The fifth generation of the popular Jeep Grand Cherokee has been expanded—literally—by adding a stretched seven-passenger version that debuts as the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L. With consumers champing at the bit for more SUVs (and more Jeeps), Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is building on that momentum with a new addition to the lineup: a midsize-plus Jeep Grand Cherokee with three rows of seating for the first time.

The new L SUV expands the Grand Cherokee family that set the bar for a midsize SUV that is far more capable off-road than most buyers will ever need. Even though the current five-passenger Grand Cherokee has grown long in the tooth after a decade (automakers usually aim to introduce a new generation model within five years), the outgoing model remains the segment sales leader in the U.S. The 2021 Grand Cherokee will only grow its sales leadership with a new generation and the option of a third-row variant, said Jim Morrison, head of Jeep brand for FCA North America.

Meunier said. The timing may seem odd as Jeep is about to bring back the Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer as modern three-row, full-size SUVs. But Meunier says he has no concerns that the 2021 Grand Cherokee L will impinge on sales of the new 2022 Jeep Wagoneer and 2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer. Both offer three rows of seating, but the Grand Cherokee is a rear-drive-based unibody SUV whereas the Wagoneer is a “premium” family vehicle that rides on the Ram 1500’s body-on-frame architecture. In other words, the Grand Cherokee L is to the Ford Explorer and Chevy Traverse what the Wagoneer will be to the Ford Expedition or Chevrolet Tahoe.

Jeep’s last swing at a three-row SUV, if you remember it, was not a success. Jeep introduced the Grand Cherokee-based 2006 Commander as a three-row SUV in 2005 and discontinued it after the 2010 model year, letting the Dodge Durango become its successor. Meunier said that although the Commander was good off-road, it was compromised on-road and its stadium seating made it hard to get into the third row. The Grand Cherokee L does not repeat the Commander’s mistakes, he said. (FCA introduced a midsize three-row Jeep Grand Commander and five-passenger Jeep Commander crossover in 2018 for the Chinese market, but it is not available elsewhere.)

New Architecture For A Better 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee

The next-generation 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee (codenamed WL), the L included, rides on a new architecture with a chassis based on the lightweight Giorgio platform that gives the Alfa Romeo Stelvio its sublime road manners. The new Grand Cherokee uses more aluminum and is engineered to provide more comfort, refinement, safety, tech, and 4×4 capability than the current WK, Meunier said.

Mark Allen, head of Jeep exterior design, says this fifth-gen Grand Cherokee design takes cues from the original Jeep CJ, such as the seven-slot grille and trapezoidal wheel arches, as well as the XJ (1984-2001 Jeep Cherokee). Proportions, however, were inspired by the original Wagoneer: The beltline was lowered for a larger greenhouse, and the roof dips a bit in the back where it bleeds into the spoiler. The front fascia is larger, the A-pillar is thinner, and the new standard LED headlights and taillights are slimmer than those on the outgoing fourth-generation WK2 Grand Cherokee.

The body-mounted exhaust tips are real, and the body-color wheel openings make room for a 21-inch wheel with the Summit Reserve package. Upper trims also have a glossy black roof with a standard roof rack and a standard foot-activated power liftgate.

Allen, known for adding little touches, points to the American flags on the side of the front doors beside the name ‘Grand Cherokee’ in script.

The 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit ascending a rocky off-road trail.
A close-up of the steering wheel in the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L.
The interior of the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L focusing on the front-row seats and dashboard.

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