It was 29 years ago today, that the Jeep® brand shook up the SUV segment with the introduction of the 1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee (ZJ). Originally intended to be a replacement for the legendary Jeep Grand Wagoneer (SJ), the all-new ZJ was introduced to the media at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit in a stunt that kicked off the most awarded nameplate in the SUV segment.
Driving a Poppy Red-colored ZJ fresh off the assembly line from the newly built Jefferson Avenue Assembly Plant (JNAP) on Detroit’s eastside, Chrysler Corporation President, Bob Lutz was followed by cameras making the 6-mile trip to Detroit’s Cobo Hall. Once there, Lutz drove the 4.0-liter inline-six-cylinder-powered Grand Cherokee up the stairs of Cobo Hall, crashing through the windows of the lobby and unveiling the new SUV to the press.
Fast forward to today, the NAIAS show has been pushed to a September date, there is an ongoing pandemic, and Jeep has built a brand-new assembly plant to help manufacture even more of the brand’s upcoming fifth-generation Grand Cherokee (WL). The iconic American brand introduces the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L, the first three-row vehicle to carry the Grand Cherokee nameplate. It also marks the brand’s return to the three-row offerings in the SUV E- Segment since the discontinuation of the Jeep Commander (XK) after the 2010 model year.
The 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L is the first part of a trio of new Grand Cherokee offerings from Jeep that will debut this year. Scheduled to start production in early March, a two-row variant following the same formula as the current Grand Cherokee (WK2) models will enter production in August. These two models will be followed by a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) version, using the electrified 4xe nameplate starting production in October according to our sources.
The all-new 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L is completely new from the ground up. Starting with an all-new exterior design, the Grand Cherokee L clearly pulls inspiration from the all-new Grand Wagoneer Concept. Slightly boxier than the WK2 model it will ultimately replace, the new Grand Cherokee L features bolder styling pulled together with a character line that runs around the vehicle just below the greenhouse. A longer, more prominent hood features a more upright front end treatment with features standard LED headlamps with similar styling treatments to the midsize 2021 Jeep Cherokee. Pulling from its brand heritage, the Grand Cherokee L also features a slight kink in the iconic seven-slot grille paying homage to the “waterfall” grille design, a design trait that has been returning on many of the recent new or updated Jeep vehicles.
From the side, the new Grand Cherokee L is chiseled and well-defined. Chrome trim runs from the A-pillar over the side glass and through the D-pillar before running around and under the rear hatch glass, breaking up the classic slab-sided SUV design.
At the rear of the vehicle, Grand Cherokee L features slim LED taillamps that extended from the center of the hatch to flow to the outside of the vehicle before wrapping around the rear quarter panel.
With the addition of the third-row, the Grand Cherokee L is bigger than its WK2 predecessor. With a wheelbase of 121.7-inches and a length of 204.9-inches, the all-new Grand Cherokee L has a 6.9-inch longer wheelbase and is 15.1-inches longer in length. As for the width, the new Grand Cherokee L is 1.4-inches wider than the current model as well.
When compared to the current three-row 2021 Dodge Durango which shares its underpinnings with the current Grand Cherokee WK2, the all-new Grand Cherokee L has just under 2-inches of a longer wheelbase about 4-inches longer in overall length. While it doesn’t sound like much, the added wheelbase and length, should give the new Grand Cherokee L a smoother ride and even more usable three-row legroom than the current Dodge Durango.
With its larger dimensions, the Grand Cherokee L now has more cargo room than ever before. According to Jeep, the Grand Cherokee L features 17.1 cubic-feet of cargo room behind the third-row. That grows to 46.9 cubic-feet with the third-row folded down, and 84.6 cubic-feet when both the second-row and third-row are folded flat.
There will be five core trim-levels available on the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L. This includes the entry-level Laredo, well equipped Limited, stylish Overland, luxurious Summit, and the new ultra-premium Summit Reserve. Many of you might be wondering where the off-road-oriented Trailhawk model is, however, customers will have the ability to add an all-new Off-Road Package to the Overland trim in its place. We will be talking about that in an upcoming article.
Inside is where the Grand Cherokee L shines. While the current WK2 interior seems to be a welcoming place for passengers, the new 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L revolutionizes the welcoming experience with new materials, handsome design, and the latest technology.
Starting with what makes the Grand Cherokee L unique, is the standard third-row configuration. There is now the ability to carry either 6 or 7 passengers. The second-row of the Grand Cherokee L can feature a bench layout for those looking for 7 passenger capability or pair of captain’s chairs allowing more premium seating for 6 passengers.
The new low-sung instrument panel (I/P) immediately makes the new Grand Cherokee L seem wider while providing a much more modern look than that current WK2 model. Starting with a new leather-wrapped steering wheel design featuring raised function buttons, which is set up to help the driver better control the Grand Cherokee L’s new technology features.
The recently introduced 10.1-inch Uconnect 5 infotainment touchscreen is laid out horizontally in the middle of the instrument panel. The 10.1-inch system comes standard with TomTom navigation, SiriusXM Radio, wireless Apple CarPlay, and wireless Android Auto. The Uconnect 5 system is 5-times faster and 20% larger than the outgoing 8.4-inch screen. Unlike the 2021 Dodge Durango which only offers the system on certain models, the Grand Cherokee L comes standard with the 10.1-inch Uconnect system.
Also taking advantage of the new Uconnect 5 software, there is a new 10.25-inch digital instrument display which is also standard across the lineup. The new customizable display can feature a number of different layouts tailored to the driver’s preferences, including navigation functions, off-road pages, and can even display the all-new night vision camera.
A new 10-inch Heads-Up Display (HUD) also allows the driver to customize important driver information on the windshield to help keep the driver focused on the road. The system was recently introduced on the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX performance off-roader. The Grand Cherokee L also takes the digital rearview mirror from the Ram 1500 and incorporates it into its new interior. There is a new rear-seat monitoring camera, that allows the driver to keep their eye on their precious cargo seated behind them.
For audiophiles, the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L is the first production Jeep to feature the only vehicle audio system in the world powered by McIntosh. A system using the same elements was showcased on the Grand Wagoneer Concept but is now available to the public for the first time. The McIntosh system features 19-speakers and 950-watts of premium power. There is even a special display in the Uconnect system featuring the McIntosh brand’s signature green and blue logo and VU needles.
Some people will be questioning the decision to return to a rotary-dial shifter, however, it allows the center console to be freed up for the Select-Terrain controls as well as the switch for the available ride-height selector for the Quadra-Lift air suspension.
Despite being able to operate most of the Grand Cherokee L’s features through the Uconnect touchscreen, Jeep has kept physical controls below the infotainment system and in a bank of switches above it as well.
The I/P features several different premium touches, depending on the trim-level. On the more luxurious Summit, there is real wood trim like open-pore Absolute Oak. Premium Summit Reserve models feature open-pore Waxed Walnut wood, adding even more of a premium feel.
Adding even more premium touches to the Grand Cherokee nameplate, there are optional 16-way adjustable front seats with memory and lumbar support. There are now massaging seat backs with five-customizable settings that are standard on Summit and Summit Reserve and optional on Overland.
Heated front and second-row seating are standard on Limited, Overland, Summit, and Summit Reserve models. Ventilated front-row seats are standard on Limited, Overland, and Summit models, with Summit Reserve models getting both front and second-row ventilated seats as standard equipment.
The new premium Summit Reserve trim features the equipment we have stated above, but also with other premium touches like hand-wrapped, quilted Palermo leather seats, a new available Tupelo interior color, and faux suede lines the A-pillar and headliner.
When it comes to powertrain, customers will have some familiar choices. Standard is the award-winning 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 producing 290 horsepower and 257 lb.-ft. of torque, while those looking for more capability and power can opt for the legendary 5.7-liter HEMI V8 delivering a robust 357 horsepower and 390 lb.-ft. of torque. Both are mated to the same TorqueFlite 8-speed automatic transmission that we have grown accustomed to in the WK2 lineup. Of course, both two-wheel-drive (4×2) and four-wheel-drive (4×4) configurations are available.
Pentastar owners will be happy to know, that the Grand Cherokee L will be able to tow up to 6,200 lbs. with both 4×2 or 4×4 configurations (matching the 2021 Dodge Durango’s numbers). For HEMI customers, the brawny HEMI V8 with 4×4 have ratings up to 7,200 lbs. (matching the Durango R/T’s standard rating, but coming in at 1,500 lbs. less than the new R/T Tow & Go package, SRT392, and Hellcat models ratings of 8,700 lbs.)
When it comes to 4×4 capability, the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L is available with several different choices.
- Quadra-Trac I delivers full-time 4×4 without any switches or levers to pull. The system provides smooth operation of the vehicle over a variety of road conditions. This light-weight single-speed case is both proven and efficient for enhanced fuel economy. (Standard on Laredo & Limited).
- Quadra-Trac II features a two-speed transfer case and uses input from a variety of sensors to determine tire slip at the earliest possible moment and takes corrective action. The system also uses throttle anticipate to sense quick movement in the throttle from a stop and maximizes traction before tire slippage occurs. When wheel slippage is detected, as much as 100% of available torque is instantly routed to the axle with the most traction. (Standard on Overland).
- Quadra-Drive II with a rear Electronic Limited-slip Differential (ELSD), delivers industry-leading tractive capability. The system instantly detects tire slip and smoothly distributes engine torque to tires with traction. In some cases, the vehicle will anticipate low traction and adjust in order to proactively limit or eliminate slip. (Optional on Overland, Standard on Summit and Summit Reserve).
Grand Cherokee L can also be outfitted with Quadra-Lift air suspension while the Selec-Terrain traction management system is standard.
The next-generation Quadra-Lift air suspension allows the Grand Cherokee L to have five height settings for optimum ride performance…
- Normal Ride Height (NRH): 8.3-inches of clearance offers improved fuel economy as well as improved aerodynamics during on-road driving
- Off-Road 1: Lifts the vehicle an additional 1.6-inches from NRH for added height in clearing obstacles (9.9-inches)
- Off-Road 2: Delivers legendary Jeep off-road capability and provides an additional 2.4-inches from NRH for 10.9-inches of ground clearance
- Park Mode: Lowers the vehicle 1.8-inches from NRH for easy ingress/egress. NRH and Park Mode are driver-selectable allowing the driver full control over vehicle ride height
- Aero Mode: Lowers the vehicle 0.8-inches from NRH. Aero Mode is controlled by vehicle speed and adjusts for optimal performance and fuel economy. The vehicle will also lower to Aero Mode when in Sport Mode
In its most aggressive setting (Off-Road 2), the Grand Cherokee L features a 30.1-degree approach angle, 23.6-degree departure angle, and a 22.6-degree breakover angle.
The Grand Cherokee L is available with 7 different wheel options, ranging from 18-inch to the first-ever 21-inch option.
- 18-inch painted aluminum wheels (Laredo and Limited).
- 20-inch polished aluminum wheels (Optional on Limited).
- 20-inch machined aluminum wheels with Black Noise-painted pockets (Overland).
- 18-inch polished aluminum wheels (Overland Off-Road Package).
- 20-inch machined aluminum wheels with Technical Grey-painted pockets (Overland Off-Road Package).
- 20-inch machined aluminum wheels (Summit).
- 21-inch machined aluminum wheels with Mid-Gloss Granite Crystal pockets (Summit Reserve).
When it comes to safety, the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L will be the most advanced model ever and feature the following…
- Full-speed Forward Collision Warning-Plus
- Rear Cross Path Detection
- Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop & Go (ACC)
- Lane Keep Assist
- Lane Departure Warning
On higher trim-levels (Overland, Summit, and Summit Reserve), there is additional active and passive equipment available. That includes Level 2 autonomous driving capability. Joining Active Driving Assist later this year will be the Hands-Free Active Driving Assistant, which promises even more in the way of semi-autonomy. The optional Night Vision, HUD, and Intersection Collision Alert (which gives an audible warning of on-coming traffic from either side), Traffic-Sign Recognition, Drowsy Driver Detection, and 360-degree camera allow the fifth-generation Grand Cherokee to be the safest model yet.
While pricing has yet to be announced, we expect it to be somewhere in the mid-$40,000 range. Production is expected to start in March at the new Mack Avenue Complex in Detroit, Michigan and will be arriving in dealerships sometime around May.
For those interested in learning and discussing more on the all-new 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L, be sure to visit our sister site WLJeepForum.com, a dedicated site surrounding the all-new Grand Cherokee trio.
2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Image Gallery: