2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee ‘WL’ prototype spotted, 7-seater? (video)

A heavily wrapped prototype version of the all-new 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee ‘WL’ has been spotted testing on public roads in Detroit, potentially previewing its seven-seat capacity.

The all-new SUV was slated to make its debut earlier this year, however, due to the coronavirus pandemic there has been huge delays in various industries. And that includes cancellations of a number of international motor shows. There was some initial suspicion that the new model would be revealed at the North American Auto Show in Detroit, but that was cancelled.

So, what can we see here? Not much, actually. Jeep engineers appear to be taking camouflage very seriously, wrapping this prototype in lots of black sheeting so we can’t see any detail. About the only thing the prototype does indicate is a larger rear section.

It’s understood Jeep is planning to offer the Grand Cherokee WL with a third row of seats. Yep, a seven-seater Grand Cherokee. In Australia in particular the GC has to compete against many popular rivals that are offered with seven seats. Chief among them all is the Toyota Prado, which is the best-seller in Australia for this category. Jeep could open up its market appeal and increase its sales simply by offering a third row of seats.

The extra row of seats are set to come in as Jeep introduces a fresh platform for the SUV. According to various reports the new model will switch to the FCA Giorgio platform. This layout underpins the current Alfa Romeo Giulia and Stelvio. Both of these sit in mid-size classes, but for the Jeep the platform is set to be extended and modified.

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At the moment the current WK Grand Cherokee is based on an old DaimlerChrysler platform which has been in existence for almost 10 years. With the more modern layout the SUV is expected to bring in huge improvements in various areas, including driving dynamics, safety, and efficiency. Reduced weight is set to be a major factor for most of this.

We’ve seen some leaked documents in the recent past which provide a glimpse of the new interior (above). It looks like Jeep has applied massive revisions, with stuff like a flush touch-screen, digital instrument cluster, and more elegant dash and console design on the way. Material qualities and features are also expected to take a big step forward.

As for its debut? No official date has been sent out as yet. We heard Ralph Gilles, head of FCA design, mention earlier this year that the new model will be shown in 2020, but that was prior to COVID-19. He spoke of the existing model, saying, “It’s getting on now, and we’re about to replace it later this year. We’re going to show the new one.”

We suspect the debut will take place during the third quarter. Check out the quick spy video below for a preview.

Brett is the editor and founder of Performance Drive. He's obsessed with driving, having played with Matchbox cars until he was tall enough to drive a real one. After initially working as a mechanic, Brett earned a degree in journalism and entered media as an editorial assistant at Top Gear Australia magazine. He then worked at CarAdvice.com.au. His dream is to live next door to the Nurburgring in Germany.