Crossover & Midsize

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L vs. Kia Telluride: Do 3 Rows Change the Choice?

In our previous comparison of the Kia Telluride and the Jeep Grand Cherokee, we mentioned that the SUVs could be getting updates. In the latter’s case, it’s come to fruition in the form of the 3-row 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L. And most, if not all of the features it showcases will also be found on the 2-row 2022 model. But, do the extra seats and overall update change which of these two unibody SUVs you should buy?

Looking beyond the 3-row seats of the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L and 2021 Kia Telluride

A gray-brown 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve and a red Overland on a foggy hill
2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve (left) and Overland (right) | FCA

Naturally, the big news surrounding the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L is that third row. It’s something the SUV didn’t offer until now. And it was one reason to potentially go with the 2021 Kia Telluride over the Jeep: Kia’s SUV has 3-row seats as standard. But now that this particular advantage is gone, how do the SUVs compare on other interior amenities?

In terms of max cargo capacity, the 2021 Kia Telluride narrowly beats the Jeep Grand Cherokee L, Roadshow reports. The latter has a maximum storage space of 87 cubic feet, and the former has 84.6 cubic feet. And even with all the seats up, the Kia still has more cargo space, Car and Driver reports. The Telluride also has more 2nd– and 3rd-row legroom and headroom.

The 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve's cargo area with 2nd- and 3rd-row seats folded
2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve cargo area | FCA

When it comes to the front seats, though, the two are roughly equal. However, while the Grand Cherokee L can seat six or seven passengers, the Kia Telluride can seat up to eight, Autoblog reports.

So, what about features? Both the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L and Kia Telluride offer an extensive ADAS suite with standard blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, and automatic emergency braking. But while the Jeep has an optional drowsiness monitor, it’s standard on the Telluride. However, the Grand Cherokee L is the first production car to offer a McIntosh audio system—the Kia’s optional Harman-Kardon stereo isn’t quite the same.

The side view of a white-upholstered 2021 Kia Telluride interior
2021 Kia Telluride interior | Kia

As far as other luxury touches are concerned, a fully-loaded Kia Telluride SX is roughly on-par with a similarly-priced Jeep Grand Cherokee L, Car and Driver reports. Admittedly, the Jeep’s standard and optional center touchscreens are slightly smaller than the Telluride’s screens. But the Grand Cherokee L has a digital driver’s cluster, and the Telluride doesn’t.

How do the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L and 2021 Kia Telluride compare on specs, towing, and off-road capabilities?

Arguably the biggest difference between the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L and 2021 Kia Telluride is their powertrains.

A silver 2021 Kia Telluride in the desert
2021 Kia Telluride | Kia

RELATED: Is the Kia Telluride Nightfall Edition Worth The Luxury Price?

The Kia Telluride is available in front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive form. And there’s only one engine-and-transmission combination available. That’s a 3.8-liter V6 rated at 291 hp and 295 lb-ft linked to an 8-speed automatic. It’s a polished powertrain, Car and Driver reports, but acceleration is merely “adequate.” And with it, the Telluride can tow up to 5000 pounds.

In contrast, the Jeep Grand Cherokee L offers three 4WD systems, MotorTrend explains. Technically, the first, Quadra-Trac I, is more of an AWD system. But Quadra-Trac II and Quadra-Drive II are both 4WD systems with 2-speed transfer cases. The latter also has an electronically-active limited-slip differential.

RELATED: The 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Isn’t Weakened By Its Unibody Frame

Like the Telluride, the Grand Cherokee L has an 8-speed automatic. However, in addition to a V6, the Jeep has an optional V8. The 3.6-liter V6 makes 290 hp and 257 lb-ft and the 5.7-liter V8 makes 357 hp and 390 lb-ft. With the V6 the Jeep can tow up to 6200 pounds; with the V8 that increases to 7200 pounds.

Finally, there are the off-roading specs. In its Overland and Summit trims the Jeep Grand Cherokee L offers adaptive dampers and adjustable air suspension, Car and Driver reports. With that, it has a base ground clearance of 8.3”, Motor1 reports, and a maximum of 10.9”. And in Overland trim, the Jeep SUV has a maximum 30.1° approach angle, a 23.6° departure angle, and a 22.6° breakover angle.

The Kia Telluride, despite the brand’s off-road-trim teasing, is more of a ‘soft’ off-roading SUV. It only has 8” of ground clearance, as well as a 17° approach and 20.9° departure angle. And Roadshow reports Kia doesn’t even report a breakover angle.

Which SUV should you buy?

As of this writing, official pricing for the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L hasn’t been revealed. But Road & Track estimates a roughly $40,000 starting price for the base Laredo. In comparison, the base 2021 Kia Telluride starts at $32,190; the SX starts at $42,490.

RELATED: How Does the Kia Telluride Hold Up Against a Real Luxury Brand?

So, what does this mean for the potential buyer? In terms of towing and off-roading capabilities, the Jeep Grand Cherokee L still beats out the Kia Telluride. However, as before, the Telluride has a slight edge on value. While a well-optioned SX will likely be similar cost-wise to a base Grand Cherokee L, some of the Jeep’s luxury features are optional extras at that trim, Car and Driver reports. And to get the off-road goodies you’ll have to step up to more expensive trims.  Plus, the Kia is still slightly more spacious overall.

Adding the extra row of seats, admittedly, takes away one of the Kia Telluride’s former key advantages. But choosing between these two SUVs hasn’t gotten any easier. If anything, it’s gotten more difficult.

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