- the 2021 jeep grand cherokee l is launching into an already full class of three-row crossovers.
- some of its stiffest competition comes from the ford explorer, kia telluride, and toyota highlander.
- the four vehicles are closely matched in many performance and convenience metrics, so the right choice may come down to personal taste.
the jeep grand cherokee l brings another three-row to the jeep lineup (the forthcoming grand wagoneer will also have three rows). catering to the seven-passenger market is a change for jeep, but the automaker is not exactly early to this trend; the grand cherokee l has plenty of established competition to contend with. the ford explorer, kia telluride, and toyota highlander have all been successful in this market. read on to see how jeep's new entrant will fit in with the rest of its class.
powertrains and towing
the grand cherokee l will use a rear-wheel-drive-based platform, like the ford explorer. the telluride and highlander are both on front-drive platforms, but each of these crossovers is available with all-wheel drive. the grand cherokee will have a 290-hp 3.5-liter v-6 engine as standard, and a 357-hp 5.7-liter v-8 is available. both engines use an eight-speed automatic transmission. when properly equipped, the v-6 will tow up to 6200 pounds and the v-8 will manage up to 7200 pounds.
the kia telluride is the simplest of this bunch, with only one engine, a 291-hp 3.8-liter v-6. the telluride can tow up to 5000 pounds, just like the other front-drive member of this group, the toyota highlander. the highlander offers one extra engine choice, though. in addition to the standard 295-hp 3.5-liter v-6, highlander buyers can opt for a 243-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder hybrid powertrain. the ford explorer also offers a hybrid variant, but a v-6 hybrid with a considerable 318 hp. the explorer comes standard with a 310-hp four-cylinder engine and, in addition to the hybrid, is available with two turbocharged v-6 engines making 365 and 400 horsepower. the explorer can tow up to 5600 pounds.
there are few, if any, truly comfortable third-row seats on the market. three of these four crossovers have between 30.3 and 32.2 inches of third-row legroom. the grand cherokee l is on the low side, the explorer on the high side. the highlander has the least accommodating third row, with a measly 27.7 inches of legroom.
the highlander also has the smallest cargo space behind the third row, with 16 cubic feet of space. the others aren't far ahead, though. the grand cherokee l will have 17 cubic feet of space, the explorer has 18 cubic feet, and the telluride leads the pack with 21 cubic feet of storage behind the third row.
all four of these vehicles have a bevy of standard active-safety equipment, including automated emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and lane-keeping assist. the grand cherokee l will have standard blind-spot monitoring, as do the explorer and telluride. that tech is optional in the highlander. a driver drowsiness monitor will be optional in the l. a similar driver-attention monitor is standard in the telluride.
the real question, for those of us who love driving, is how the experience of driving the grand cherokee l will compare to that of driving the other three vehicles. that question won't be answered until the second quarter of 2021, when the l goes on sale. jeep hasn't confirmed pricing for the new model yet, but we expect it'll range from $38,000 to $55,000, depending on the trim. that would put the l on the high side for these vehicles, but not egregiously so.