Bigger is better, right? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. A bigger sports car is less desirable than a smaller, lighter one. Right? Not quite. Just ask an MX-5 owner. Smaller, lighter sports cars are better. An SUV that’s bigger? Well, more cargo space and room to stretch out is perfect. So Jeep decided with all the hubbub about 3rd-row seating, maybe a Jeep Grand Cherokee with 3rd-row seating might be a good thing. Turns out…they were right.

The most noticeable improvement is the overall design. The Grand Cherokee L just looks sharp. The extra length behind the back doors gives it a great sense of design balance. It looks right. It’s the same great design but…more. The Baltic Grey exterior is subdued and doesn’t attract attention. Our car came with the Black Appearance Package ($2,725) which added black wheels, Pirelli all-season Scorpions, and black badging.

Inside is the same Jeep Grand Cherokee interior we’ve become familiar with over the last several years. Our test car was monotonously and overwhelmingly dark inside: black carpeting, black leather seats, black leather dash, black center console, black headliner. There were bits of brightwork and some dark grey wooden inserts but it was largely lost in the blackness. Front row seats were comfortable with their heaters, ventilation, and umpteen-direction electric seat adjusters. The second row captains chairs were also comfortable, being heated – another package : Luxury Tech Group 1 ($2,295). What was behind those seats was up to you. You could either have two seats that weren’t much other than jump-seats to use in a pinch, or a tripling of cargo space if you folded them down into the rear deck. That was the biggest difference between the L and the standard Grand Cherokee.

Our test car also came equipped with the Towing Package ($995), the impressive Dual Pane Panoramic Sunroof ($2,615) and the 9-amplifier Speakers with Subwoofer stereo upgrade ($1,775).

The accommodations were comfortable. Nearly everything was adjustable from the touch-screen panel on the center stack, even though most controls were also available in a manual form – radio adjust, heater buttons – for those of us that remember old school simplicity and prefer it to screen scrolling while driving. Frankly, if you can’t get comfortable in this car, you can’t get comfortable anywhere.

We fully expected some snow to challenge the fully competent and legendary capabilities of the Grand Cherokee L but the weather has been unseasonably warm this year and we weren’t able to challenge the the Grand Cherokee L in any way other hanging on through some fun freeway cloverleaves in cold weather. It still impressed us with it’s smooth ride and bump-absorbing abilities. We were impressed with how well the Pirelli Scorpions – an impressive off road tire – handled our handling shenanigans. We expected tire noise and screech through fast corners but they toed the line diligently and provided all the grip we asked of them. We were able to try it in some snow that we got late during our loan but the G Cherokee L just pushed right through it like it wasn’t even there. Snow that would have grabbed my personal car’s wheels and pulled it in deeper had zero effect on the Jeep. Just steer and go. No muss, no fuss, no drama.

The brakes were strong but required a firm push. Not too firm, but if you braked too gently you didn’t slow very quickly.

If there was one thing we were undecided on, it’s the digital rear-view mirror. It worked for us on the Maserati MC20 because you couldn’t see more than 2 square inches out the back window, but on the Grand Cherokee L, it makes everything seem different from where it really is behind you. It’s okay, but I kept trying to adjust the mirror manually and doing that doesn’t affect what appears in the mirror. Some will like it, some won’t. I don’t think the Grand Cherokee is the ideal place to install it. Your mileage may vary. \

The Jeep Grand Cherokee L starts at $53,405. Our tester came in at $66,830, which is increasingly reasonable for what you get.

It got 5-stars in all the NHTSA safety tests except “rollover” where it got 4 stars. Still pretty good, given its weight.

Fuel mileage is stated as 25 mpg on the highway and 18 mpg in the city. That’s about what we saw over the week we had it.

If you’ve always liked Grand Cherokees and need a little extra room in them, the L model might be the one you’ve been looking for.

Performance: 5

Handling: 5

Design: 6

Interior: 7

Infotainment: 8

Sound: 8

Fun: 5

Overall: 6

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