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2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve 4×4

Going bigger with three rows to carry more crew, plus cargo …

Jeep’s Grand Cherokee has been a stout and stylish off-road capable SUV with a strong niche in the marketplace, so it’s natural for Jeep to try and build on that with a longer version, the L.

Timing might not be in its favor with gas prices soaring at the moment, but a 3-row SUV that’s off-road capable, and loaded with luxury inside just might turn some heads away from the Chevy Tahoes, Ford Explorers, and Honda Pilots of the world. Time will tell.

But from a ride and comfort perspective the Grand Cherokee L, which debuted as a 2021 model, moves among the leaders in this SUV segment. Looks also set it apart, at least from a snout-view where there are the seven bars on the grille and a handsome nose that easily portrays a more sophisticated Jeep image.

Mine was a Silver Zynith ($395 extra) Summit Reserve 4×4 model with a black roof, the absolute top of the line. That means the price is waist-deep luxury level, but the interior certainly delivers on that with enough cowhide to worry any herd.

But let’s look at the dimensional and people-friendly basics.

First, the L is about a foot longer (11.4 inches) than the Grand Cherokee and provides much more cargo space under the hatch. Plus the third-row seat, while slightly elevated, delivers enough foot and legroom for an adult to ride in back. With its second row captain’s chairs though this version will only haul six.

Watch Mark’s video: Mark Savage reviews the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee L – YouTube

Getting to that rear row is easy enough too as the second row seats flip and slide forward, although unlatching them can be a little more difficult from the rear seat than when entering through the side door. Kids may want to exit between the captain’s chairs although there is a considerable second-row console there.

Easy access to the third-row seats, plus they power down from inside the hatch.

Also the third row can be powered down from inside the rear hatch and the second row seats also can be released from there for easy loading of long items. So functionally, this is a win for a family of six, or seven at lower levels where a second row bench is available.

Driving it?

Well, there are two engine choices, the tester coming with the more efficient 3.6-liter V6 that makes a strong 293 horsepower and creates 390 pound-feet of torque. A giant 5.7-liter HEMI V8 with 357 horses and a torque rating of 390 also is available

Couple this V6 with five drive modes, Rock, Sand/Mud, Snow, Auto, and Sport, and it’s possible to take the Grand Cherokee L off road into some serious muck and over rocks, small trees, etc. Jeep says this will ford 24 inches of water for cryin’ out loud. Plus the L will tow up to 6,200 pounds, so hook up the camper or pontoon boat and head to the state park.

Happily the extended Grand Cherokee also rides well on and off-road. There’s not much jostling to passengers, even on our crumbling Wisconsin roads, which if you think about it sort of reflect the rocky nature of some off-road trails. The Quadra-Lift air suspension does a superior job of smoothing the ride.

But the steering does not feel as heavy, nor as precise as one might imagine, more of a big luxury SUV feel, which (along with its price) makes me wonder if many L buyers will really take these off-road. Still, keeping it in its lane on the highway is no chore, but cornering at speed you’ll notice some body lean as you would with other large SUVs.

Inside, the Summit Reserve oozes luxury from the get-go.

Luxury is the key inside with quilted leather and real walnut trim on doors and dash.

First, it’s quiet. Second the seats and doors are bathed in an orangish tan Palermo leather that was a bit too orange for my liking, and the family frankly found it garish. It feels high-quality soft and there’s a diamond stitch pattern on the seat edges and doors that insinuates luxury. Dash and door tops are black and Jeep uses real open-pore walnut trim on the dash and doors. That’s impressive and one-ups most of the luxury and near-luxury makes.

Naturally those seats are heated and cooled up front and the rears are heated too. The $3,000 Summit Reserve option package adds cooling to the second row seats, while also tacking on active noise control, a 950-watt amp, deluxe suede-like headliner, and 21-inch tires and special wheels.

Jeep’s seats provide good support and there’s a power lower leg extension to aid long-legged drivers. Second row seats are equally comfy and the third row a little stiffer, but still not bad. Second row manual sun shades and a wireless charger are a $245 add-on, but seem like they should be standard on a luxury ute.

Yes, that’s real wood on the dash and doors. American walnut to be precise.

Yet Jeep also tacks on a $1,795 delivery fee to pad the price as delivery is only coming from Detroit, not off-shore.

Other goodies on the Summit Reserve include a heated steering wheel and giant two-pane sunroof, one of the biggest I’ve seen.

Jeep continues with its easy-to-use infotainment system and big info screen. This is simple to tune and see. The Summit Reserve adds a 19-speaker McIntosh stereo system that sounds great too, but in a premium model you’d expect premium sound.

The McIntosh audio sounds great but reflects at night.

One downside to the McIntosh system though, there are round-topped speakers tucked into the dash’s front corners. Their shape and reflective surface means that in night driving where there are streetlights over the highway a weird circular reflection or flash occurs in the corners of the windshield as you drive. It can be distracting.

Yet on the safety front the Jeep Grand Cherokee L packs everything you’d expect or want, from smart cruise control and lane departure assist to blind-spot warning and cross-path detection. Parking sensors watch all around, including sides (some extra beeps), there’s a 360-camera, pedestrian and cyclist emergency braking systems, and parallel and perpendicular park assist.

The test Jeep added an Advanced ProTech Group IV for another $1,995. It includes a head-up display, night vision w/pedestrian/animal detection, rear-view auto-dimming digital mirror, and interior rear-facing camera to help watch out for rear seat shenanigans.

OK, so the rear end isn’t so stylish, but it has a power hatch.

No running board was added though, so step-in height remains rather high as this has 8.5 inches of ground clearance. For the record, black steps cost $875, chrome steps $975.

All told the test vehicle went from a base price of $61,455, including delivery, to $67,090 after options, putting it solidly in the luxury segment.

I like the slim, elegant look of the Grand Cherokee L’s nose.

Of course, there’s a base model, the Laredo, which is rear-wheel-drive, but that just seems wrong for a Jeep. It starts at $40,685, but adding 4WD increases that to $42,685. The trim levels climb from there to Altitude, Limited, Overland, Summit and the tested Summit Reserve, all of which include 4WD. Fully equipped the Summit Reserve can eclipse $70 grand.

So far there is no hybrid L model, while several competitors do offer a hybrid. One might expect Jeep to add one soon.

Note too that the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer models are two more new 3-row SUVs available from Jeep. They are bigger yet, being 10 inches longer overall with a three-inch longer wheelbase and are capable of towing an additional 3,800 pounds.

I reviewed the Wagoneer earlier this year, and will test the Grand Wagoneer soon!

FAST STATS: 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve 4×4

One more shot of the ritzy walnut trim.

Hits: Roomy 3-rows, quiet luxury interior, good power and ride, plus off-road capable. Heated/cooled leather seats, walnut dash/door trim, heated steering wheel and second row seats, giant sunroof, wireless charger, big easy-to-use info screen, five drive modes, power extendable lower seat cushion for driver.

Misses: Feels big and heavy, especially when cornering, big step-in height, so-so gas mileage and no hybrid available yet. High price and the fancy McIntosh stereo speakers in the dash reflect overhead street lights in windshield.

Made in: Detroit, Mich.

Engine: 3.6-liter V6, 293 hp/260 torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Weight: 4,524 lbs.

Wheelbase: 121/7 in.

Length: 204.9 in.

Cargo: 17.2, 46.9, 84.6 cu.ft.

Tow: 6,200 lbs.

MPG: 18/25

MPG: 20.3 (tested)

Base Price: $61,455 (includes delivery and AWD)

Invoice: $63,884

Major Options:

Silver Zynith paint, $395

Summit Reserve Group (21-inch painted aluminum wheels, R21 all-season tires, Palermo leather seats, 19-speaker high performance audio, active noise control system, 950-watt amplifier, cooled rear seats, deluxe headliner, Palermo leather door trim), $3,000

Advanced ProTech Group IV (head-up display, night vision w/pedestrian/animal detection, rear-view auto-dimming digital mirror, interior rear-facing camera), $1,995

Luxury Tech Group V (wireless charging pad, manual second row window shades), $245

Test vehicle: $67,090

Sources: Jeep, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2020 Hyundai Palisade SEL AWD

Palisade, like Telluride, a first rate family SUV …

I declared the Kia Telluride the finest SUV I’d driven in ages and an absolute winner in every way when I drove it last June, but its kissin’ cousin, the Hyundai Palisade is equally as praiseworthy.

I know us reviewers are supposed to pick at the loose threads that generally fray from any new make or model, but first I’d have to find one. Don’t make me choose between Palisade and the Telluride, although on price the Hyundai seems to have a slight advantage. Continue reading 2020 Hyundai Palisade SEL AWD

2020 Kia Telluride SX AWD

Kia Telluride a perfect people mover, a slam dunk …

Kia’s first big SUV is a perfect game, a hail Mary touchdown pass, a buzzer beater, whatever superlative sports metaphor you’d choose, the Telluride is all that.

It’s harder to write a glowing review than one that picks a few nits, yet I found none to pick in this review of Kia’s new Telluride SX AWD. That’s the top level model, but there are four trims, so one should fit in most folks’ budget. Continue reading 2020 Kia Telluride SX AWD

2018 Volkswagen Atlas V6 SEL w/4Motion

VW goes big into the SUV market with Atlas …2018 Volkwagen Atlas

There are no awards for being late to the party, but VW is hoping sales are its consolation prize for finally creating a large SUV, the Atlas.

It won’t win any styling awards (can you say big and boxy?), but it’s certainly stout and a bargain!

While every major automaker, including the likes of Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, have created a large SUV, it took VW until late this summer to release its Atlas, a 2018 model that is very nearly the same dimensionally as the Dodge Durango I tested a couple weeks back. Both are a pleasure to drive.

What the Atlas has going for it is nimble handling, good acceleration and a ride to match, but it’s also modestly priced. How modest?2018 Volkwagen Atlas

The base S model starts at $31,425 including delivery and touts a 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 that makes 235 horsepower. That’s with front-wheel drive, naturally, but even the tested SEL model with V6 and 4Motion (AWD) was just $42,690. No options were added either and with a $925 delivery fee the dark Platinum Gray Metallic test ute went for $43,615.

While that still won’t fit into everyone’s household budget, compare that with the tested Durango’s $49,360 price tag. In fact, most large utes roll out of the showroom at roughly $50 grand. Chief competitors are the Honda Pilot, Chevy Tahoe, Ford Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder and Toyota Highlander. Continue reading 2018 Volkswagen Atlas V6 SEL w/4Motion

2017 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4WD

New Nissan Pathfinder more civilized, comfy …2017 Nissan Pathfinder

My Navy son had a Nissan Pathfinder years ago and it was a true sport-utility truck, built on a truck chassis and able to go off-roading with the other utes of the day.

Pathfinder has been around now for 30 years, but those trucklike days are gone as more utes convert to crossover vehicles built on car platforms. That’s what the 2017 Pathfinder rides on. That makes for a more comfortable ride and more civilized vehicle.

The tested gold Pathfinder Platinum was the top-shelf model though, with a 4-wheel-drive system. Still, at nearly $45 grand I’m not sure I’d slop it through much mud and muck. That’s OK though, because precious few buyers ever took SUVs off-road, which has led us to the ever expanding crossover market. It makes sense to give drivers a vehicle more suited to 99.99% of their driving.2017 Nissan Pathfinder

Pathfinder’s new styling looks less boxy and trucky. It rides on a 114.2-inch wheelbase and feels as refined as any of its competitors, such models as Toyota’s Highlander, Honda’s Pilot or Hyundai’s Santa Fe. The interior is quiet and lathered in leather.

But it’s the Pathfinder’s power that’ll get your attention once you sit inside the roomy interior that will seat seven because of its third-row seat. Continue reading 2017 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4WD

2017 Honda Ridgeline Black Edition

New Honda Ridgeline redefines pickups2017 Honda Ridgeline Black Edition

Honda has reinvented the pickup and it’s a darn sight nicer than whatever you’ve driven before.

To be honest, it’s a suburban cowboy’s pickup, but that’s what so many pickups are used as anyway – kid haulers and the occasional run to a home improvement store or big-box garden center. This one is just being honest about it and making your ride simply oh, so, comfy.

The Ridgeline is not about who has the bigger engine, toughest body, greatest towing capacity, it’s about refinement in a crew cab pickup body with a big open bed for hauling. It’s also quite a bit more.

2017 Honda Ridgeline Black EditionMy test truck was the Black Edition, which (not surprisingly) is black, with black wheels and a black grille to give it a decidedly elegant, yet macho look. Think I wanna be formal, but I’m here to party too! This is Honda’s top-of-the-line Ridgeline.

Like all Ridgelines it comes with a 3.5-liter i-VTEC V6 that creates 280 horsepower and 262 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s just fine. Acceleration is good and steady from a stop and ultimately Honda says it’ll carry a 1,584-lb. payload, best in class. It’ll even tow 5,000 lbs., which is well shy of competitors like the Chevrolet Colorado and Toyota Tacoma, but plenty for pulling a camper or boat or snowmobile trailer.

Ridgeline rides on Honda’s sturdy Global Light Truck platform with a 125.2-inch wheelbase that calms road imperfections. This feels smooth and controlled like Honda’s Pilot, a full-size SUV. Continue reading 2017 Honda Ridgeline Black Edition

2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD

2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD2016 Mazda CX-9

The luxury crossovers, the Mercedes, Lexus, BMWs may have a hard time convincing some of their buyers that Mazda’s new CX-9 isn’t a better value.

At $45,215 the Signature AWD model I tested is within an eyelash of offering the same goodies those luxury brands tout, while also offering more style. Oh, and that price, while not cheap, is far less than you’d pay for most luxury makes.

Meanwhile, the restyled Mazda CX-9 exceeds the overall driving experience of such mainline competitors as the Honda Pilot and Ford Explorer.

Here’s the deal, the Mazda uses its Skyactiv technology to create an efficient crossover, while also using enough sound deadening to make this the quietest large crossover I’ve driven. Add to that a big luxury style grille, pronounced nose and tapered roofline and even in profile the CX-9 looks like it’s moving. The look is distinctive, not cookie-cutter.mazda cx9b

The inside is as nice as any luxury vehicle, both in looks, feel and finish. In fact, this Signature model, the top-level CX-9 features real rosewood trim around the console and on door control pads along with brushed aluminum (not plastic) trim. Classy!

Without performance, all of that would mostly be for naught, but Mazda always puts performance atop its delivery list. Continue reading 2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD