The all-new three-row Jeep Grand Cherokee L is a fantastic vehicle. We’ve always liked the Grand Cherokee line, and the addition of the third row has not diminished the vehicle’s enjoyable ride. However, the added length and mass of the L trim begs the question; “Is the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine enough for this new three-row SUV?” We have driven the vehicle, and our opinion is “Heck yeah!”
2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Powertrain Options
The all-new Jeep Grand Cherokee L comes with three powertrain options. The base engine in 2021 is the tried and true 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine. We’ve driven this engine in many vehicles and it always exceeds our expectations. One good example of where this engine shines is the AWD Dodge Challenger GT.
For the current model year, there is a 5.7-liter V8 option for the Grand Cherokee L. This is a great choice if you plan to drive with a full cabin of passengers and cargo, or will tow heavy loads on a regular basis. Many owners will do neither. Coming in 2022 will be the 4Xe version of the Grand Cherokee L. This plug-in hybrid-electric powertrain option has its merits. Urban owners who often drive in stop-and-go traffic take note.
Related Story: Jeep Grand Cherokee L Pricing
What Makes the Pentastar V6 Special?
Let’s start with torque. V8 engines and plug-in hybrids shine in this regard. But so too does the Grand Cherokee L’s V6. 90% of the engine’s torque, or about 230 lb-ft, is available from a very low 1,800 RPMs. You can feel it. Accelerating briskly from a stop, the Grand Cherokee L feels very strong.
Next up, power. With a peak 293 hp, the Grand Cherokee L always feels quick when you merge onto the highway. If you need a quick burst of speed in traffic, the Grand Cherokee L offers it. Downshifts from the TorqueFlite transmission happen instantly, and the engine always feels happy when pushed.
Grand Cherokee L Pentastar V6 Fuel Economy
In our testing, the V6-equipped Grand Cherokee L 4X4 Overland trim returned 25.2 MPG in mostly rural and highway driving. We were thrilled with 25.2 MPG. Over the same route, our 4-cylinder Mazda CX-5 gets just under 27 MPG. Imagine such a large vehicle nearly matching the efficiency that little runabout. With its great fuel economy, the V6-equipped Grand Cherokee L has an EPA-rated range of 500 miles.
In the ‘21 Grand Cherokee L, the V6 has many important features. First off, the engine is
chain-driven. So there is no expensive timing belt to replace down the line. The engine stop-start (ESS) system has been upgraded for the Grand Cherokee L, and we found it to be more refined than most modern systems. It was never annoying. Jeep designed in a pressure reserve element in the eight-speed transmission, which provides dedicated transmission fluid to the shift elements at engine restart so there is no delay in movement forward. Any twitch of your foot on the brake triggers the restarts, so you can easily pre-engage the engine if you wish to prior to traffic starting forward at a stoplight or from a stop sign. Jeep changed everything from the motor mounts to the control system to make the system work more smoothly.
For the 2021 Grand Cherokee L 4X4, Jeep has added a front-axle disconnect system. When in 4X4 Auto mode, if the vehicle senses that road conditions do not require all-wheel drive, the front-axle disconnect automatically places the Grand Cherokee L in two-wheel drive which reduces drag on the driveline and improves fuel economy. In fact, the 2WD and 4WD Jeep Grand Cherokee L models have the same EPA-Estimated Combined fuel economy rating. There is no penalty for opting for 4WD.
If you plan to do a lot of city driving, wait for the 4Xe. That will be the best engine for stop-and-go traffic to its ability to travel on electricity alone for about 20 miles.
Pentastar V6-Equipped Grand Cherokee L Towing
We did not tow with the Grand Cherokee L during our testing, so we will have to rely on the specifications. Of course, if you plan to tow large things a lot of the time the V8 is your engine. Many owners never will tow, and those that do will tow moderate loads a couple of times per year. Maybe a boat at the start and end of summer, or a snowmobile trailer a few times each winter.
Equipped with the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine, the Grand Cherokee L is rated for a max towing capacity of up to 6,200 pounds. That rating is enough to tow another Grand Cherokee L, but it could also tow a racecar on a trailer, or a ski boat, or large pontoon boat. We reached out to Patrick Rall, our go-to expert on all things towing and Stellantis. We asked if a 6,200-pound rating was enough to pull two full-size horses on a standard horse trailer. Patrick told us, “Very much so. We have a fairly high-end (heavy) two-horse trailer and with two show horses, it's around 5500lbs. Most two-horse trailers weigh in between 2500 and 3000 lbs.”
Pentastar V6-Equipped Grand Cherokee L - Conclusion
For the majority of Grand Cherokee L owners, the vehicle will primarily be a family vehicle. For most common uses, the 293 hp Pentastar V6 is an ideal engine choice offering outstanding fuel economy, great low-end torque, and plenty of passing and towing ability. Buy the best Grand Cherokee L for your particular needs. If you will be using it for mostly urban driving, the 4Xe would be a wise option. Those who will often have every seat full or who will tow moderate loads quite frequently should carefully consider the V8.
In our driving, the V6 engine and 8-speed transmission worked seamlessly to deliver a very satisfying and affordable driving experience in the all-new Grand Cherokee L.
John Goreham is a long-time New England Motor Press Association member and recovering engineer. John's interest in EVs goes back to 1990 when he designed the thermal control system for an EV battery as part of an academic team. After earning his mechanical engineering degree, John completed a marketing program at Northeastern University and worked with automotive component manufacturers, in the semiconductor industry, and in biotech. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American news outlets and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on TikTok @ToknCars, on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin