Review update: 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve grows for the family

After nearly 30 years, the Jeep Grand Cherokee has finally grown to accommodate those who have grown up with it.

The fifth-generation Grand Cherokee introduces a new model to the lineup known as the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L. With a longer wheelbase and an adult-sized third row, the larger “L” variant is aimed squarely at families.

The 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L has a TCC Rating of 6.7 out of 10, and it appeals for its roominess, family-friendly features, gorgeous interior, and long list of capabilities both on and off the pavement. But it’s launching without a hybrid powertrain, lacks certain expected features, and in some ways doesn't stand the test of family duty.

I spent a week with the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve hauling kids, cargo, bikes, and boats to see where it hits and misses.

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve 4x4

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve 4x4

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve 4x4

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve 4x4

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve 4x4

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve 4x4

Hit: Packaged for families

The third row in the Grand Cherokee L is adult-friendly with acceptable foot, knee, and leg room despite having a rather flat seat bottom (a common issue with fold-flat third rows). Each third-row passenger will find a USB-C and USB-A port along with cup holders and soft-touch arm rests that are rarely found in a third row. Standard on upper trim Overland and Summit models, while optional on the Limited grade, are automatically unlocking doors. Touch any of the four door handles and they unlock, which is a slick feature usually reserved for luxury models. It’s not offered on rivals such as the Ford Explorer or Kia Telluride, and the only direct competitor to offer it is the Nissan Pathfinder.

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve 4x4

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve 4x4

Miss: Shiny plastic isn’t family friendly

The entire front center console and center stack is covered in shiny black plastic. It’s hard to read what’s going on with the air suspension and drive modes, and it lacks the durability needed in a family-oriented vehicle. My tester had less than 6,000 miles on the odometer and the entire center console was scratched already. Family duty is going to do a number on this thing in the worst possible way.

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve 4x4

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve 4x4

Hit: Tow champ

The Grand Cherokee L makes a terrific tow vehicle. My V-6 tester was rated to tow 6,500 lb (the optional V-8 ups that rating to 7,200 lb). The air suspension levels out the vehicle with a trailer attached so it doesn’t sag. The receiver, emergency chain hook-ups, and 7-pin connector for the lights are all easy to access behind a plastic panel that can be removed with a twist of two tabs. I hooked up a dual-axle trailer and boat weighing about 5,000 lb and hauled it out of the lake and down the highway with ease.

The extra wheelbase on the longer Grand Cherokee makes for a smoother ride, and unlike an Explorer, the Grand Cherokee L has a two-speed transfer case that can be engaged at the push of a button to provide extra grunt during tough pulling situations at the boat landing.
Unlike its predecessor, the Grand Cherokee L lacks a dedicated tow mode. Jeep spokesperson Amy Grundman told The Car Connection it isn’t necessary since there’s grade and load detection software that automatically adjusts shift schedules to optimize powertrain performance while pulling trailers or going through varying grades. This might feel like a leap of faith for drivers used to towing, but the magic worked.

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L

Miss: Booster seats can be a pain

Not all booster seats are the same. My Summit Reserve tester featured second-row captains chairs with a center console. My daughter’s no-back booster presented no issues with the design of the second row, but my son’s high-back Britax was a headache. The placement of the center console in between the captains chairs combined with the placement of the seat belt buckle mechanism prohibited him from doing it himself (leaving the 5-year old quite frustrated at his lack of independence), and even my wife and I had to readjust the position of his booster’s base each and every time we buckled him in.

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve 4x4

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve 4x4

Hit: Luxury grade interior

The highlight of my $64,280 Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve tester was its interior. With real metal and wood trim, quilted leather upholstery, front massaging seats, a leather-wrapped dashboard, and a McIntosh audio system, it has every right to be compared to an Audi Q7 and BMW X5.

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve 4x4

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve 4x4

Miss: Lacks third-row LATCH points

The Grand Cherokee L is built for families, yet the third row lacks any LATCH points for child safety seats. The lack of LATCH connection points in the third-row is due to the geometry of the seat, Grundman said.

For families who feel they’ve outgrown the Grand Cherokee or want something that’s more premium inside, or more capable when towing than a Ford Explorer or GMC Acadia, the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L hits the sweet spot.

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve 4x4

Base price: $40,330 including destination
Price as tested: $64,280
EPA fuel economy: 18/25/21 mpg
The hits: Adult-sized third row, great at towing, premium interior in Summit Reserve trim, family-friendly packaging
The misses: Terrible shiny black plastic console, some booster seats are a pain, lacks a tow mode, and lacks LATCH in the third row

Comments are closed.