What’s New For 2021

Since there is a new model coming for the 2022 model year, this dependable mid-size two-row off-roader receives only minor changes for 2021. The current lineup consists of 10 trims in total including a new 80th Anniversary Edition model based on the Limited trim and a new Laredo X model providing in-dash navigation, an 8.4-inch infotainment display, remote start, a power-operated liftgate, heated front seats, and a heated steering wheel. The mid-range Limited trim now can be ordered with a Sun and Sound package consisting of a panoramic sunroof and a nine-speaker stereo, and the Limited X adds gloss-black exterior trim.

I’ve always liked the Jeep Grand Cherokee it’s a handsome car all round and remains true to its Jeep heritage. Manufactured using a unibody construction means the body and frame are considered one unit which cuts significant weight out of the vehicle, allowing for better fuel economy, better handling, and ride comfort.

My 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit tester came with a Velvet Red pearl coat exterior and a Liberace inspired White Laguna Leather interior which was nothing short of majestic. The base engine is the 3.6-liter V6 with 293 hp @ 6,400 and 260 lb-ft @ 4,000, however, my Grand Cherokee Summit was equipped with the optional 5.7-liter V-8 engine, which sends 360 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque to the wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. It’s an option for $3,895, but it’s the option I’d choose every time, even though I would never make use of its greater towing ability.

Is it worth the extra money?

My loaded tester was priced at $69,465, which is a lot for a Grand Cherokee and matches the base price of the SRT, which is fine if sheer speed is what you want, but the Summit appeals to the more discerning luxury buyer. Options included the aforementioned Signature Leather-Wrapped Interior Package ($4,995) which covers virtually everything the eye can see, that glorious Hemi V8, and a rear DVD entertainment system ($1,995).

Finally, it was equipped with the Platinum Package ($1,145) which included platinum side roof rails, 20-inch aluminum wheels with Pirelli all-season tires, body-colored side mirrors, and a host of additional body-color add ons.

I would drop the rear DVD player since it’s probably cheaper to buy a couple of handheld devices for kids these days and save the money on some extra gas since with my heavy right foot I only averaged 13.8 mpg.

A pillowy ride on the road

Paired with the Grand Cherokee’s base 3.6-liter V6 the Jeep Grand Cherokee has sufficient grunt to get itself moving, but with the magnificent Hemi V8 progress is much more rapid, 0-60 takes 6.5 seconds, however, it’s the additional torque that makes for smooth and fast progress. It’s whisper-quiet inside too, there’s no angry snarling exhaust because there doesn’t need to be.

Once up to highway speeds the Jeep is very stable, has plenty of power for passing slower traffic thanks to the air suspension rides as smoothly as most mid-size SUVs I’ve driven. Press on into a corner and the suspension keeps the body fairly flat and composed, push down on the gas on the exit and the Jeep purrs forward. The 8-speed transmission rarely misses a beat and offers downshifts when you need it and rarely gets caught out in the wrong ratio. Steering is on the light side but is direct enough for you to have fun when needed.

Using the drive mode selector I toyed with Sport mode which offers a quicker throttle response, higher shift points, and holds onto gears longer, often to the detriment of fuel economy. It’s good for short bursts but I found the car to be more driveable and enjoyable with the Normal setting enabled. In Sport, the transmission is a tad jerky around town so it’s best to select that setting on backroads and highways.

Off the beaten track

A Quadra-Trac four-wheel-drive system comes standard in the Summit, which will keep the Grand Cherokee out of trouble in case it goes off the pavement. Obviously, with all-season road tires we didn’t go anywhere that really challenged the Summit but we did manage to find some roughish trails to get it dusty. The Summit has a low range, hill-descent control, and Jeep’s Selec-Terrain dial. This gives you various settings such as Auto, Mud/Sand, Rock, and Sport.

On rough trails, the Summit rides very smoothly even on nasty washboard surfaces (my least favorite) keeping the occupants from getting thrown about too much, it’s all very serene.

Interior

Settle inside the Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit cabin and you instantly sense the luxury, this is a class above any other Jeep, especially the models below $40K. I tried to find some hard scratchy plastic but failed since everything is covered in leather or soft materials. The front seats are superb, powered, offering full heating and cooling functionality. I’ve tried a few heated seats in my time and Jeep’s are some of the best, as is the very warm heated steering wheel.

The UConnect 8.4-inch touch screen is one of the easier-to-use and quicker-responding systems is in fact one of my favorite systems to use. Menus are logical, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out how to configure quickly. The color touch screen provides access to a host of entertainment and information including navigation, satellite radio, phone, and an impressive list of Smartphone-powered apps including CarPlay and Android Auto.

Overall room for passengers is also pretty good by class standards and the rear cargo area offers 36.3 ft³ and 68.3 ft³ with the seats folded.

Verdict

Jeep offers a Grand Cherokee for every taste and every budget and despite the available SRT and Trackhawk the Limited is my new favorite because despite being almost 10 years old Jeep has made it seems up to date. The Summit feels like a genuine luxury vehicle, it drives great, oozes appeal, and has genuinely good off-road ability. If the 2021 model is this good, I can’t wait for the all-new 2022 one!

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Numbers

Base Price: $41,855
As Tested Price: $52,035
Engine: 5.7-liter OHV 16-valve V-8, iron block, and aluminum heads
Power: 360 hp @ 5,150 rpm
Torque: 390 lb-ft @ 4,250 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic with manual shifting mode
Zero to 60 mph: 6.5 Sec
Curb Weight 5,000 lbs
Cargo Capacity: 36.3 ft³, 68.3 ft³ with seat area
EPA city/highway/combined: 14/22/17 mpg
Our Observed Fuel Economy: 13.8 mpg
Pros: Serious off-road ability, ride quality, nice cabin
Cons: Aging tech, thirst for fuel

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