The Jeep Grand Cherokee has most of what lots of people want, as evidenced by the fact that the GC is Jeep’s bestselling model. But it hasn’t got one thing many people need — that being a third row.
Enter the Grand Cherokee L, which does.
What It Is
The Grand Cherokee L is a longer version of the standard Grand Cherokee. It comes standard with a third row and room for up to seven versus five in the two-row-only GC.
Other than that — and the price — they’re essentially the same thing.
Prices start at $40,325 for the base Laredo trim of the Grand Cherokee L as opposed to $38,325 for the same thing in a two-row Grand Cherokee sans the L (and the additional length). Both come standard with the same 3.6-liter V6, paired with an eight-speed automatic — and the option to buy four-wheel drive.
Both are also available with V8 power in the Overland and Summit Trims, which sticker for $56,240 and $60,300 to start, respectively, for the GC L, and $54,240 and $58,300, respectively, for the GC.
The GC L is now available with the passenger-side LCD screen that made its debut in the two-row GC. You can also get the L with Amazon Fire TV for the rear-seaters.
One more row, not much more cost.
More total cargo capacity, too.
Standard V6; available V8.
What’s Not So Good
Less cargo capacity behind the third row than the two-row has behind its second row.
V8 is restricted to much-pricier Overland and Summit trims.
Automated Stop/Start has to be turned off every time you start out — unless you want the engine to stop/start every time you go for a drive.
Under The Hood
The GC L comes standard with the same 3.6-liter V6 that’s standard in the … standard GC. It makes 293 horsepower and 260 foot-pounds of torque and is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
This sends power to either the rear wheels or your pick of three different 4WD systems: Quadra Trac 1, Quadra Trac II or Quadra Drive II. Quadra Trac 1 is more like the all-wheel-drive setups that are available in most crossovers in that it does not have a two-speed transfer case and so doesn’t have the down-low leverage advantage of 4WD low-range gearing.
The next-available 4WD system — Quadra Trac II — adds the two-speed transfer case and low-range gearing, which greatly increases the available mechanical leverage at low speeds.
Quadra Drive II is mechanically similar but differs in having a 4WD high range that engages automatically (without the driver needing to activate it).
For more engine, there’s the optional 5.7-liter Hemi V8, making 357 horsepower and 390 foot-pounds of torque.
On The Road
What the GC L offers is the full-size luxury SUV experience, which can be experienced at a price point well below that of luxury-badged models such as the Genesis GV80 and Land Rover Range Rover that are also smaller (standard GC size) and two-rows only — or, as in the case of the Benz GLE, two rows usually.
This Jeep’s main competitor may prove to be the newest Jeep model, the even bigger Wagoneer. That one also comes standard with a 392-horsepower version of the GC L’s available Hemi V8. An even stronger (and larger) version is also available in the Grand Wagoneer.
But these are also priced well above the price of the GC L, which nonetheless offers much of the same ultra-premium gear, such as multi-mode massaging seats as well as ruggedness/capability that’s hard to find in another SUV for a comparable price.
At The Curb
Size matters — literally.
The GC L is big enough to accommodate a third row that’s adult-usable without becoming so big as to be too big for people who’d like the extra seats but not if it means graduating to something really big, like the Wagoneer. That one is 214.7 inches long versus 204.9 inches for the GC L (and 193.5 inches for the two-row GC).
The GC L thus bridges the gap between midsized SUVs like the two-row GC and full-size SUVs like its Wagoneer bigger brother.
You can slide the second-row captain’s chairs through seven inches of travel to fine-tune the legroom in both the second and third rows. The third row is available with push-button power folders that can be adjusted individually, and the second-row seats also tilt forward individually to open access to the third for passengers.
With the third row down, you can carry longer items with the liftgate down that would require leaving it partially open in the two-row GC. Total cargo capacity goes up to 84.6 cubic feet versus 70.8 cubic feet in its smaller sibling. It’s enough to haul an 80-inch log casement window sash without having to push the second-row seats forward.
However, with the third row in use, cargo capacity reduces to 17.2 cubic feet from 37.7 cubic feet in the two-row.
The Jeep LCD interface — UConnect — is one of the best available in that it’s just as easy to use as old-school buttons and knobs because it has them. You can, for example, manually fine-tune the station you’re listening to using a knob rather than a clumsy tap/swipe.
The Bottom Line
That business about not too small, not too big but just right applies to the Grand Cherokee L.
View the Jeep Grand Cherokee L this week.
Eric’s latest book, “Doomed: Good Cars Gone Wrong!” will be available soon. To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.