Limited once denoted the ritziest Grand Cherokee, complete with cheesy gold accents because it was, you know, so money. Thankfully, the gold days are over. Today, the money Jeep is the Overland ($42,690 with four-wheel drive), while the least expensive, two-wheel-drive Laredo is priced at $30,995.
Although the Limited is the top-spec Explorer, it doesn't have quite as much standard equipment as the not-quite-top-spec Grand Cherokee Limited, which includes a sunroof, heated rear seats, and navigation. Both have heated leather front seats, a backup camera, and keyless ignition. Our Jeep added twenty-inch wheels (which are standard on the Explorer Limited), bringing its total to $41,090. The Ford was optioned with navigation, blind-spot warning, a power liftgate, and power-folding third-row seats, among other add-ons, for a total of $43,555.
In suburbia, an SUV is often a family hauler, a role it has assumed more prominently ever since the Dodge Durango introduced third-row seats to the sub-battleship-class sport-ute. The Explorer was first fitted with a third row in 2002, and it's now standard. The third row is actually adult habitable; the second row is a nice, high perch; and the front seats are wide and soft. Inflatable seatbelts, which help distribute crash forces for children or elderly passengers, are available for the second row. This new-generation Explorer migrates to a car-based platform, shared with the Taurus and the Flex. That may be a further domestication of the species, but it enables an easier climb in, particularly for kids.
The Grand Cherokee has resisted the three-row trend, but it, too, has become more welcoming to rear passengers. Thanks to wider-opening doors and a 5.3-inch-longer wheelbase, access to the back seats has finally opened up. Once there, passengers enjoy a significant four more inches of legroom than before; the front seats are firmer than the Ford's but not bad.
These vehicles have grown larger, but the Explorer has gotten a lot larger -- it is now more than seven inches longer than the Grand Cherokee and nearly half a foot wider. Still, it's not that much more unwieldy around town, thanks to a reasonable turning circle. A backup camera is a necessity in both vehicles, but for drivers who still find the prospect of parallel parking just too daunting, Ford offers the option of an automated parking system that will do most of the work for you.