Jeep recently unveiled the 2021 Grand Cherokee L and right off the bat things got a little bit confusing. Let’s clear everything up: This is the 7-seater version of the new-generation Grand Cherokee, and will be sold alongside the current 5-seater Grand Cherokee which gets to keep its 2021MY moniker.
Later this year, the all-new Grand Cherokee L will also be available with a two row configuration, although it will probably be called a 2022 model year. Only then will the current two-row Grand Cherokee finally go quietly into the night.
Alright, now that we’ve sorted that out, let’s look at just how these two generations compare in terms of styling and technology. There’s little sense to look at practicality since we’re dealing with two different body configurations.
Let’s start with the design, and who better to hear from than Mark Allen, head of Jeep exterior design at Fiat Chrysler: “The Jeep design team envisioned a modern aesthetic for the all-new 2021 Grand Cherokee L – they worked to sculpt it down and gave it a clean and updated premium appearance tailored for today’s customer. The design for the first-ever three-row Grand Cherokee pays respect to its heritage and honors its utilitarian roots. The results reflect its premium characteristics, contemporary style and legendary capability that has defined the Grand Cherokee since its inception.”
Where the old/current model still flashes some of its predecessors’ looks here and there, not to mention a sporty/rugged general aesthetic, the all-new Grand Cherokee L is definitely more elegant to look at. The hood is longer, as is the cab, which shifts the entire vehicle towards the back giving it more of a sense of motion. It’s a clear attempt by Jeep to have a go at full-size luxury SUV buyers, at least with the L variant.
Every aspect is either longer, sleeker or just plain different. Even the shoulder line and window line. Yet, the new Grand Cherokee L is clearly still a Jeep at heart, so at least there’s that.
Also, trapezoidal wheel arches are shared by both models, but that’s not really a signature trait unless you’re nitpicking to find one.
Furthermore, the wider track makes the rear look more planted on the Grand Cherokee L, aided by the lower beltline, sleek LED taillights and noticeably more vertical rear pillars.
Overall, the newer model has a cleaner, more elegant exterior, something most buyers will probably like.
An interior revolution
There’s no debating the bump in quality when it comes to the cabin. It’s a radical departure in design, and everything should carry over (dashboard, tech etc) to the new two-row Grand Cherokee too.
The new dash features an 8.4-inch touchscreen as standard, although you can also get a 10.1-inch one as an option. Both units are powered by FCA’s latest UConnect 5 software, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The gauge cluster is also digital and measures 10.3-inches, while you can even get a night vision system welcoming you to a brand new era of Jeeps.
On the console, there’s a new layout featuring a glossy Piano Black finish, while the new drive control center boasts a backlit metal rotary shifter with haptic feedback. Then there’s true ambient lighting with daytime/nighttime settings, which is standard on all models.
The Grand Cherokee L is the first production Jeep to come with a fully digital rearview mirror that’s capable of displaying video in real time courtesy of the rear-facing camera. It’s also the first Jeep with a proper Head-Up Display, which is projected onto the windshield.
As for the advanced safety tech, the L blows the old model out of the water with Full-Speed Collision Warning with Active Braking and Pedestrian/Cyclist Detection, Rear Cross Path detection, Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop and Go, Active Lane Management, LaneSense Lane Departure Warning with Lane Keep Assist, Advanced Brake Assist,Blind-spot Monitoring,ParkView rear back-up camera, ParkSense rear park assist sensors with stop, Switch-activated electric park brake and Tire-pressure monitoring.
No match for the 2020 Trackhawk
There will surely be a performance variant of the new-generation Grand Cherokee at some point, but until that moment comes, neither the 290 HP Pentastar 3.6-liter V6 nor the 357 HP 5.7-liter Hemi V8 can match the current Trackhawk’s sheer grunt.
The Trackhawk’s got a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 pumping out 707 HP. It’s an 11-second SUV in the quarter mile and will sprint to 60 mph (96 km/h) in just 3.5 seconds. Then again, speed isn’t everything, and we totally understand if you’d rather have a high-spec all-new Grand Cherokee over a quicker older model.