2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve 4×4 review by Ben Lewis

Big is back! Especially in the SUV marketplace. If you’ve tried to buy a Kia Telluride or Hyundai Palisade, you’ll know that capable 3-row models are hot, hot, hot.

And into the fray comes the new Grand Cherokee L, made all the grander by being larger, more luxurious, and offering that highly desired 3rd row for the first time. So how grand is the new Grand Cherokee? Let’s take a look.

Bigger but Familiar

A quick look, and you know instantly this is a Grand Cherokee. Jeep says the proportions of the L were inspired by the original Wagoneer – a favorite of ours.

Up front, a longer hood and cab instantly sells the size, while a forward tipped grille with 7 slots is pure Jeep. Slim LED headlights give a modern air, while a large lower grille and LED accent lights keep things looking familiar but fresh.

The profile is big and bold, with a lowered beltline making the GC look more planted. The new-for-‘21 Gloss Black Roof of our tester makes the big vehicle look sleek, while the massive 21-inch alloys – another first for a Grand Cherokee – really fill out the wheel wells.

At the rear, the wider track gives a feeling of heft, while the slender LED taillights provide a modern vibe. A dynamic cut-in at the lights keep things from looking slabby, while the lower fascia with integrated dual exhausts looks purposeful and mean.

Beyond First Class Cabin

Inside is a true expression of style and elegance.

Open the door, and you’re awash in gorgeous color and design. The two-tone scheme is black on top and very peanut-buttery below. Premium hand-wrapped quilted Palermo leather with waxed Walnut trim throughout is visually stunning.

The driver faces a new 10.25 digital gauge cluster, which is one of the nicest we’ve seen. And with nearly two dozen different selectable menus, whatever info you want, you can have it on the screen.

A 10.1-inch touch-screen dominates the center console, and the display is also crisp and clear. We like the Uconnect 5 info-tainment system, which includes 5 user profile systems, which includes your music, apps, seat position, mirror angles and climate control settings.

You also get cool tech including simultaneous connectivity for two Bluetooth-enabled phones, Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Alexa home-to-car, TomTom navigation, and Wi-Fi hotspot for up to 8 devices. All good, but to be honest we were constantly banging heads with the Wireless Apple CarPlay that was moody, and only seemed to connect when it felt like it. At least with 12 USB ports throughout the cabin, everyone can stay charged up.

While most large SUV’s now serve up impressive audio, the Grand Cherokee L has a system really worth mentioning. Bringing back the McIntosh name to the car world (Subaru had one once decades ago), the system features 19 custom designed speakers with a 10-inch subwoofer. Powered by a 17-channel, 950-watt amplifier, the sound is simply fantastic.

They even went as far as to make the audio controls replicate the look of McIntosh amplifier control knobs, backlit the logos on the door speaker grilles, and even an “Mc” logo on the subwoofer – just like the brand’s home audio equipment. You can even pull up a McIntosh power meter display on the infotainment display. Very cool!

Seating is fantastic – 16-way power adjustable heated and cooled front seats with seat back massage that includes five customizable profiles and three levels of pressure intensity!  (They should have a tip jar) The second-row captain’s chairs are equally comfortable – heated and ventilated on our tester – and the third row, while still best for kids, is large enough to squeeze in the occasional adult. We also like the 4-zone climate control system, making sure everyone is comfy.

When it comes to hauling gear, with all seats up, you have a reasonable amount of storage. Use the cool power recline for the third row and you have huge amounts of room. Folding the 2nd row captain’s chairs gives you an even more gargantuan cargo space. Time for that big screen you’ve been hankering after.

Rides Big, Drives Small

Driving the L adds to the list of seriously enjoyable things the largest of Grand Cherokees provides. Two engines are offered; a 3.6-liter V6, pushing out 290 horsepower, or a delightful upgrade – the optional 5.7-liter Hemi V8 that pumps out 357 horsepower. With a deep grumble on start up, and a nice V8 snarl as you wind it out, you’ll never go back to the V6!

The standard 8-speed automatic is smooth and swift, and even with 4-wheel drive and all the luxury goods, the massive L pulled hard and accelerated with all the joy you’d expect from a Hemi. That powerhouse also lets you tow up to 7200 lbs., and even gets close to 20 mpg on the highway. Mid-teens in the city is reasonable for such a big guy.

Jeep even gives you a choice of different 4×4 systems, depending on your need. Our bet is whatever you choose, you’ll get amazing off-road capability – hey it’s a Jeep!

Ride quality is excellent, and road trips are swallowed up with ease. The steering is also nicely weighted and precise, and the brakes have excellent feel. It all adds up to an easy vehicle to drive on twisty roads and crowded commutes. We were also pleased that something that is so physically big feels smaller on the road and in the shopping mall.

Part of it this maneuverability probably comes from Jeep’s experience off-roading. The L doesn’t have massive overhangs, which would make it easy to snag parts in the serious stuff.  That pays benefits on-road, making it simple to have a feel for the corners. Finishing it off, our tester’s 360-degree overhead parking camera made it easy to slip into tight spaces.  

Does Big Cost More?

It’s true in movie theater popcorn, and it’s true here. That said, the Grand Cherokee L is well priced for a large vehicle. You can get into a 2WD V6 Grand Cherokee L Laredo model for just $39,220, which strikes us as a great deal for a fresh 3-row SUV with loads of capability and style.

As usual Jeep gives you a choice of trims, including Altitude, Limited, Overland, Summit and the new Summit Reserve 4×4, like our tester. Starting at $61,395, we also enjoyed the Silver Zynith Exterior Paint ($345), Luxury Tech Group V ($245), and the 5.7-Liter Hemi engine, for $3,295. Add in $1,795 for destination, and we rang the bell at $67,075.

Before you shop further, if you don’t need that 3rd row, we’d like to point out that the regular Grand Cherokee is a great vehicle, and worth looking at. Just a thought.

Back in the land of 3 rows, one of the most popular competitors to the Grand Cherokee L would be the Kia Telluride, and at $50,180 it’s a great value, but it is more a competitor to the GC V6 model. If you need the power, you must give the nod to the Hemi V8. Also, we have heard that dealers are adding ridiculous mark-ups to the Telly, so be careful.

For those who like domestic, a comparably equipped Chevrolet Tahoe comes in a bit more at $71,840. Strong and capable, but we’d still favor the Jeep for its drop-dead gorgeous interior and off-road capability.

  Stylish, Capable, with hemi power and a 3rd row seat, the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L is one big, beautiful, SUV and sits at the top of its class.