revolutions.
Front and rear suspensions are fully independent multi-link with lightened aluminum carriers allowing electronically variable dampers to compress neatly without dramatic rebound. The optional and fitted Quadra-Lift air springs will rise to off-road occasion or lower for the road according to driver’s Select-Terrain choice. Surface imperfections are soaked up with little notice and brake dive is tamed with the body attitude remaining fairly lateral before leaning in acute adjustments. Steering rotation comes in with a well judged heft but some lethargy and plenty of numbing are included. Considerable caliper on disc sizing results in a fair amount of brake pedal travel eventually issuing urgent slowing.
-1 Wind noise needs improved attenuation.
HOW FAR: 15 combined miles per gallon. (Cylinder de-activation does only so much when milling around with 2.5 tons of brick.) 506 miles highway range on 89 octane unleaded fuel.
HOW BIG/ LITTLE: √ 6 Occupant seating = full-size 2+2+2 SUV style: Row 3 = Livable knee & head room for 2 x 5’11” adults ; √ Standard 2nd Row captain chairs (60:40 split bench optional).
- +1 Long wheelbase spaciousness is well suited to the Grand Cherokee
- -1 More challenging to park than the standard wheelbase GC
HOW USEFUL: √ Comfort approach variable height power liftgate; √ Power release flat folding + tilt & slide 2nd Row captains chairs; √ Power cabin & remote cargo bay 3rd Row split seatback fold & raise; +1 Long 1st & 2nd Row door pockets; +1 Sliding covered lower center stack mobile handset tray & connection / power ports; +1 3rd Row wall storage and outboard floor cargo management. -1 Modest front center armrest & cargo bay sub-floor storage.
HOW SAFE: STANDARD: IIHS = Not Yet Tested; √ 7 airbags; √ Rear camera w/ predictive grid; √ Blind Spot, rear cross traffic Warning; √ Post collision S.O.S. alert; √ Roll Mitigation; √ Pedestrian & cyclist detection braking; √ Forward collision avoidance braking; √ Lane Departure Warning + Keep Assist; √ Full adaptive cruise control; √ Park Sense w/ reverse full stop; √ Rain sensing windshield wipers; Automatic High Beam headlamps;
AVAILABLE (included in test vehicle)
♦ Heads Up Display = 10.0″; ♦ ParkSense Front Park Assist with Stop; ♦ 360° Surround View Camera w/ rear backup camera washer; ♦ First and Second Row traffic side exit warning; ♦ Highway Assist; ♦ Night vision pedestrian & animal detection; ♦ Intersection Collision Assist; ♦ Fam Cam aft cabin camera;
HOW PEOPLE FRIENDLY: For the first time in its history the previous WK2 series made a serious effort at truly integrating luxury gear into a brand once stuck to the hip with military service. At least in Overland attire which is second only to Summit the WL 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L ups the premium factor by a magnitude of at least two with more gently flowing panels, better fitting than before, many covered in tandem seam contrast stitched hides, with a gathering of genuine wood, aluminum accents and high polished piano black plastics. Finally the GC cabin has been deemed worthy of precision tactile and soft touch switchgear, rising far above the standard corporate assembly line bin. Moreover, some of the most versatile, intuitive and pleasingly integrated of latest technology is aboard this fifth generation Grand Cherokee, including a standard variably configurable full digital cockpit virtual instrument cluster with available embedded navigation map and the Android Oreo derived latest Uconnect 5.0 infotainment with custom widget and over the air apps.
√ Nappa Leather seating – heated & cooled Rows 1 + 2; √ Wide berth, sport bolstered front bucket seats; √ 12-way power front seats, w/ 3-setting memory & variable massage; √ Heated leather steering wheel with spoke integrated tactile redundant controls; √ Automatic 4-zone climate control; √ 2nd Row climate fan and seat heating, cooling controls; √ Large center console ribbed rotary metallic transmission position and Drive mode dials; √ Overhead console retracting sunglasses bin; √ Manual select power folding side mirrors.
-1 Limited steering wheel reach adjustment; Short 2nd Row seat cushions; Power liftgate, lock switch on liftgate [rather than cargo area panel].
Cool Gizmo(s): √ 10.25″ inch frameless TFT virtual cockpit digital instrument cluster w/ integrated MFD including, drive modes, performance data, four pane status; √ Available Map in virtual cockpit cluster; √ Foot well, center console & door panel ambient lighting; √ Front seat massaging; Detroit skyline in background of Uconnect 5.0 10.1″ infotainment display.
Details Done Right: √ Streamlined amphitheater style cockpit w/ dash top overhang; √ Tandem pulled seam contrast stitched simulated leather & leathers; √ Dense pile carpet; √ Mid dashboard & door panel Absolute Oak wood appliques; √ Oak wood accented leather wrapped steering wheel; √ Tight webbed pillars & headliner; √ Serrated brushed metal toggle Selec-Terrain center console switches; Piano black soft touch steering wheel, center stack & console buttons; √ Carpeted Row 3 & cargo bay walls.
Nearly Non-Descript: -1 Coarse grain below waist-height, pillar, aft cabin wall plastic cabin trim; Steering wheel spoke controls lack tactile distinctiveness; Non-fluid door and secondary switch action.
√ UConnect 5.0 center dash embedded 10.1″-inch capacitive touch LCD tri-pane landscape infotainment screen; √ Bluetooth & voice command hands-free communications; √ GPS HDD Navigation w/ 3-D map, voice guidance + Map in Digital Instrument Cluster; √ voice to text SMS messaging; √ USB-A x 6, USB-C x 6 (4 total each per row); 12V x 4 (includes cargo), 115V AC x 1 (2nd Row)
+1 Higher definition Uconnect 5.0 media display graphics, customizable widgets; Sliding covered forward center console wireless device storage w/ Qi inductive device charging tray
HOW “APP” -LICABLE:
√ Android Auto / Apple Car Play smart phone projection; √ Uconnect 5.0 6 GB RAM, 64 GB HD storage, Apps and App Store + over the air updates; √ Weather app
♦ Impeccably sibilant & tight, distortion free peak ranging McIntosh Audio (of Binghamton, New York) MX950 19 speaker (including 10.0″ inch subwoofer), 950 Watt, 17 channel DTS 5.1 reference audio system w/ trademark Power Guard anti clipping and dual VU needle Blue power meters.
- +1 Extensive Uconnect voice commands for climate, audio, voice to text SMS and navigation inputs
- -1 Lack of infotainment display hood = considerable sun glare; McIntosh audio staging less impressive than Volvo’s B&W
By Subscription: √ Sirius XM 360L w/ enhanced search (90 day trial); √ 4G LTE Wi-Fi by Verizon (1 GB, 90 day trial); √ Sirius Guardian telematics
HOW MUCH: $73,060 = 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Overland 5.7L 4×4
WHAT’S MISSING: Better fuel economy; a little less cabin wind noise penetration
ANY COMPETITION: Ford Explorer: +1 fuel economy, lower price.
(Contributing Editor: T. Paluch)