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Balancing its brand’s requisite off-road brutishness with the luxury required from a flagship has always been the Jeep Grand Cherokee’s forte. And with 7 million sales spread over four generations and nearly 30 years, it’s obvious that delicate balance has resonated with Jeep loyalists.
Look for the all-new 2021 version of the iconic off-roader to up its game in both arenas. Not only does the grand old Grand Cherokee get a new platform, new independent suspension front and rear, and an air suspension for increased ground clearance, it also boasts an exterior revision that, while pure Jeep, speaks to a sophistication lacking in previous generations. Throw in an interior worthy of a Land Rover, and we’re looking at the most luxurious and capable Jeep ever.
The all new unibody, for instance, uses copious amounts of aluminum to reduce weight. The new Grand Cherokee also comes with three different all-wheel-drive systems — Quadra-Trac I, Quadra-Trac II, and Quadra-Drive II — as well as an available Quadra-Lift air suspension and standard Selec-Terrain traction management system.
Quadra-Trac I uses a basic single-speed transfer that can still distribute 100 per cent of the engine’s torque to either axle. Quadra-Trac II adds a two-speed transfer case with a 2.72:1 gear reduction for super-slow off-road crawling. Quadra-Drive II adds an electronically-controlled limited-slip differential for even greater off-road traction. The Quadra-Lift air suspension can raise the Grand Cherokee’s normal 210 millimetres of ground clearance by as much as 61 millimetres in its Off-road 2 setting, yet also lower the big beast by 46 mm in Park mode for easy ingress and egress. With Quadra-Lift, the new Grand Cherokee boasts impressive 30.1- and 23.6-degree approach and departure angles, as well as a 22.6-degree break-over angle. Modern technology married to traditional functionality, that’s the new Jeep.
Unsurprisingly, FCA’s 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 will power base Grand Cherokee Ls, with 290 horsepower and a 2,812-kilogram towing capacity. Those looking for Hemi action can move up to the 5.7-litre V8, with 357 horsepower and a 3,265-kilo towing capacity. Both are mated to an eight-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission.
Inside, the most obvious — though hardly surprising — news is that Grand Cherokee L now sports three rows of seats. But the more dramatic statement from Jeep was the designers’ objective “to create one of the most exquisite and technically advanced interiors in the industry.” And that’s more than just mere marketing malarkey, the 2021 redesign truly putting the “grand” in Grand Cherokee. The dashboard is thoroughly modern, the material used massively upgraded, and the style — a combination of organic curves and stark digital modernity — is quite appealing. And like so many new luxury vehicles, there’s less buttonry than before. Contrasted against the sculpted, horizontal applique that runs the entire length of the front panel, it creates what Jeep calls a “harmonious surface language.” OK, so there’s a bit of marketing malarkey.
Technology-wise, there’s a new 10.1-inch display for the Uconnect 5 infotainment system and a large 10.25-inch “frameless” digital gauge cluster. The crowning feature will be the 960-watt, 19-speaker McIntosh audio system available on topline models. The upscale Summit model gets a four-zone climate control system and the new Grand Cherokee L is the first FCA vehicle to feature an electronic remote release in the rear cargo area to quickly and effortlessly fold the second row flat (standard captain’s chairs and optional bench).
There’s also a raft of safety features — Jeep says 110 in all, but that is probably more marketing you-know-what — including something called Hands-Free Active Driving Assist, essentially FCA’s version of Level 2 autonomous driving, as well as a Night Vision Camera and a new Intersection Collision Assist system, which uses radar sensors and a camera to detect vehicles approaching from the driver’s left and right when nearing a crossroad. This last provides visual and audible alerts, and if the driver doesn’t respond, the system automatically activates the vehicle’s brakes.
Of course, the “L” part of the 2021 Grand Cherokee’s badging is new and adds what Jeep calls “new levels of dimensionality.” That starts with the new 3,019-millimetre wheelbase which, says Jeep, allows for 180-mm of fore and aft travel for the second row of seats and helps generate a generous 947 mm of headroom for the passengers in the third row. Thanks to that long wheelbase, there’s also a generous 46.9 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row of seats.
The 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L will be built at FCA’s Detroit Assembly Complex – Mack Plant, the city’s first new manufacturing facility in nearly three decades. It’ll be available in Overland and Summit trims, and will arrive in dealerships by the second quarter of 2021.