This one'll make you forget the Commander.
The all-new, fifth-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee debuts in 2021 as a three-row "L" model -- an all-new, fifth-generation, non-L two-row version is in the wings for 2022 -- and this time Jeep got the third row right.
You may recall the last time Jeep took a swing at a three-row SUV it arrived in the form of the 2006-2010 Commander. Only 2 inches longer than its two-row Grand Cherokee counterpart, with which it shared a platform and wheelbase, Commander's crammed-in third row proved fairly useless. And, after all, a third row was the whole reason for Commander's existence. Oooops.
Flash forward to 2021. The new six- or seven-passenger Grand Cherokee L rides a wheelbase that stretches 7 inches farther than the current two-row Grand, not to mention an overall length that casts a shadow 15 inches longer. The result is a third row that actually can accommodate two average-stature adults or a couple of kids. And the wide back door and tilt-and-scoot middle row makes access to the cheap seats reasonably easy.
But that's just the beginning -- or should we say the back end -- of this all-new SUV.
Available in trims of Laredo, Limited, Overland and Summit, ranging in price from just under 37 grand for a 2WD Laredo to more than 70 large for a spare-no-expense 4WD Summit, Grand Cherokee L can be had from utilitarian to sumptuous.
We drove a top-of-the-line Summit 4x4, upgraded even further via L's "Summit Reserve" options package.
It was sumptuous. Our Summit Reserve boasted black-and-tan leather, harlequin-like leather stitching, genuine open-grain wood trim, piano black accents -- just gorgeous.
It also featured every decadent perk imaginable, including a boffo, 19-speaker McIntosh audio system, front seats capable of providing both driver and front passenger with a back massage, heated and cooled front and middle row seats and a power-folding/-raising third row.
Room is superb in rows one and two.
Typically for Chrysler group, L's infotainment is as easy to use as these ever-more-complex systems can be. Our 10.1-inch touch screen was logically displayed while the audio system provided knobs for radio volume and tuning and the centerstack offered hard buttons to easily get you where you want in the labyrinthine technology.
On the road, this guy feels like the big SUV it is, with a wide stance and long profile. As expected, the ride is quiet and solid. Only the acceleration from our L's base 3.6-liter V-6 was less than stellar. Of course, our loaded, top-of-the-line Summit Reserve 4x4 tipped the scales at more than 2.5 tons, so, in Summit's case, the optional 5.7-liter V-8 might be the better choice.
Either way, an eight-speed automatic is standard. Our 4x4 hit 60 mph in about 7 seconds behind our V-6 while realizing 18 mpg in 160 total miles, about a third of which were highway, two-thirds in-town.
That standard six-cylinder, which Chrysler group puts into everything but the corporate lunch room's chili, makes 293 hp and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. The V-8 generates 357 hp and 390 lb.-ft. of twist.
Earning the name "Jeep," our L boasted a height-adjustable air suspension to clear boulders and a two-speed 4WD transfer case with low-range for the really rough stuff.
From a styling perspective, this guy, with its forward-leaning seven-slot grille, looks wonderfully aggressive in front. Some observers thought, in profile, L looked like a minivan and, obviously, with three rows and up-to-seven-passenger seating, it can easily function as that family-hauler's surrogate. But show me a luxurious minivan that'll climb a mountain trail like this guy will.
In fact, Grand Cherokee L's hardware can be optioned up to a level that makes it what many consider the third-most off-road capable Jeep, after Wrangler and Gladiator.
Now that's a "minivan" an adventurous family can love.