Calgary Herald

SPORT UTE RECEIVES A LONG-AWAITED REFRESH

Full-sized option adds a third row of seats without compromisi­ng off-road capability

- BRIAN HARPER Driving.ca

Ten years. It's been 10 years since the Jeep Grand Cherokee was last redesigned. That's an eternity in the car business, especially when the entire sport-utility market has gone from red hot to supernova.

It's not as if the Jeep brand has been asleep at the switch, with new segments explored, old nameplates (Gladiator, Wagoneer) dusted off, and electric powertrain­s developed. But the fourth-generation Grand Cherokee, Jeep's solid, goto family vehicle, had become old.

The fifth-generation Grand Cherokee should change all that. It becomes two distinct models: the regular mid-size version which will arrive later this year as a 2022, and the new, longer-wheelbase full-sized Grand Cherokee L, which is available now. And, yes, the L is fitted with a third row of seats — a first for the nameplate, and the first three-row Jeep since the mostly forgotten Commander (2006 through 2010).

The Grand Cherokee in both regular and long-wheelbase forms is a unibody SUV, but the upcoming Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer, which will take the Jeep brand into the full-sized luxury SUV segment, ride on the Ram 1500 pickup's body-on-frame architectu­re. Separate vehicles, different markets.

That said, the Grand Cherokee L — at just over 5.2 metres in length some 400 millimetre­s longer than the current five-seat Grand — has become a premium-priced product, starting at $52,495 for the base Laredo, and rising steadily through the Limited ($59,995), Overland ($68,995), and Summit ($74,495) before topping out at the $78,490 Summit Reserve ( before options), or $81,895 if ticking the box for the V8. At this level, the L will compete with such formidable adversarie­s as the Ford Expedition, GMC Yukon and Chevy Tahoe, as well as the Toyota Sequoia and Nissan Armada.

The ride for the day was a well-optioned Overland, the addition of big-ticket items such as the Luxury Tech Group IV ($1,995), Advanced Protech Group ($3,595), Off-road Group ($1,095), and Uconnect 5 NAV infotainme­nt system ($2,195) helping to drive the price up to $78,170.

Mechanical­ly, the tester was fitted with the available Quadralift air suspension, Quadra-trac II 4x4 system, Selec-terrain with five available terrain modes (Auto, Sport, Rock, Snow, Mud/ Sand), and the evergreen 3.6-litre Pentastar V6, putting out 293 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Because the L is clearly a family vehicle with three rows of seats, towing is a likely priority. The V6 is rated for up to 6,200 lbs (2,812 kilograms).

The Overland, Summit, and Summit Reserve can also be had with a 357-hp Hemi 5.7-L unit, which increases towing capability to 7,800 lbs (3,538 kg).

The V6 is well capable of accelerati­ng the L, though, considerin­g the sport ute weighs a hefty 2,300 kilograms, not with an overwhelmi­ng sense of urgency. A heavy applicatio­n of throttle, such as merging onto a highway or passing a slow-moving transport, comes with the eight-speed automatic dropping a couple of gears and a big increase in engine noise.

That said, the Grand Cherokee L is a quiet and comfortabl­e cruiser, an ideal SUV with which to travel long distances.

The L is also Trail Rated, and a stretch of gnarly off-road trail gave the suspension — and the Quadra-trac II system — a bit of a workout.

When low range and hill-descent control were selected, and drive mode switched between Rock and Mud/sand, it handled rocky downhills, gravel, dirt, and sand with aplomb, the air suspension altering ride height as needed. I don't know if this capability is a priority for would-be Grand Cherokee L owners, but it was impressive nonetheles­s.

As far as looks go, the L is pretty much what you would expect — a five-seater that's been stretched, complete with Jeep's signature seven-slot grille. The Overland's cabin, however, is a cut above, the interior a mix of luxury and hightech amenities. The dash area is swathed in stitched Nappa leather and features a 10.1-inch display for the new Uconnect 5 system. The 10.25-inch digital gauge cluster comes with almost two dozen different menus from which the driver can select.

The centre console is highlighte­d by a new drive control centre with a rotary shifter that's flanked by the ride height and Selec-terrain switches. Audiophile­s will appreciate the Mcintosh audio system available on Overland and Summit models.

Driver and passenger comfort is clearly a priority, the Overland fitted with a length-adjustable, front-seat cushion. First-row seats are 16-way, power adjustable with memory and lumbar support, and the optional Luxury Tech Group IV includes seatback massage (heavenly!)

So, here it is fans, it's the Grand Cherokee L, and it's certainly worthy of a long look.

 ?? PHOTOS: BRIAN HARPER/DRIVING ?? The 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Overland is just over 5.2 metres in length, and includes a third row of seating.
PHOTOS: BRIAN HARPER/DRIVING The 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Overland is just over 5.2 metres in length, and includes a third row of seating.
 ??  ?? The Grand Cherokee L Overland's dash area is swathed in Nappa leather.
The Grand Cherokee L Overland's dash area is swathed in Nappa leather.

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