by Matt Konkle
Quadratec Channel Editor
The camouflage and black trash bag-looking disguises are again back in style for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles this summer as the company creeps ever closer to unveiling its latest automotive redesign—the 2021 Grand Cherokee.
Dubbed the WL, this edition marks the vehicle’s first complete overhaul since 2010 and this version looks to have more leg and cargo room, a different platform, plenty of interior changes as well as several power plant options and autonomous driving capability.
Spy photographers caught up with the new Grand Cherokee recently as the vehicle was driving around an FCA facility, and exterior-wise the WL looks like it will not stray far from the current design with the exception of possibly being a little more aerodynamic. Nor will it see a change to the iconic seven-slot grille face—at least from what you can see peeking through the camo disguise. The hood does look elongated in the spy shots, but that is most likely a part of the camo covering and not a new design feature.
One thing that is changing, though, is the vehicle’s platform. FCA has ditched the previous version’s Mercedes-based underpinning and swapped to its Alfa Romeo Giorgio platform. Former CEO Sergio Marchionne said as much last year as the automaker has invested heavily in this set up, and plans to use it on a variety of vehicles going forward.
For the 2021 Grand Cherokee, engineers have modified the rear-wheel-drive Giorgio platform a bit and made it longer, as well as stronger, to make the vehicle more stable and perform better when off-road. It will also continue to utilize an independent suspension system.
Interior changes are harder to see thanks to the camo’d finish, but the Grand Cherokee’s longer wheelbase definitely will expand leg room for all occupants, as well as provide extra cargo space. Additionally, like every new vehicle these days, state-of-the-art tech and driver-assist features like the newest generation UConnect infotainment system, plenty of USB ports and adaptive cruise control, should also all find their way into FCA’s latest offering.
Moving to the Giorgio platform not only helps designers lengthen the Grand Cherokee’s wheelbase, but it also will give them more freedom to add a variety of engines into the vehicle—including electrification. FCA has not indicated which engine will come standard at launch inside the 2021 Grand Cherokee, but bets are that it will start with either the 3.6-liter Pentastar eTorque, an engine that debuted this year in the JL Wrangler, or the 2.0-liter turbocharged eTorque, a mild hybrid BSG engine.
Others may include a Hemi-V8 and the new EcoDiesel V6, which is coming to the JL Wrangler and Gladiator next year. At some point, the Grand Cherokee may even get FCA’s newest engine project—code named Tornado—that is a turbocharged inline-six. This one is currently destined for the Wagoneer/ Grand Wagoneer, but could also find its way to Grand Cherokee as a higher-end option.
While FCA has not indicated any electrification plans for the Grand Cherokee, the vehicle’s release date does fall squarely into the range where the automaker is planning several electrified vehicles—including Wrangler. Plus, the Giorgio platform is forward thinking and does have accommodations for electrification.
Regardless of what FCA puts under the new Grand Cherokee hood, Jeep has already confirmed the vehicle will have connected technologies and a Level 3 semi-autonomous driving system. This means the vehicle can operate entirely by itself in certain road conditions, but still requires a driver to monitor.
FCA said the 2021 Grand Cherokee will be built in both the company’s Jefferson North assembly plant in Detroit, as well as nearby Mack Avenue Engine Complex. It should go into production sometime later next year and appear on the market either by the end of 2020, or early 2021.
The reworked WL Grand Cherokee is the latest new offering from FCA, following a Wrangler redesign in 2018 and the Gladiator truck which just reached dealerships earlier this year.
Up next for FCA following the Grand Cherokee will be the revival of storied nameplates Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer.
For the Grand Cherokee, FCA expects the vehicle to complete with the Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Explorer, GMC Acadia, Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, and Volkswagen Atlas.