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2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee Review | What's new, price, photos, fuel economy

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee Review | What's new, price, photos, fuel economy


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When Chrysler, or whatever they're calling it these days, gets a vehicle right, it has no problem letting it ride for as long as possible. Updates and additions are the name of the game rather than clean-sheet redos. That's exactly the case with 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee, which represents the 10th year of a generation that got things right from the very beginning. Timeless style, well-rounded on-road manners, real-deal off-road capability, and a broad array of diverse models have kept it fresh, distinctive and competitive ever since. Key updates have helped, too, though there's been nothing significant in the past two years.

The result is a midsize SUV unlike any other. The Grand Cherokee can just as easily compete with suburban-bound midsize crossovers like the Chevrolet Blazer or VW Atlas Cross Sport as it can the off-road-warrior Toyota 4Runner, luxurious Land Rovers and Lincolns, or the ultra-high-performance BMW X5M.

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Of course, there's no escaping that the Grand Cherokee is indeed 10 years old. Its various subpar safety ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety definitely show its advanced age, while its interior materials, design and technology aren't up to Chrysler's latest standards seen in the Wrangler, Ram 1500, Chrysler Pacifica and, most notably, the all-new three-row 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L. Although that definitely previews what's in store for the next-generation two-row version, it's considered a separate model, so we'll be reviewing that separately once we get a chance to drive it. So for now, this review covers the current two-row Grand Cherokee that remains competitive if a tad long in the tooth.

What's new for 2021?

As the new three-row Grand Cherokee L is considered a separate model, there are no major changes for the regular, two-row '21 Grand Cherokee. The new Laredo X (pictured above in the lead slide) adds some extra luxury features at a reasonable price to the standard Laredo and there's an 80th Anniversary Edition, based on the Limited, which comes with dark gray trim inside and out along with special badging (obviously) and the ProTech II package of driver assistance tech. You know, just like the Jeeps G.I.'s drove 80 years ago.

2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee
2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee
2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee
2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee
2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee
2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee

What are the Grand Cherokee interior and in-car technology like?

The Grand Cherokee’s interior is a bit of a mixed bag. In top-level trims like the Summit, it’s swathed in luxurious leather and wood trim, and in SRT and Trackhawk guise, its heavily bolstered seats and track-focused technology package feel like they were borrowed from high-performance Challenger models (because they were). But Grand Cherokee Laredo models at the lower end of the spectrum can feel plasticky and bare – a natural result when the model line is stretched across seven trim levels plus special sub-trims and packages.

Most Grand Cherokees bought by consumers will fall into the middle of the range. A 7-inch screen featuring Jeep/Chrysler’s excellent Uconnect infotainment system is upgraded to 8.4 inches around the point the vehicle crosses the $40,000 price threshold. This system also includes, and performs well with, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee
2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee
2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee
2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee

How big is the Grand Cherokee?

Size-wise, Jeep’s two-row midsize SUV is a bit of an odd duck. In terms of interior roominess, it lines up against style-first crossovers like the Chevy Blazer and Nissan Murano. In terms of functionality and likely cross-shoppers, the Toyota 4Runner is a better comparison, and the Grand Cherokee compares favorably with that SUV in headroom, shoulder room and legroom. However, its cargo space falls considerably behind the Toyota 4Runner, which also offers optional third-row seating.

In the real world, the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee seats four adults in reasonable comfort and has adequate cargo space for that quartet to pack enough stuff for a week away. That said, buyers who plan to take extended road trips and/or put a priority on cargo space might be better served by the 4Runner as well as more spacious crossovers like the Honda Passport and the three-row Kia Telluride.


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What are the Grand Cherokee fuel economy and performance specs?

Most Grand Cherokee models come standard with a 3.6-liter V6 engine hooked up to an eight-speed automatic transmission. This base powertrain’s 295 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque feels perfectly adequate for normal daily driving duties. With the exception of the Trailhawk, every V6-powered Grand Cherokee comes standard with rear-wheel drive. Four-wheel drive is optional, but there are different systems available with different capabilities. The EPA rates the V6 Grand Cherokee at 18 mpg city, 26 mpg highway, and 21 mpg combined. Four-wheel-drive drops the city and highway rating by 1 mpg.

A 5.7-liter Hemi V8 engine is a $3,295 option starting with the Limited trim, and is only available with four-wheel drive. It’s quite a bit more powerful than the V6 with 360 hp and 390 lb-ft, and predictably thirstier, too. The EPA estimates the V8-powered Grand Cherokee will get 14 mpg city, 22 highway, and 17 combined. Most buyers will find the V8’s extra power unnecessary (an exception would be those who tow), but it’s a unique selling point that Jeep’s most popular competitors don’t offer.

Delving further into unnecessary (but extremely fun) territory is the Grand Cherokee SRT, which comes equipped with a 6.4-liter V8 that spins out 475 hp and 470 lb-ft. It gets EPA ratings of 13 mpg city, 19 mpg highway and 15 mpg combined.

Finally, the truly power hungry can opt for the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. With 707 horses and 645 lb-ft from a supercharged 6.2-liter V8, the all-wheel-drive Trackhawk rockets to 60 mph in just 3.5 seconds and can hit a top speed of 180. Remember: this is an SUV, not a sports car, though that line feels a bit blurred in this case. If you're wondering about fuel economy, the Trackhawk is not for you.

Properly equipped, the Grand Cherokee can tow as much as 7,200 pounds (or 6,200 pounds for rear-wheel-drive versions).


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What's the Grand Cherokee like to drive?

Although it isn’t built atop the guts of a pickup truck, the Jeep rides rougher and handles worse than crossover competitors like the aforementioned Chevy Blazer, VW Atlas Cross Sport and Kia Telluride, but is smoother and offers more luxury than the Toyota 4Runner. Remember, though, that there are many different and highly disparate versions of the Grand Cherokee designed to tempt buyers with off-road or track-day aspirations. We'd recommend trying several to determine which is the best fit for you, paying attention to different wheel sizes, suspensions, engines and four-wheel-drive systems.