posted on October 26, 2021

New roots, new style, and available in a new size

Ten years is typically a long time for a car to stick with one design, but honestly, the fourth-generation Grand Cherokee could have chilled in place for a few more. Earning praise for its refined driving experience, pleasing interior, and timeless styling from its 2011 beginnings right up through the end, Jeep’s flagship is going out on a sales surge, moving over 200,000 annual units even after COVID-19 crashed the party.

At any rate, Grand Cherokee number five has arrived, and its essence reflects the changed world it’s been born into. With Jeep’s parent company long ago absorbed into the Stellantis (read: Fiat) empire, the new GC makes a clean break with its Mercedes-derived genes, now tracing its mechanical DNA to the Alfa Romeo Stelvio.

Wissam’s 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L (Revere, MA)

Note that the Grand Cherokee lineup is making the transition one step at a time. First up is the Grand Cherokee L, a new variant that marks the first time this Jeep is being offered in extra-length form. With a body stretched out to 205 inches, the L model opens up room for a standard third row of seats, raising total capacity to either six or seven (depending on whether the second row is ordered with two seats or three). With both back rows folded, the Grand Cherokee L can hold 85 cubic feet of cargo, right in line with its most similar competitor, the Ford Explorer. The new generation of the one-foot-shorter standard Grand Cherokee, meanwhile, launches this fall as a 2022 model.

Differences in size and heritage notwithstanding, the new Grand Cherokee L seems designed under the same philosophy as the last one. To maximize comfort and car-like manners, it still comes built atop a unibody platform with an independent suspension at both ends. It’s still rear-wheel drive at its core, and offers the same three tiers of optional four-wheel drive systems: Quadra-Trac I (basically, common all-wheel drive), Quadra-Trac II (which adds low range gearing and Hill Descent Control for more off-road prowess), and Quadra-Drive II (adds a limited-slip differential).

Andrew’s 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L (Aurora, CO)

With the insanely powerful engines of the recent high-performance models on hiatus for the moment (ditto the diesel), the new Grand Cherokee even bows with the same two engines as before: a 3.6-liter V6 with 290 horsepower, and a 5.7-liter V8 with 357. While competitive in 2011, these engines are starting to lag behind the times, still lacking common efficiency-boosting features like direct fuel injection. Expect the V6 to average somewhere around the 19 MPG in real-world driving it did before. The V8’s figures are below even that, although its huge serving of torque (an extra 133 pounds-feet) give it a kick that’s missing with the V6 — plus an increase in towing capacity from 6,200 pounds to 7,200.

The Grand Cherokee L’s trim lines follow a familiar hierarchy as well, launching with four — the Laredo, Limited, Overland, and Summit — which run the range from roughly $39,000 to $64,000. Since all models start off with V6 and rear-wheel drive, the main differences are in the optional 4WD systems (the fancier trims get the more complex systems) and in features/tech.

The Laredo, the only Grand Cherokee with cloth seats, arrives at the table with tri-zone climate control, 12 USB ports, LED headlights and taillights, a fancy new driver’s digital gauge cluster, and Chrysler’s Uconnect 5 system with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and an 8.4-inch touchscreen. Major additions of the Limited model include leather, heated steering wheel, heated second row seats, driver position memory, power liftgate, and remote start. When the Limited is ordered with 4WD (Quadra-Trac I), it also includes Jeep’s Selec-Terrain system, which can optimize traction for Sport, Rock, Snow, and Mud/Sand situations.

It’s a big price jump to the Overland model. The most notable addition is an air suspension dubbed Quadra-Lift, which promises the smoothest possible ride and also lets the driver adjust ride height. The Overland’s optional 4WD system is Quadra-Trac II, which is a requirement for access to the optional V8. As far as features, the Overland adds Nappa leather, an Alpine sound system, navigation, a foot-operated liftgate, ventilated front seats, power folding second- and third-row seats, side mirrors with puddle lamps and automatic tilting in reverse, rain-sensing wipers, a dual-pane panoramic sunroof, and 20-inch wheels (up from 18s).

Finally, the Summit tops things off with four-zone climate control, a larger touchscreen, 12-way power front seats with massage, and various stylistic touches. Also included are safety features like drowsy driver protection, highway assist, a traffic sign recognition system, a parking system, and a 360° surround view camera. The Summit’s 4WD system is the top-line Quadra-Drive II, which is again mandatory for access to the V8.

With the Grand Cherokee L having launched this past spring, there are now plenty available for the sampling on Turo. Search around near you to experience Jeep’s newest and most luxurious model on Turo.