One of the things about being an auto reviewer, in addition to getting to drive a new car every week, is how you can tell the time of the year by the cars most manufacturers send each week. Almost like clockwork in the spring a model arrives that I had about the same time the previous spring, albeit the newer model.
Jeep doesn’t subscribe to this sort of plan. Sure, they send me vehicles on a consistent basis, but not always at the same time of the year, and usually not just a one-year newer model. This occurred to me when Jeep sent me a Cherokee for a week. I realized how much I like the Cherokee, and that I haven’t one in three years.
It turns out it was worth the wait.
The model I was sent is the new for 2021 Grand Cherokee L, a new model that’s larger and includes a third row of seats; something I didn’t realize the Cherokee needed. The 2021 model kicks off the first Grand Cherokee L generation while the Grand Cherokee will get a design update for the 2022 model year.
The Grand Cherokee L trim levels are the Laredo, Limited, Overland and Summit. All come standard with a 3.6-liter V6 engine with 290 horsepower and 257 lb-ft of torque. A 5.7-liter V8 engine with 357 hp and 390 lb-ft is optional on the Overland and Summit trims. Both engines are paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Four-wheel drive is optional on all trims.
I was sent the top-of-the-line Summit Reserve 4X4 and to say I was impressed is putting it a bit mildly. I don’t normally wax poetically about a vehicle, but I’ve always liked the Cherokee. It’s an SUV that can actually do SUV things; being that it’s a Jeep it has no problem leaving the pavement, if need be, yet mind its manners on the road. Most SUVs to me seem a little sissy; afraid to get a little muddy. Not so with the Cherokee, or any Jeep for that matter.
That I was a bit miffed with Jeep that they waited so long to send me a Cherokee might be an understatement. All that melted away however when I first took it for a drive. I had an appointment and was a bit late so wasn’t thinking the Cherokee too much. When I got in though I had to hesitate a moment. Sure, the Summit with its gloss black roof, looks great on the outside, but on the inside it’s like no other Cherokee I’ve ever had.
Turns out the Summit trim I had came with the Summit Reserve Package with hand-wrapped, quilted Palermo leather, open-pore Waxed Walnut wood, and 21-inch wheels to name a few. The cabin looks very upscale, and nothing like the Cherokees of old. That interior is aided by a new layout that opens the cabin up. The instrument panel is proportioned and angled to add space. There’s also a new 10.25-inch frameless digital gauge and cluster that can be programmed.
Oh, and the front seats are both equipped with seat massagers, my all-time favorite option on a vehicle ever. After driving it the first time my only disappointment was that I didn’t drive it farther. That meant that a short road trip was in order, so I loaded up the fam (that’s how you kids say it right?) and headed off to see a rarity here in Florida, hills. Now, you might think that being a peninsula all of Florida is one big flat beach; you’d be wrong. One Central Florda county over from where I live has hills, and in fact has the highest point in all of the peninsula, Sugarloaf mountain, which really isn’t a “mountain” in the traditional sense, but one long ridge that “rises” to a height of 312 feet (if you live in a mountainous state I can hear you laughing, but hey it’s still a hill, a big one by Florida standards).
The drive to Sugarloaf is one of the more scenic here in Central Florida with plenty of winding roads and hills. It was a perfect two-hour drive for the Grand Cherokee L, especially for the passengers in the back seats; my wife was amazed how comfortable it was. The interior is a great place to be and thanks to the premium McIntosh audio system in the Summit Reserve, with a 17-channel amplifier with a maximum output of 950 watts and 19 speakers, including a 10-inch subwoofer, the background music was perfect. The seat massagers, of course, also helped.
Should I have decided to take the Cherokee off road, being a Jeep, I had little doubt there would be any problems. The Summit comes standard with Quadra-Drive II Jeeps most advanced off-road package with rear electronic limited slip-differential and an active transfer case. There’s also a feature I hadn’t seen before, Jeeps’ Quadra-Lift air suspension that adds electronic adaptive damping. The system not only adjusts the height for maximum performance, but it automatically adjusts the shock tuning to changing road conditions.
There was of course a bunch of safety features like full speed collision warning with active braking, rear cross path detection, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and lane keep assist, and advanced brake assist to name a few.
So, is all this finery, leather and premium sound expensive? Sure. The MSRP for my top-of-the-line Grand Cherokee L came out to $66,275. But to me, the Summit Reserve rivals any of the luxury brands I’ve driven. And I have a feeling that even without all the fancy stuff, a lower-level Grand Cherokee L (the base Laredo starts with an MSRP of $43,105) would be a very nice Cherokee, a bit longer with more seating, and would make a very nice addition to any driveway.
I just hope Jeep doesn’t wait another three years to send me another one, because this latest week with the Grand Cherokee made me realize that bigger really is better and also how much I missed one of my favorite all time SUVs.
The 2021 Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve
MSRP (as tested): $66,275
Engine: 3.6 Liter V6 293 hp @ 6,400 rpm, torque 260 lb.-ft. @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed shiftable automatic
Fuel Milage (EPA): 18 city, 25 highway, 21 combined
Fuel Mileage (as tested, mixed conditions): 22 mpg
Track, Front 65.4
Track, Rear 65.4
Overall Length 204.9
Overall Width (width at mirrors) 84.6
Overall Width (width with folded mirrors) 77.3
Body Width 77.9
Overall Height 71.5
SAE Total Interior Passenger Volume, (cu. ft.) 159.1
Front Row (Inches)
Shoulder room 59.2
Hip room 57.4
Second Row (Inches)
Knee clearance 4.6
Shoulder room 58.0
Hip room 56.3
Third Row (Inches)
Knee clearance 0.6
Shoulder room 51.9
Hip room 42.9
Basic: 3 Years/36,000 Miles
Drivetrain: 5 Years/60,000 Miles
Corrosion: 5 Years/Unlimited Miles
Roadside Assistance: 5 Years/60,000 Miles