3-Row Off-Road Luxury: 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L vs. Land Rover Defender 110

With the recent MotorTrend SUV of the Year award, Land Rover has proven its reborn Defender can follow its predecessor’s legacy. But it’s not the only unibody luxury SUV with off-road heritage and, crucially, three rows of seats. From the States, there’s now the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L, too. So, how do you pick between them?

How the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L and 2021 Land Rover Defender 110 compare in specs and space

A silver 2021 Land Rover Defender 110
2021 Land Rover Defender 110 | Land Rover

Technically speaking, the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L and 2021 Land Rover Defender 110 are crossovers, not SUVs. Still, that doesn’t necessarily hold them back when the pavement ends. Both offer four-wheel drive; the Jeep even has three different systems, both with and without transfer cases, MotorTrend reports. But, on paper, the Defender has a slight edge.

Both the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L and 2021 Land Rover Defender 110 offer adjustable air suspension. It’s standard on the Defender, Roadshow reports, while only the range-topping Grand Cherokee L Summit has it standard, Car and Driver reports. And it’s optional on the one-trim-lower Overland. Regardless, the air suspension means both the Jeep and the Land Rover have adjustable ground clearance.

A red 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Overland in a forest
2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Overland | FCA

But the 2021 Land Rover Defender 110 has more of it. At its maximum height, the Land Rover has 11.5” of ground clearance, while the Jeep has 10.9”, Roadshow reports. Plus, the Defender 110 has better breakover, approach, and departure angles.

However, the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L has worse angles because it’s a physically larger SUV. And that translates to extra space for passengers and cargo—kind of. While the Land Rover Defender 110 has slightly more headroom overall, the Jeep has more legroom in every row of seats, Roadshow reports. Especially in the third row: almost 10” more legroom. Plus, the Grand Cherokee L has more cargo space. And interestingly, it’s also lighter than the Defender 110.

Engines and towing

The 2021 Land Rover Defender 110's black-leather 1st- and 2nd-row seats
2021 Land Rover Defender 110 middle interior | Land Rover

Both SUVs have 8-speed automatics. The Defender’s base powertrain is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 296 hp and 295 lb-ft. But there’s also an optional mild-hybrid 3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder engine with 395 hp and 406 lb-ft.

Meanwhile, Jeep Grand Cherokee L buyers can choose between a 3.6-liter V6 and a 5.7-liter V8. The former makes 290 hp and 257 lb-ft and the latter makes 357 hp and 390 lb-ft, Road & Track reports.

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

However, the Jeep can’t tow as much as the Land Rover Defender. The Grand Cherokee L can tow 6200 pounds with the V6 and 7200 pounds with the V8. But the Land Rover tows up to 8200 pounds with either engine, Motor1 reports.

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L vs. 2021 Land Rover Defender 110: the luxury touches

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Both the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L and 2021 Land Rover Defender 110 offer an extensive list of luxury features. You can get both of these SUVs with leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, sunroofs, and trick differentials, Edmunds and Motor1 report. Though to be fair, some of these features are only standard on higher trim levels. But Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and a WiFi hotspot are all standard.

However, the Grand Cherokee L offers several features that the Defender 110 doesn’t. For example, you can order the Jeep with heated and ventilated 2nd-row seats; the Land Rover’s 2nd-row seats are heated only. And the Defender 110’s front seats don’t have optional massaging functions. Land Rover also doesn’t offer the base Defender 110 with adaptive cruise control, but the Jeep has it, Car and Driver reports. Plus, the Jeep Grand Cherokee L is the first production car with an optional McIntosh audio system.

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Admittedly, the Defender 110 has some feature advantages over the Grand Cherokee L. It has dual center touchscreens to the Jeep’s one. And the Land Rover’s standard screens are larger, too. Plus, Land Rover offers the Defender 110 with a variety of off-road accessory packages, Car and Driver reports. But unlike the Jeep, only higher-level Defender 110s have digital gauge clusters, Car and Driver reports.

Which is the SUV for you?

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As of this writing, 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L pricing details haven’t been released. However, MT estimates the base model will start around $40,000. In comparison, a base 2021 Land Rover Defender 110 starts at $50,500.

So, which of these two SUVs should you buy? In terms of value and space, the Grand Cherokee L has a noticeable advantage. But in raw off-roading and towing capability, the Defender 110 beats it. Which is actually an appropriate conclusion.

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The Defender is the Land Rover product to pick if you’re into off-roading, mirroring the Wrangler for Jeep fans. The Jeep Grand Cherokee L is arguably more like a Ranger Rover. It can definitely still go off-road, but it’s slightly more about luxury. If you spend more time on paved roads carrying people and/or cargo, the Grand Cherokee L will likely suit you better. But if you’re okay with sacrificing some space for off-pavement capability, the Defender 110 might be the one to get.

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