Back in November, Jim Morrison, Jeep’s brand manager for Stellantis/FCA, came to New England to tout the four new products rolling into dealers. Headlining his program to New England’s auto scribes was the all-new Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer full-size SUV, followed by the Wrangler 4Xe hybrid and what ultimately might be the top-selling new arrival of all — this week’s Grand Cherokee L.
Jeep has been missing from the three-row end of the SUV/crossover segment and now has three entries arriving at the same time. An admission to how important this niche in the market is, the Grand Cherokee L debuts ahead of the regular two-row midsize Grand Cherokee, which will hit showrooms around the time that you read this. The GC L is an immediate competitor to Ford’s Explorer, Chevy’s Traverse, Kia’s Telluride and the Hyundai Palisade as well as Dodge’s Durango. In fact, Durango fans (and dealers) might be thinking that the GC L will soon replace the Durango in the Stellantis portfolio. Morrison claimed that is not the case.
The whole Grand Cherokee platform is updated with greater length and width in the chassis, for better ride dynamics, while retaining its off-road capabilities with three versions of the Quadra-drive four-wheel drive — including a new all-wheel-drive format. The GC L stretches out to 205 inches (11 inches longer than the regular two-row GC), which is 5 inches longer than the Explorer and Durango, 8 inches more than the Telluride/Palisade duo and 10 inches longer than the Toyota Highlander. It is noticeable, in both rear-seat space and third-row seating room, plus peak cargo capacity.
Jeep expects that consumers will take the larger Grand Cherokee at about 50 percent of overall production, according to Morrison.
Powertrains remain the same, so far, with the venerable 3.6-liter 290-hp V-6 standard, and the 5.7-liter 357-hp Hemi V-8 optional. No word on a larger Hemi motor, yet a plug-in hybrid version should debut in the middle of 2022. Each engine is backed with an eight-speed automatic with a 6,200-pound tow rating for the V-6, 1,000 pounds greater for the Hemi. EPA ratings are 18/25 mpg for 4WD V-6 versions, like our sample Overland, while the V-8 model is 2 mpg less. We saw a steady 19 mpg during a windy, cold stretch of winter weather, employing the remote start function regularly.
While the restyle is modest considering that the best-selling midsize SUV hasn’t been redesigned in over 10 years, buyers will recognize a handsome new interior brimming with technology in the fifth-generation Grand Cherokee. Features such as forward night vision displayed in front of the driver plus a heads-up display and selectable rear-view camera mirror aid driving day or night. A new intersection collision assist program detects vehicles approaching from left and right, not just ahead, while a forward off-road camera as well as an in-cabin camera are also new.
The central screen is a 10.1-inch unit that feels almost perfect in shape and scope while employing the latest U-Connect 5 apps and assists. The graphics are crisp, the operating controls are concise, and the general command panel for the latest GC is convenient to all. The shifter is a rotary knob, spreading throughout Jeep/Ram/Dodge, while the quilted Nappa leather seating and finely detailed cabin moves the Grand Cherokee up a notch in refinement to luxury grade. With massaging power front seats, heated and cooled too, buyers will be cross-shopping the new Grand Cherokee against Lexus and other large crossovers.
Pricing starts at $41,175 for Laredo L, new Altitude is $44,080, with popular Limited beginning at $46,200. Our Overland 4X4 started at $55,795 before adding the excellent 19-speaker McIntosh Audio system, dual-panel panoramic roof, plus the Off-Road Group with underbody skid plates, limited-slip rear differential and front tow hooks. Buyers can now get wheels up to 21 inches in diameter, while our Overland carried 18-inch tires working with the adjustable air-suspension. Top Summit Reserve trim, with Palermo leather, pushes pricing to over $63,000.
Second-row bucket seats are standard; a three-person bench seat is optional, giving the GC L potential room for seven.
With greater ride compliance and even more stability due to the larger chassis design, the Grand Cherokee remains a smooth driver on road and a ready companion when the pavement ends. Adding a third row opens up a profitable new segment for the Jeep brand and makes this Grand Cherokee L a viable alternative to traditional large crossovers.
Next week: Nissan Pathfinder Platinum