Car and Driver
The new 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L is a peek at Jeep’s new design ideology. Inspired by the Grand Wagoneer, the Grand Cherokee L is the most luxurious Jeep yet. It’s also the first three-row Grand Cherokee, with seating for up to seven passengers. There’s a new framing of Jeep’s logo on the steering wheel, one Jeep says is designed to mimic the new look. It’s slim but designed to accentuate the interior space’s width.
Jeep is no stranger to adding cute design cues that remind us of its more than 80 years in the U.S. market. The 40-plus Easter eggs hidden in the Jeep Renegade and Wrangler have become a game for Jeep customers to discover. It’s good-natured fun, something that has carried over to other brands like Ram’s 1500 TRX and Ford’s Bronco. There are even a few in the Chevrolet Corvette C8.
While we wait for the Grand Cherokee L to go on sale this spring, likely starting just under $40,000, check out the the design highlights of tomorrow’s Jeep, today.
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Jeep’s new Grand Cherokee L is the first three-row Jeep model since the Commander in the mid-2000s. Thankfully, much has changed since then. The Grand Cherokee L is over 17 feet long, with stretched proportions that improve the look of the current Grand Cherokee’s tapered roof. To improve visibility, Jeep added more window area to give third-row passengers something to look at other than the inside of the C-pillar. The chrome window molding acts as a headband from either side of the Grand Cherokee L and connects around and under the rear windshield. If we know Fiat Chrysler, there’s likely an all-black appearance package planned later that will remove any reflection from these thick trim details.
Big Familiar Face
There are few design elements from the 1990s that automakers dare to acknowledge, but the seven-slot grille has been a part of the Grand Cherokee since the first generation debuted in 1992. In fact, it’s been around since Jeep’s baby years: a brand-defining seven-slot grille was first featured on the Willys in 1945. We’re tempted to call everything on the new Grand Cherokee L that comes in groups of seven an Easter egg. There are seven buttons at the top of the infotainment screen. There are seven indentations on the rubber brake pedal. There are also seven slots on the center console lid’s handle. Just like there are now seven different models in Jeep’s current lineup. And the list goes on.
LED Light Only
There’s a big difference in terms of safety between LED headlights and traditional halogen lamps. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rates models in various trims to illustrate how much safer LED-headlight-equipped vehicles perform. The Jeep Grand Cherokee L comes standard with LED headlights, fog lamps, and taillights. Not only does this lighting make the Grand Cherokee L safer, but the LEDs take up less room. Other optional lighting includes door handles that illuminate on approach, puddle lighting, and customizable interior lighting.
Arch of the Covenant
Jeep’s trapezoidal wheel arches were done on purpose. Seriously, you can trademark wheel arches. It’s another design element that harks back to the World War II–era Willys. In those days, the front of the trapezoid was left open to help little Jeeps climb over obstacles, similar to the style found on today’s Wrangler and Gladiator. It’s a design that has stayed with Jeep through all four generations of Grand Cherokees and even on its smallest crossover, the Renegade. We’d argue the new Grand Cherokee L’s 21-inch wheels, available with the Summit Reserve package, fill the trapezoids nicely.
Connect the Spots
Recent spy photos of a camouflaged three-row Jeep tipped everyone that this new model would have Grand Wagoneer proportions. The Grand Cherokee L is a stretched version of the two-row Grand Cherokee with a longer hood, roof, and wheelbase. Although we expect a new two-row Grand Cherokee later, for now the new extended version is more than 21 inches longer and nearly an inch wider than the two-row version. A shoulder line bridges the gap between the top of the headlights and taillights, similar to the protruding steelwork on the Grand Wagoneer of the 1980s.
Set the Rearview Mirror to Vibrate
Available on Overland and Summit trims is a sound system for which FCA has partnered with the McIntosh audio company to provide the booms and bops. This option is a 19-speaker upgrade that includes a 950-watt amplifier. McIntosh products are made in America, and the company has offered audio equipment for more than 70 years. Its work was last offered on Subaru Outback, Forester, and Legacy models. If the blue-needle look seems familiar, it’s because the display is nearly identical to McIntosh home audio stereo receivers. This 10.1-inch infotainment display uses FCA’s Uconnect 5 system, and it is optional equipment; the standard unit is an 8.4-inch screen. The McIntosh logo on the door speakers illuminates in the company’s signature blue.
It’s a tiny detail, but the bedazzled crust around the new Jeep Grand Cherokee L’s ignition button looks a lot like the ring from the first-generation Grand Cherokee. These were also found in the Jeep Cherokee and Liberty. They would illuminate to help drivers find the ignition and prevent the plastic surrounding the steering column from becoming scratched. This isn’t much of a problem in the plastic-key-fob era. The new one doesn’t appear to offer a beacon of light, though the middle circle’s ignition status lights do illuminate.
Jeep Turns 81 Years Old
Jeep’s beginning and success are better owed to the World War II Willys that later became known as the more civilized CJ, but it wasn’t until 1984 that the Cherokee debuted. The XJ Cherokee was a unibody SUV that outlived Jeep’s larger Grand Wagoneer model, but was discontinued in 2001. During that time, the first- and second-generation Grand Cherokees were sold with a similar unibody design that offered off-road ruggedness with good paved-road character. The Cherokee model returned following the death of the Liberty model. It is currently on its fifth generation as a popular mid-size four-wheel-drive SUV that made our 25 best-selling vehicles list for 2020.
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