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Auto review: The Jeep Grand Cherokee grows in many ways for 2021

Larry Printz, Tribune News Service on

Published in Business News

CHELSEA, Mich. – Ask Mark Allen, who runs Jeep design, what he finds amusing, and he'll tell you it’s that Americans prefer sport utility vehicles and crossover utility vehicles to sedans, coupes, convertibles and station wagons.

“I was told over and over and over, and read it in magazines, that in the American market you can't sell a five-door hatchback. That’s every CUV on the road. Take a hatchback, jack it up, put a meaty tire on it, and suddenly it's OK,” he says.

“Look at convertibles; convertibles are dead, right?" he continues. "We sell hundreds of thousands a year; every Wrangler is a convertible. Something about changing the formula makes it acceptable. They don't buy it because it had four-wheel-drive capability, they buy it because it's a configurable convertible. It will never go in low range.”

Need proof? Manhattan is one of the Jeep Wrangler’s biggest markets.

Regardless, Americans are convinced that station wagons with 8 inches of ground clearance and all-wheel drive are the ideal form of transportation in 2021. And that’s what makes the redesigned Jeep Grand Cherokee the perfect vehicle. No, its owners will never take it off-road. But they own it because they could, should they somehow lose their senses and suddenly decide to go boulder bashing in Utah. It’s like living near Manhattan or Los Angeles, but never venturing into the city because of the traffic. But they live nearby should they ever want to.

Whether it makes sense or not is beside the point. But for those few owners who will use its capability, the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L is a fine addition to the fleet.

 

For 2021, the Grand Cherokee will be offered as a two-row or longer three-row model, the latter known as the Grand Cherokee L. Jeep added the three-row model and 15 inches in length as three-row SUVs account for the lion’s share of demand in the GC’s market segment. It also explains why it debuts ahead of its two-row companion, coming soon as a 2022 model.

Offered in Laredo, Altitude, Limited, Overland, Summit and Summit Reserve trim, the Grand Cherokee L comes with either a 293-horsepower V-6 or a 357-horsepower 5.7-liter V-8 with an eight-speed automatic transmission and rear- or all-wheel drive. Towing is rated at 6,200 pounds with the V-6, 7,200 pounds with the V-8.

Three all-wheel-drive systems are offered: the Quadra-Trac I, Quadra-Trac II and Quadra-Drive II with a rear electronic limited-slip differential. Underpinning it all is an independent front and rear suspension with an available Quadra-Lift air suspension that lifts the vehicle a little more than 4 inches, along with electronic adaptive damping that provides a sublime combination of off-road agility and on-road driving dynamics.

All of it merely sets the stage for what comes next.

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