The 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee has its own territory within the midsize SUV class. At one extreme, it thrives where paved roads give way to mud, boulders, or snow.
At the other, the immensely powerful Trackhawk accomplishes what no SUV was ever originally designed to do — deliver astonishing acceleration and clip a racing circuit’s apexes like a bona fide performance machine at prices below the less-powerful BMW X5 M.
Somewhere in between is a semi-luxurious family vehicle with a superb towing ability of 7,400 pounds.
There is an issue, however. The current Grand Cherokee is ten years into its model run and showing its age. It isn’t up to modern standards of efficiency, crash-test performance isn’t as good as it could be, and the cabin has its plasticky areas. An all-new Grand Cherokee is due for the 2022 model year.
Even so, the 2021 Grand Cherokee still offers exceptional capabilities in reasonably priced, reasonably upscale packages.
What’s New for 2021?
An 80th Anniversary Edition, based on the Limited trim, debuts. It comes with 20-inch alloy wheels, rain-sensing wipers, Berber mats, parallel/perpendicular parking assistance, and an array of safety features.
A Laredo X sub-trim is also introduced, featuring much of the Limited trim’s equipment, like the 8.4-inch infotainment touchscreen, powered sunroof, and a heated steering wheel.
Limited trim becomes eligible for the Sun and Sound package that includes a dual-pane sunroof and a 9-speaker audio system. The Limited X sub-trim gains gloss black exterior details. See the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee models for sale near you
What We Like
- Superior off-road capability
- Luxurious interior
- Refined driving experience
- Diverse engine options
- The brazen audacity behind the 707-hp Trackhawk
What We Don’t
- Ancient design
- Subpar fuel economy
- Less cargo space compared with rivals
- Spotty reliability
The 2021 Grand Cherokee’s base engine is a highly regarded 3.6-liter V6 engine generating a respectable 295 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. It’s standard in Laredo, Limited, Trailhawk, Overland, and Summit models.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates fuel consumption for rear-wheel-drive (RWD) versions at 19 miles per gallon in the city, 26 mpg on the highway, and 21 mpg in combined driving. With all-wheel drive (AWD), it’s thirstier by one mile per gallon in the city and on the highway, but the combined figure stays the same.
Also available in the Limited, Overland, Trailhawk, and Summit trims is a 5.7-liter V8 producing 360 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque. This links up solely to an all-wheel drive system and returns 14 mpg city/22 mpg hwy/17 mpg combined.
The SRT’s 6.4-liter V8 sends a considerable 475 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque to all four wheels. Fuel consumption is 13 mpg city/19 mpg hwy/15 mpg combined.
The Trackhawk has a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 generating a stratospheric 707 hp and 645 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive is once again the standard setup. Unsurprisingly, it gulps premium gasoline to the tune of 11 mpg city/17 mpg hwy/13 mpg combined.
Every Grand Cherokee has an 8-speed automatic transmission.
Standard Features and Options
The 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee 5-seater midsize SUV is available in seven main trim levels.
Laredo ($33,845) comes standard with 17-in alloy wheels, keyless entry/ignition, automatic on/off headlights, fog lights, heated mirrors, rear parking sensors, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, automatic dual-zone climate control, cloth upholstery, leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth connectivity, 7-in infotainment touchscreen, two USB ports, auxiliary audio input, and a 6-speaker sound system.
The Laredo E sub-trim adds an 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat and roof rails. The Laredo X sub-trim brings a Uconnect 8.4-inch infotainment touchscreen, navigation, HD radio, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, powered liftgate, remote start, and a remote garage door opener.
Limited ($41,651) comes with a self-dimming driver’s-side mirror, driver’s-side memory settings, leather upholstery, 8-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, satellite radio, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration.
A Luxury Group package adds a panoramic sunroof, automatic wipers, bi-xenon headlights, LED fog lamps, automatic high beams, ventilated front seats, power-adjustable steering column, and a 9-speaker Alpine sound system.
The main details on the Limited X trim are special gloss black exterior accents and some styling elements from the Summit and SRT trim levels.
Trailhawk ($46,850) gets off-road hardware such as model-specific 18-in wheels and all-terrain tires, air suspension, full-size spare wheel, special styling elements (like red recovery hooks), power-folding side mirrors, leather/simulated suede upholstery, and a 9-speaker Alpine sound system.
The Trailhawk comes standard with the Quadra-Drive II all-wheel drive system, which includes an electronic limited-slip rear differential. Much of the Trailhawk’s off-road-specific equipment is available in the Laredo, Limited, and Overland trim levels through options packages.
Overland ($48,190) essentially has all of the Limited’s Luxury Group equipment, plus an air suspension, 20-in alloy wheels, special styling and upgraded leather upholstery.
A ProTech II package includes full-speed forward collision mitigation with automatic emergency braking, lane departure/lane-keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control with stop/go, rain-sensing wipers, and parallel/perpendicular parking assistance.
Summit ($54,190) builds on the Overland, adding active noise cancellation, more luxurious styling elements, upgraded leather upholstery in trim-specific colors, 19-speaker/825-watt Harman Kardon audio system (available as an upgrade in the Overland), and the driver aids in the ProTech II package. The Tow Package comes standard in Summits and Overlands with all-wheel drive.
The performance-oriented SRT ($70,640) is similarly equipped, but emphasizes on-road performance. It has the 6.4-liter V8, lowered suspension with adaptive dampers, high-performance all-season tires, special styling, and leather/simulated suede upholstery.
The Trackhawk ($89,145) adds the ballistic 707-hp supercharged V8 engine and launch control.
A full leather interior is available as an option in both high-performance models.
Rear-wheel drive is standard in all Grand Cherokee trims except the Trailhawk, SRT, and Trackhawk.
The all-wheel drive systems on offer require some explanation. Laredo trims feature the Quadra-Trac I single-speed AWD setup. This can be upgraded to the Quadra-Trac II setup bringing a 2-speed transfer case for greater off-road ability. It’s the default system in the Limited and Overland trims.
The Quadra-Drive II system adds an electronic limited-slip rear differential — it’s optional in Limited, Overland, and Summit trims, standard in the Trailhawk.
Every all-wheel drive system includes Jeep’s Selec-Terrain system, which alters engine response and gearshift points for different conditions. It also comes with hill descent and hill ascent controls.
The Grand Cherokee features a rearview camera, anti-lock brakes, and six airbags (front, front side, and full-length side curtain). Driver aids on offer include forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, and rain-sensing wipers.
In crash tests carried out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the rear-drive Grand Cherokee scored four stars out of five overall, with five stars for front and side protection. The Grand Cherokee with all-wheel drive picked up a 5-star rating, thanks to its greater rollover resistance.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the Grand Cherokee its top rating of Good in all major categories, except the more recently introduced small overlap front crash test, where it was deemed Marginal, the institute’s second-worst rating. Compared with the competition, these scores could be better, and they’re indicative of the Grand Cherokee’s aging platform.
Behind the Wheel
On the tarmac, the Grand Cherokee delivers a solid, reassuring drive similar to a luxury SUV. The suspension is firm, but not harsh, absorbing bumps quickly and confidently. The optional air suspension makes things even better.
The base V6 engine is perfectly adequate. Although towing capacity is equal with all non-performance variants, pulling a trailer would certainly be easier with the 5.7-liter V8.
For truly invigorating performance, the SRT and the wonderfully absurd Trackhawk are over-achievers. The Trackhawk is the fastest, most powerful production SUV. Using the 707-hp Trackhawk’s launch control is absolutely breathtaking, smacking the driver in the chest with g-forces even the rear-drive Dodge Challenger and Dodge Charger Hellcats can’t provide. These are niche models, though.
Most Grand Cherokee shoppers will be more interested in regular versions that offer economical on-road comfort and good off-road capability. If the latter is especially important, think about the go-anywhere Trailhawk or upgrading to the height-adjustable air spring suspension.
Inside every Grand Cherokee is an agreeable interior design with some decent materials. Not quite up to luxury standards, but close. And miles ahead of what’s in the more rugged Toyota 4Runner.
Unfortunately, the Grand Cherokee loses out to its Toyota rival regarding cargo area. There’s only 36.3 cu ft. of space behind the back seat and 68.3 cu ft. in total — figures that fall short of many SUVs competing one size down in the compact class. The 4Runner maxes out at 89.7 cubic feet.
Other Cars to Consider
2021 Toyota 4Runner — The 4Runner is the Grand Cherokee’s closest competitor. Each offer great off-road capability, but the 4Runner skews toward youth. The Grand Cherokee emphasizes luxury. The 4Runner is also more reliable and enjoys better resale values.
2021 Dodge Durango — A 7-seater based on the same platform as the Grand Cherokee, but far more suited to on-road driving than getting muddy with its Jeep cousin. It’s a viable alternative for a Mopar fan who wants three rows of seats.
2021 Land Rover Discovery — Comparable with the Grand Cherokee’s most luxurious trims, the Discovery brings go-anywhere capability, plus greater interior space. It’s so much more modern and sophisticated.
Used Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class — Born in the old DaimlerChrysler era, the Grand Cherokee is mechanically related to an earlier-generation GLE-Class. Mercedes-Benz’s midsize SUV has great powertrain options, superb build quality, and a high-class ambiance. A used GLE-Class should be well within the price range of a new Grand Cherokee. Check out the Mercedes-Benz certified pre-owned (CPO) program.
Even the base Laredo is equipped fairly well, so choosing a higher trim level is more down to taste and funds than necessity. Be realistic about any specific requirements and keep in mind some of the Grand Cherokee’s drawbacks: weak fuel economy, inefficient use of space, and history of patchy reliability.
While still an attractive SUV, most of the competition has surpassed the aging Grand Cherokee in terms of safety, efficiency, and technology. And there’s a fresh generation coming for the 2022 model year. So if you do end up buying a new 2021 Grand Cherokee, make sure it’s a killer deal. Find a Jeep Grand Cherokee for sale