2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee

By November 16, 2020

The Jeep Grand Cherokee has a great reputation in three four areas: superlative capability, top comfort, handsome style, and good features.

It was a success from its introduction nearly 30 years ago, and has become one of the best-selling Jeeps ever. It rests on its laurels for 2021, with no changes because a redesign is planned in the next year or two.

Jeep offers four engines in the crossover SUV. The base Grand Cherokee uses a 295-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 that’s refined and smooth. Every Grand Cherokee including the SRTs uses a great 8-speed automatic transmission that’s up to the task and then some.

Next, there’s a 5.7-liter V-8 that makes 360 hp, which is stronger for towing. If that’s not enough, there’s an even bigger V-8: a 6.4-liter making 475 hp. Finally, there is a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 that explodes with 707 horsepower.

Four-wheel drive is more common, and standard on performance versions.

Every Grand Cherokee comfortably holds up to five adults with plenty of space in the back for gear. There is no three-row model.

The fuel economy of the most common powertrain, the V-6 with all-wheel drive, is less than exciting, EPA-rated at 18 mpg city, 25 highway, 21 combined; even the simpler rear-wheel drive versions get the same combined mpg.

The 5.7-liter V-8 drops a lot, to 14/22/17 mpg, while the 6.4-liter V-8 sinks to 13/19/15 mpg, and it requires premium fuel. The 700-plus-horsepower supercharged V-8 is in that category of buyers don’t care, 13 mpg if anyone’s watching.

The NASA gives the all-wheel-drive Grand Cherokee five stars overall in safety, with four stars for frontal crash tests and rollover prevention. Automatic emergency braking is not standard on every model: It’s optional on Limited, Trailhawk, and Overland models, while being standard on Summit, SRT, and Trackhawk models.

Model Lineup

The Grand Cherokee is available in Laredo, Limited, Trailhawk, Overland, Summit, SRT, and Trackhawk trims.

Laredo models start at more than $35,000, and come with 18-inch wheels, cloth upholstery, two USB chargers, a 7.0-inch infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and blind-spot monitors. Automatic emergency braking is not available.

The Grand Cherokee Limited adds an 8.4-inch touchscreen, power liftgate, leather upholstery, power-adjustable front seats, and more options such as active safety equipment with automatic emergency braking. Tougher four-wheel-drive systems, 20-inch wheels, a 5.7-liter V-8, and premium audio are all available too., making the Limited the most flexible model.

The Overland and Summit add luxury such as nappa leather upholstery, as well as 20-inch wheels for show.

The Trailhawk is Jeep’s ultimate luxury off-roader.

The SRT and Trackhawk models are muscle-bound models for the highway, not off-road. They add big brakes, big flares, big exhausts, and big dollars to the price.

Exterior

The Grand Cherokee’s lines haven’t changed in a decade, and still look fresh. That’s quite an accomplishment for any designer. All the Jeep hallmarks are there: seven-slot grille, trapezoidal wheel arches, and tall ride height.

SRT models flaunt their muscle with wide fenders, bellowing exhausts, and flared nostrils. The Trailhawks expose blacked-out hoods for low reflection on the trails, and red tow hooks. The Summits spread chrome on the outside and wood on the inside.

Interior

Despite its aging, the cabin keeps pace with rivals, with a big touchscreen tech and soft materials, the base Laredo excepted (its cloth upholstery is nonetheless okay). However the upper models go the distance, against rivals that cost even more, with soft leathers, excellent synthetic suede, and luxury appointments.

The Grand Cherokee easily carries five adults with ample cargo space in back. Front occupants get supportive buckets, which grow deeper and grippier in the SRT models.

The rear row not only has more than 38 inches of leg room, it can recline up to 12 degrees for long-haul comfort.

The Grand Cherokee has 36.3 cubic feet for cargo behind the second row, which grows to 63 cubic feet with the seats folded.

Driving Impressions

What makes the Grand Cherokee most impressive is how hard you have to work to find chinks in its performance armor. Each of the four engines meets the challenge it was designed for, and, remarkably, one transmission works with all of them.

The base and most common engine is a 3.6-liter V-6 making 295 horsepower, with rear- or all-wheel drive.

The Limited, Trailhawk, Overland, and Summit get a 5.7-liter V-8 that makes 360 hp, with standard four-wheel drive. That 8-speed automatic shifts just as smoothly when mated to the V-8, even when towing 7,200 pounds vs. the V-6’s capability of 6,200 pounds.

The other two V-8s, a 6.4-liter or 6.2-liter supercharged V-8 on the SRT and Trackhawk, blast the Grand Cherokee out of the woods and toward the horizon. The 6.4-liter is pulled from the Dodge Charger and Challenger; with 475 hp, it accelerates to 60 mph in less than five seconds, using its four-wheel-drive system to gain traction.

By absolute measure it might be called overpowered, but then there is the 707-horsepower Trackhawk. Its 6.2-liter supercharged V-8 can blast the 5,000-pound SUV to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds. It costs nearly $100,000 for that thrill.

Now consider the Grand Cherokee’s civilized, comfortable ride, plus its awesome off-road capability, and you may walk off shaking your head.

When we say awesome off-road capability, that means four separate all-wheel-drive systems, Quadra-Trac I is available on the Laredo, and it splits power 50/50 front to rear, but doesn’t offer a low range so it’s intended mostly for simple all-weather traction.

Quadra-Trac II is optional on the Laredo, and standard on every other version, except the SRT models which are highway-oriented. Quadra-Trac II has a low-range transfer case, as well as hill-descent control which is a huge safety asset on icy downhill streets.

Next is Quadra-Drive II, which comes with Trailhawk and Summit models with the V-8 engine. It adds an electronically controlled limited slip differential at the rear, improving forward traction. It’s packaged with air suspension that can raise or lower the chassis for up to 11.3 inches of ground clearance, or drop it for better aerodynamics and fuel mileage at freeway speeds.

Quadra-Trac II and Quadra-Drive II both offer driver-selectable traction modes that include Sand, Mud, Snow, Rock, and Auto.

The final four-wheel-drive system is included on SRT Grand Cherokees. It’s designed for grip under acceleration and cornering on the road, and is combined with an adaptive suspension with active dampers.

Final Word

The 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee might be defined by its unbeatable powertrains and off-road capability; but in suburbia it’s defined by its classy looks and excellent comfort. Stick with the versions with automatic emergency braking; the V-8 versions excel at towing with four-wheel drive.

 

—by Sam Moses with driving impressions by The Car Connection

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