Comparison: 2011 Ford Explorer vs. 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Brian Konoske

After a night in Flagstaff, we continued northeast into the Painted Desert, where signs along US89 warned of possible ice on the road. Ironically, most early SUVs would have offered no advantage under those conditions-patches of ice on an otherwise clear highway. Most had part-time four-wheel-drive systems that were designed for loose terrain off-road or very slippery conditions on-road. For all its emphasis on off-road capability, one of the most noteworthy aspects of the original Grand Cherokee was that it offered a full-time four-wheel-drive system (Quadra-Trac) that could be used on-road. In the years since, Jeep has offered a bewildering array of 4WD systems, and that's still the case today. The Laredo's Quadra-Trac I has no low range and no terrain selector. Four-wheel-drive Limiteds and Overlands get Quadra-Trac II, with low range and the terrain dial.

Quadra-Drive II (standard on the Overland V-8, optional on other V-8s) adds a limited-slip rear axle.

For its part, the Explorer has switched to a FWD/AWD system, which is fine for slippery highways. Back in the 'burbs, though, we noticed that because its default torque flow is to the front wheels, you can get a tug at the steering wheel when pulling out quickly onto a busy highway before the system shifts power to the rear.

When we finally got to Monument Valley in southeastern Utah, we felt as if we'd truly entered SUV country -- not because you need an SUV out here, but because the towering red buttes provide the kind of heroic western backdrop that fits so perfectly behind these vehicles. We stopped at the Mexican Hat rock formation and both trucks-even the Explorer-got to scramble around a bit on the rocky two-track.

We'd driven more than 1000 miles according to the trip computers, which also reported a 20.0-mpg average fuel consumption for the Jeep and 18.8 mpg for the Ford. The trip was nearly all highway, so the Explorer's figure was disappointing (it's EPA rated at 25 mpg on the highway and 17 mpg in the city, versus the Jeep's 22/16 highway/city mpg rating). The Explorer's figure, though, is likely predicated on cruising in sixth gear, whereas the Jeep's transmission has only five speeds. On this trip, there were numerous uphill grades, so the Explorer spent a lot of time in lower gears, and its gas mileage suffered accordingly. Perhaps because it has no ultra-low-rpm cruising gear favored by the EPA tests, the Jeep got closer to its advertised mileage in real life. On flatter terrain, the Explorer might have reaped more benefit from its tall sixth gear.

oh yeah and it had 190 hp. :P compared to the Explorers measly 160 hp, yeah fords 4.0 was quality. 
And the "poor" quality you talk about, the inline 4.0 SIX cylinder, ran circles around fords mighty "windsor" and it got 4-5 better MPG than ANY Ford or Chevrolet 6 cylinder, and most of these engines are running FINE with 300,000 or 400,000 miles, find me a "quality" Ford that can handle that? Heck in 1975 with the Jeep J20, fords 3/4 truck couldn't stand up to the 401 V8, in towing or MPG. Jeep beat the competition time and time again, and a vast majority still run! See whats harder to find a 1995 explorer or a 1995 "poor quality" Cherokee. I know where my money is when I look at craigslist tomorrow. 
Someone who did a little more research, would note that the JEEP CHEROKEE (XJ) arrived in 1984, STARTED the real SUV trend, and it would run circles around the two followers made years after the XJ. Ford Bronco and GMC Jimmy were two to three years after the Cherokee (coincidence?) Then ford came out with its Explorer, replacing the Bronco. It was midway through the SUV trend, not the starter, not even close. Long live the CHEROKEE I'd say, its what brought you all of your "cute ute's" And we will GLADLY welcome it back when Jeep finally kills of this miserable Compass copy Liberty next year. 
Long live the Grand Cherokee! Wonder how it compares to a Land Rover LR4...

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