The 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Might Leave the Toyota Highlander Behind

With the 2021 Grand Cherokee L, Jeep isn’t just showing off the design of its SUV’s next generation. It also gives the Grand Cherokee an extra row of seats, something it lacked compared to some of its rivals. One of these rivals is the Toyota Highlander, which was recently updated as well. However, the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L may be giving the Highlander more than a run for its money.

In off-roading, towing, and space, the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L beats out the 2021 Toyota Highlander

The rear 3/4 view of a brown 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve by a desert lake
2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve rear 3/4 | Jeep

While the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L and 2021 Toyota Highlander are called ‘SUVs,’ their unibody designs technically make them crossovers. In contrast, the 4Runner’s body-on-frame design makes it a ‘real’ SUV. However, the Grand Cherokee L’s unibody isn’t necessarily a drawback for potential off-road excursions. And based on its specs, it’s better suited for that than the Toyota Highlander.

When equipped with its adjustable air suspension, the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L has a maximum ground clearance of 10.9”, Roadshow reports. And at that height, it has an approach, departure, and breakover angle of 30.1°, 23.6°, and 22.6°, respectively.

A gray 2021 Toyota Highlander XSE
2021 Toyota Highlander XSE | Toyota

In contrast, the 2021 Toyota Highlander has 8” of ground clearance. Plus, it only has a 17.9° approach angle, a 23° departure angle, and a 16.7° breakover angle. Admittedly, that’s better than the Kia Telluride manages, Roadshow reports. But, while the Highlander offers AWD, the Grand Cherokee L offers both AWD and 4WD, MotorTrend reports.

The 2021 Toyota Highlander, although larger than the pre-update model, also lacks space compared to the Jeep Grand Cherokee L. The Highlander’s 3rd-row seats have 27.7” of legroom; the Jeep’s 3rd-row seats have 30.3”, Autoblog reports. And the Grand Cherokee L has slightly more rear cargo space with the seats up, Car and Driver reports.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee L can also tow more than the Toyota Highlander. With the 290-hp 3.5-liter V6 the Jeep is rated for 6200 pounds. That increases to 7200 pounds with the optional 357-hp 5.7-liter V8, Road & Track reports. With its 295-hp 3.5-liter V6, the 2021 Toyota Highlander can only tow up to 5000 pounds. And in 243-hp-hybrid form, that drops to 3500 pounds. But to be fair, as of this writing, the Grand Cherokee L doesn’t offer a hybrid powertrain.

How do the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L and 2021 Toyota Highlander compare in terms of features?

The interior of the 2021 Toyota Highlander from the rear with its seats folded
2021 Toyota Highlander rear interior | Toyota

As of this writing, Jeep hasn’t released official pricing for the 2021 Grand Cherokee L. However, Car and Driver estimates the base Laredo trim will start around $38,000. MT puts the price closer to $40,000. That’s slightly more than a base 2021 Toyota Highlander L, which starts at $34,810. AWD adds an extra $1600 on top of that on lower trims. The Limited and Platinum trims have a more sophisticated system that adds $1950, MT reports.

Regardless, Grand Cherokee L and Highlander pricing is fairly close. And so are their overall feature lists.

Both SUVs offer Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and in base form, 8” center touchscreens. But, while Jeep offers an optional 10.1” touchscreen, high-trim Highlanders have a 12” screen, Roadshow reports. However, no Highlander offers a McIntosh audio system, and buyers have to step up to the mid-level XLE trim for a digital gauge cluster, Autotrader reports. Plus, while every Grand Cherokee L trim has standard blind-spot monitoring, it’s optional on the Toyota, Car and Driver reports.

And when you start stepping up to higher trims, the Jeep SUV starts to pull further ahead. The Toyota Highlander Platinum trim gets you leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, heated 2nd-row seats, a heads-up display, and wireless charging, Motor1 reports. However, the range-topping Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve adds massaging front seats, open-pore wood trim, as well as heated and cooled 2nd-row seats. Plus, 4WD models get hill-descent control and an electronically-active limited-slip rear differential.

Will the Grand Highlander change things?

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Even in base form, the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L has more space and towing capacity than the 2021 Toyota Highlander. Plus, slightly more standard safety tech. And even without air suspension, it has more ground clearance, Motor1 reports.

On the fuel efficiency front, the Highlander hybrid may pull ahead of the V6 and V8 Jeeps. But we’ll have to wait on official EPA estimates to confirm that. And discussing value really depends on the Grand Cherokee L’s official pricing. But for the moment, when it comes to moving people and/or cargo around, the Jeep has the advantage.

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That might be why Toyota is reportedly working on a ‘Grand Highlander.’ The Japanese automaker recently trademarked the name, which seems to point to a longer-wheelbase model, MT muses. Such an SUV would potentially resolve the 3rd-row legroom and rear cargo space issues. However, if that’s the plan, it might be a while before we see it. Car and Driver predicts that an extended-wheelbase Highlander likely won’t arrive until the 2023 or 2024 model year.

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