Continuing our theme of gigantic three-row SUVs, this week’s Base Camp entrant is a same-but-different model from a very familiar brand. Seeking to cash in on Canadian’s thirst for 7- or 8-passenger SUVs by leveraging the popular Jeep name, the Grand Cherokee L
takes much of what’s known and appreciated on the stalwart Grand Cherokee and puts in all in a taffy puller, stretching it about 5 inches to benefit passenger space and cargo room.
Keeping with tradition, the base Trim is called Laredo, a moniker which has been around since the brand’s early days. This $58,740 SUV comes standard with a 3.6L Pentastar V6 engine, one which makes 293 horsepower and has been installed in variants of just about everything Jeep and its related brands have built in the last ten years. This grunt is fed to the earth via an 8-speed automatic transmission and a Quadra-Trac I full-time single-speed 4WD system. For the uninitiated, this is Jeep’s basic 4x4 setup which doesn’t have some of the brand’s legendary off-road features like an electronic locking rear differential but is amply capable for the vast majority of Canadian buyers seeking a machine that’s sure-footed in winter.
Anyone with eagle eyes will be able to tell the difference between a Laredo and next-rung Altitude. The Laredo gets exterior goodies like body-coloured door handles, a roof rack with chrome brightwork, 18-inch wheels, and power side mirrors; dead giveaways it is the base model are a lack of LED foglamps, snazzy wheel design, and a smattering of gloss black trim details. All five colour choices are the same, however, with Silver Zynith (and its creative spelling) being the pick of the ones offered as no-charge options.
Inside, know that USB ports are the new cupholders, with an arms race developing between manufacturers of three-row SUVs to see who can pack the most into their vehicles. All trims of the GCL have an even dozen of the things but a wireless charging pad is reserved for options packages or the next-up Altitude. Some customers will welcome the Laredo as the only GCL trim with cloth seats, heated up front and delivered as buckets in the middle row. Tech includes Jeep’s dandy 10.25-inch full-colour digital gauge cluster ahead of the driver and an 8.4-inch infotainment screen in the centre stack. Typical safety gear like lane management and forward collision warning tools are standard.
What We'd Choose
An extra four grand grants access to the Altitude trim, a sum which is not exactly peanuts but does add features such as a power liftgate, remote start, interior ambient lighting, and – perhaps most critically for the peanut gallery – heated seats in the second row. Note that satellite radio is absent on the Laredo as is the new (and excellent) 10.1-inch infotainment touchscreen.
Taken as a whole, the Altitude seems like the better deal in terms of equipment, providing many features shoppers expect in this price bracket. Depending on budget – and excepting any delusions of off-road grandeur – that trim could be the pick of the lot. Finally, if you’re wondering, the Grand Cherokee L starts roughly $2,000 higher than its shorter non-L brother when comparing equivalent trims. With that in mind, if one doesn’t truly need that third row, pop for the regular Grand Cherokee in Altitude trim, bag its good features, and save a couple of grand in the process.