Suddenly this summer, two of the oldest names in the SUV world have come to the fore, competing with the Toyota Highlander for the top spot in the mid-range segment: the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Ford Explorer. But for years, these two were also considered drifters in the SUV world and languished without much attention. What improvements have been made to the Explorer and Cherokee, and should you skip a Highlander and go for one of these best-selling American SUVs?
Both were recently redesigned
The Ford Explorer received a major refresh in 2020 and the Grand Cherokee in 2022. That’s one reason why they make it to the top. They are new. Buyers who are brand loyal, and you know who you are, keep an eye on the brand to see when a new model comes out and like to buy the freshest version of their favorite. Also, new versions simply take buyers to showrooms to check them out.
Both the SUVs had sort of faded earlier as well. The Explorer hadn’t seen a major update since 2015. The Grand Cherokee hadn’t been updated since 2014 and was coming. It looks like the updates worked, because on CarSalesBase.com, which tracks sales, the Grand Cherokee is the best-selling SUV so far this year, and the Explorer comes in third, just behind the Highlander, which itself saw a major update in 2020.
The 2022 Grand Cherokee is all-new on a new platform.
The new Grand Cherokee – the regular Cherokee is a separate model – was significantly improved in one way that really matters, the interior. Jeep packed in a lot more driver safety tech, like full-speed collision warning and adaptive cruise control, as well as new 10.1-inch screens for the gauge cluster and infotainment. The new Grand Cherokee is built on a new platform designed specifically for the Grand Cherokee and its special four-wheel drive system (Quadra-Trac I and II, and Quadra-Drive II) and Quadra-Lift air suspension. It can come in two- or three-row versions, the longer of which is designed as an L.
Although the standard powertrain is a powerful V6, and a V8 is optional, also new for 2022 is the PHEV 4xe version, which has an electric range of 25 miles.
Is the Ford Explorer a seven-seater?
Ford dips more into the efficiency sector than Jeep (at least in non-4xe versions) with its 3.0-liter and 2.3-liter EcoBoost engines. Each is tied to a 10-speed gearbox. The interior of the Explorer is also a pleasant place to be, as it is filled with high-quality details and leather. It can be ordered as an SUV for six or seven passengers.
However, Ford did trim a performance version, the Explorer ST. The ST makes 400 horsepower and has a top speed of 143 mph. Ford also offers a hybrid version of the Explorer.
They both offer dedicated off-road versions
SUVs are more about off-roading than ever and the Ford Explorer and Grand Cherokee are both getting dedicated off-road versions. Ford’s Explorer Timberline version gets improved ground clearance, larger tires and new springs, shock absorbers and stabilizers. It also gets a sophisticated four-wheel drive system and hip blackout trim.
The Grand Cherokee, Jeep fans will tell you, is a monster off-road SUV. It has some cool off-road tricks, like the terrain management system and an air suspension. But the Trailhawk version comes with some extras like standard all-terrain tires, integrated terrain camera, Quadra-Lift air suspension with up to 11.3 inches of ground clearance, improved approach, departure and break angles, and Quadra-Drive II active transmission with a rear electronic limited-slip differential sliding, as well as a disconnecting swingarm for extra wheel joints.
Does the Jeep Grand Cherokee have many problems?
Consumer Reports does not recommend the Explorer, giving it a poor predicted reliability score. Consumer Reports also doesn’t recommend the Jeep Grand Cherokee, but it has a significantly higher score. At JD Power, the Grand Cherokee hasn’t been rated yet because the model is new, but the previous model received a “good” quality and reliability rating. The Ford Explorer receives a “good” reliability rating from JD Power, as well as a “good” rating for driving experience.
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