So, you like the Ford Explorer? Of course you do. Not only is Ford America’s best-selling automotive brand, but the Explorer has reigned as the best-selling SUV over the last 28 years. Plus, common sense tells us that whatever sells best, IS best. Right?
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Tone down your sarcastic rebuttal. We can hear you from here and (trust us) we get it. Sure the Explorer holds legitimate iconic status but, aside from its hulking big brother the Expedition, the Explorer is almost a one-trick pony within Ford’s bland and uninspired lineup of crossovers and SUVs.
But considering the inherent limitations of the segment, what kind of attributes can help to make a lineup feel less bland and more inspired? Perhaps that topic is best explored when we compare an offering against a more successfully executed lineup. With that in mind, let’s take a moment to compare the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee vs 2018 Ford Explorer.
This comparison feels appropriate based on two primary criteria (i) our criticism of the Ford crossover/SUV lineup and (ii) Jeep’s success at creating a lineup that is both consistent across the various models, with each maintaining its own distinctive identity.
Introductions help to set the tone for the comparison. That said the Grand Cherokee is priced to start around $30,695 MSRP and serves up eleven models, in terms of trim levels and special editions: the (base) Laredo, Laredo E, Altitude, Limited, Sterling Edition, Trailhawk, Overland, High Altitude, Summit, SRT and the press-worthy powerhouse that is the Trackhawk. While the 707-hp Trackhawk enters the party at around $86,000 MSRP, it’s a Special Edition that exists outside the standard trim levels. The true apex of the lineup is the Summit, which is priced to start at $50,995.
The Explorer is priced to start around $32,140 MSRP and is available in five primarily trim levels: the base model, XLT, Limited, Sport, and Platinum. In terms of starting price point, you’re looking at about a 20-grand price range between the base and Platinum models.
Between the two, the Grand Cherokee starts off with a slight pricing advantage over the Explorer, but both keep the price range from base to line-topper consistent at $2G. The true advantage enjoyed by the Grand Cherokee is the variety of models served up – and in terms of creating an enticing offering, selection goes a long way.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee is offered up in a 4×2 build or with the Quadra-Trac 4×4 system. Regardless of the trim level selected, under the hood sits a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Rated for 295 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, the Grand Cherokee serves up 25 highway mpg and a 3500 mpg towing capacity. There is also the additional V8 options that are deserving of considering (including that of the high-peered Trackhawk)
The Explorer comes standard with a 3.5-liter V6 paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission, which serves up 290 hp and 255 lb-ft of torque. This configuration delivers 24 highway MPG with towing capacity starting at 2,000LBS. There is also the option of a 2.3-liter EcoBoost that serves up 280 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque, and a turbocharged variant of the V6 that puts out strong numbers that fall just shy of the Cherokee’s SRT build.
All in all, the Jeep Cherokee manages to edge out the slightly more modest numbers put forth by the Explorer. Factor in class-leading off-road capabilities and it’s clear to see who comes out on top.
(1:0 Grand Cherokee)
Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but I’ll simply never be a fan of the overall aesthetic utilized in crossovers and SUVs. Burdened by demands of creating a more accommodating cabin, they hold all the visual appeal of a wooden wedge doorstop.
With that in mind, and setting aside enhancements such as wheels and available paint colors, a lot of pressure falls on the keynote features inherent to each brand. All things being equal, both the Explorer and the Grand Cherokee are perfectly on-brand representations of their respective automotive families. That said, Jeep employs a more consistent and distinctive front and rear fascia than Ford’s rather bland visage. Jeep also makes an effort to offer a unique body style, that’s not afraid to shift away from the binary wagon-or-truck inspired stylings that trap so many competitors. For this one, Jeep takes it by a mile.
(2:0 Grand Cherokee)
As with any discussing of exterior design, assessment of the interior is bound to be subjective as well. That said, I have to be blunt: both the Grand Cherokee and Explorer offer a confidently designed cabin that are bound to please anyone who buy them. That said, it’s my personal opinion that neither does anything to create a distinctive sense of excitement.
The only arguable advantage one has over the other is that the Grand Cherokee seats five, while the Explorer can seat up to seven. That said that particular distinction will be weighted differently by buyers with differing sets of priorities. For that reason, we’ll consider this one a tie, to be decided based on personal preference.
(3:1 Grand Cherokee)
At the base trim level, the Grand Cherokee is Bluetooth-enabled with an infotainment system built around a 7-inch touchscreen and six-speaker sound system equipped with satellite radio and USB inputs. The Grand Cherokee is also equipped with rearview camera and rear parking sensors, right off the bat.
Jumping trim levels, and you’ll see such features as a power liftgate, 115-volt household power outlet, and upgrade to an 8.4-inch touchscreen. Combined with upgraded leather heated seats, and driver memory settings and the Grand Cherokee proves plenty enticing.
The Explorer rates comparably in terms of the base-level amenities but doesn’t answer such conveniences as the liftgate and additional outlet, scoring the Grand Cherokee another win.
(4:1 Grand Cherokee)
Which is Right for You?
Only you can decide for yourself but, for us, it’s a pretty easy choice.