Updated: Apr 1, 2022
The way things usually work in the automobile business is that there's a model, then a smaller companion model. Then, a few years later, someone in marketing finds there's just enough room in between the two for a third model that splits the difference. That's essentially the story of the new Jeep Grand Cherokee, Grand Cherokee L, Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer, except for the sequence.
The Grand Cherokee, Grand Cherokee L, Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer share a design
language, but are four vehicles in three sizes. The Grand Cherokee L is larger than the Grand Cherokee but smaller than the Wagoneer, which is the same size as the Grand Wagoneer, just less opulently equipped.
The Grand Cherokee, Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer are about to hit showrooms as 2022 models, but the in-betweener, the Grand Cherokee L---arrived as a 2021, sold alongside the soon-to-be-previous generation Grand Cherokee, which looks nothing like it.
From the looks of Jeep's plans, it'll all make sense. Eventually.
The standard engine in the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L is a 3.5-liter V6 with 280 horsepower and 262 pounds per foot of torque. Our top-of-the-line Summit Reserve 4X4 had the optional ($3,295) 5.7-liter HEMI V8, good for 360 horsepower and 390 pounds per foot of torque. It makes the usual lovely HEMI roar when you put your foot in it, and will knock back runs to 60 miles per hour from a standing start in about six and a half seconds. b There's one transmission choice---an eight-speed automatic.
As you'd expect with great power comes not-so-great fuel economy---an EPA estimated 14 miles per gallon city, 22 highway.
Inside, tons of room for people and things, with three rows of seats (which is what the longer-wheelbase Grand Cherokee L makes possible) and a beautifully-designed interior. Not all Grand Cherokees and Grand Cherokee Ls will look like this---but the basic design is the same, and it's very nicely done.
Grand Cherokee L comes in six trim levels, with the base Laredo two-wheel drive starting at $38,635. What you see here, though, is the top-of-the-line Summit Reserve, available only as a 4X4. Base price for this is $58,995. The window sticker is at the end of this review so you can see for yourself, but among the standard equipment highlights at this price are adaptive cruise control, a full suite of active safety features and 21-inch aluminum wheels.
Our tester also had extra-cost options beyond the aforementioned 5.7-liter HEMI V8. The $3,000 Customer Preferred Package 25U upgrades the wheels to 21-inchers, adds a Nappa headliner and Palermo leather seats, ventilates the second-row chairs and adds a 950-watt, 19-speaker McIntosh premium audio system. No, not Macintosh, the Apple computer we now just call Mac---McIntosh. McIntosh has been the pinnacle of handcrafted audio systems, mainly for the home, for more than 70 years. Here's a basic history. The audio system is stunning. Just breathtaking. I could do a whole thing on the McIntosh audio system and how I'd (maybe, probably) buy the car just for that, but we're not through the extra-cost options yet, so...$245 for Luxury Tech Group V, which is a wireless phone charger and manual window shades, and....yeah, $3,295 for the HEMI, like we said before. So with $1,695 destination charge, the as-tested price of the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve 4X4 is $67,230.
Did I love it as a vehicle and not just as a stereo with four wheels? Yes. It's a really, really nice SUV. But I have questions. Assuming $67,000 means I have means, would I rather have the Wagoneer? Or maybe the Grand Wagoneer, which is going to go head-to-head with the Cadillac Escalade and top six figures? These are the questions only time (and driving each) will answer. But this much I can say---the Grand Cherokee L made the best of what was a confusing entrance to the marketplace.