2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Review: A Grand Wagoneer For Those On A Budget

EDITORS' RATING: 9/10
Pros
  • Pentastar V6 lessens pain at the pump
  • Plenty of room for the whole family
  • Real leather and wood trim can't be beat
  • Tech for days
  • Won't break the bank in the pursuit of luxury
  • Stunning Uconnect 5 may cause drivers to give their phones a break
Cons
  • Third row suitable for pets, small children and adults at most
  • Long wheelbase scale is not for everyone

When it comes to Jeep luxury, the toppest of tops is the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer. The duo brings it all to the party, from acres of real wood trim and enough leather seating to embarrass a high-end shoe store, to all the tech in the world and chrome trim for days. However, while the Wagoneer starts at around $59,000 and the Grand Wagoneer closer to $89,000, to really get the most luxurious experience each offers consumers will be dropping close to — if not over — six figures at their nearest Jeep dealership. And, with the upcoming L long wheelbase models, that price of admission is sure to be above six figures for the top-tier Series III trim level, Wagoneer or Grand Wagoneer.

Perhaps there's another way, though. One which keeps the Jeep name on the body, for starters.

Recently, Stellantis dropped off their most luxurious non-Wagoneer at my Old Dominion home, the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve. That's right: it's a 2021 model, which is A) only available in long-wheelbase form and B) introduced the WL era Grand Cherokee in 2021; the two-row standard wheelbase model – originally meant to debut in the 2021 model year – joined the L for the 2022 model year. Confusing? Maybe, but here's what it's like to live with this long boi of an SUV.

Sitting in the lap of luxury

The Summit Reserve is one of five trim levels for the new Grand Cherokee, specifically the top-tier trim level meaning few bells and whistles are left to check off the order form.

So, what do Jeep fans get with the Summit Reserve L? My example in Bright White included options like Palermo leather in Tupelo to the seats and doors, heads-up display to keep your eyes on the road, night vision with animal detection, and a McIntosh 19-speaker system with 950-watt amplifier. That's in addition to the vast swathes of real wood trim accented with chrome, the UConnect 5 10.1-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a six-month SirusXM trial subscription, ambient LED lighting, and so on.

The front seats are quite lovely, especially with the built-in back massagers for both driver and front passenger. Though no long trips were taken during the week the Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve stayed with me, the massagers make for a relaxing break along the way to the final destination.

Speaking of the seats, though, the second row will have plenty of room to stretch out, as the extra length in the SUV's long wheelbase is in the middle, as opposed to the upcoming 2023 Wagoneer L/Grand Wagoneer L's length going into their expanded backsides. The third-row seating isn't too bad, either, presuming the second-row passengers don't have their seats all the way back. That said, the third row is more for pets, little ones and short adults.

Cargo pants have nothing on the Grand Cherokee L

If the third row isn't needed for passengers, though, a push of a couple of buttons on the right side of the rear cargo area (or just behind the right second-row seat) will fold the row down for a big boost in cargo space. Starting with just 17.2 cu-ft, the third-row brings it up to a whopping 46.9 cu-ft. That's more than enough for all the luggage four people may need for a long road trip around the United States. And if that's still not enough, folding the second row down brings total cargo area to its maximum of 84.6 cu-ft. That's plenty for a mobile bike repair shop near the mountain trail, or tons of camping gear for a romantic weekend getaway for two.

For me, though, no camping trips or bike repairs were in the cards. Instead, it was a trip to the laundromat for myself, as well as taking my mom to the grocery store for her weekly shopping visit. Though her list is shorter these days, Mom's cart is still full enough to take up a lot of space in the back of whatever vehicle I have at the moment. The Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve handle her groceries with little issue with the third row still up. Pulling the long SUV into the parking lot took some careful effort, though, and I was happy to have the 360-degree camera, to say the least.

Pentastar V6 lessens the pain at the pump somewhat

Anyone purchasing the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve is likely not too concerned with rising gas prices (so far, at least), especially if they opt for the 5.7-liter HEMI V8 with cylinder deactivation. That thirsty V8 may be too much for a few wallets, though. Thus, the base engine: the venerable 3.6-liter Pentastar V6. Both engines send their power through an eight-speed automatic, though each engine has its own version of the eight-speed. The V6 comes equipped with electronic stop-start for more fuel saving at the stoplight.

How much fuel savings, though? The EPA gives the Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve with the V6 an estimated rating of 18 mpg in-town, 25 on the open road, 21 mpg combined. As most of my driving was in-town with just one jaunt down I-81 to Draper Valley Overlook in Pulaski County, Virginia, followed by a long trek back home over U.S. 11, I managed 18.1 mpg, losing just a quarter of a tank over the week.

As far as moving all 5,086 pounds of curb weight goes, the V6 can do it fairly well, especially since this is the only trim level to exclusively use all four of its 21 x 9-inch wheels to bring that power to whatever terrain is under it. Under the long hood, 290 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque can pull as much as 6,500 pounds of boat or camping trailer behind it. That power also sends the hefty SUV to 60 mph in around eight seconds, enough to move on to the next round at the rodeo.

Uconnect 5 is one of the nicest-looking OEM infotainment systems ever

OEM infotainment systems usually do nothing for me as far as looks go, especially when it comes to navigation. I'm sure they're useful (as was the case when I needed Toyota's Entune system to guide me through Eastern Kentucky without a 4G connection for my phone at the time), but I'd rather look at Apple CarPlay or Android Auto to guide me over unfamiliar roads.

Uconnect 5 is one of the few exceptions, and how. Based on Android Oreo, the newest Uconnect blew me away when I saw a familiar face in the navigation section. It also comes to mind some of the graphic design found in standalone GPS units from Garmin, like the green direction boxes above. I was so impressed by what I saw that, when I took my trip down to Draper Valley Overlook for the photo shoot, I had to use Uconnect to feel it out.

Everything about Uconnect 5 blew me away, mainly based on appearance alone. This may be one of the most aesthetically pleasing OEM infotainment systems I've had the pleasure of using. It helps that underneath the good looks, there's a ton of horsepower making such things possible in the first place. Uconnect 5's all-new Atlantis architecture includes a 50K MIPS processor from Samsung, 64 GB of flash memory and 6 GB of RAM, allowing Ultra HD-levels of stunning graphics in the biggest screens.

The sky's the limit

The 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve is a lot of SUV for me (in fact, I prefer much, much smaller machines — circa 1980 through 2010 — than this hefty luxury lumberjack for my daily needs). Yet, for those who desire a machine as grand (in every sense of the word) as this mid-size Jeep, it will have a home along the cul-de-sacs of America's exurbs. The Summit Reserve starts at $59,660, while the example tested possesses a total sticker of $66,695, just on the doorstep of the base price for the Wagoneer Series II; the base for the Series I Wagoneer is $58,995, for comparison.

True, the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer are full-size luxury SUVs, with the long-wheelbase L versions taking things to the next level. Yet, the Grand Cherokee L, especially in the Summit Reserve trim, holds its own against its bigger, luxury-focused siblings, let alone competitors like the Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy, Mazda CX-9 Signature and GMC Acadia Denali. There is a balancing act as far as choosing more power or more fuel savings go, of course, though a 4xe version could split the difference, and then some; the 2022 Grand Cherokee 4xe's hybrid turbo-four pumps out 375 horses and 470 lb-ft of torque, FYI. Otherwise, if a Wagoneer experience is out of reach, the Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve does more than enough to check such boxes off the form of life.