Comparison: 2011 Ford Explorer vs. 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Brian Konoske

We left suburbia behind as we headed east into the hills on California 78. Up around Julian, we found ourselves on some serious switchbacks, a knee-dragging, sport-bike-rider's delight. It's no sport bike, but when it first came out, the Grand Cherokee was considered fairly agile thanks to its coil-spring suspension and relatively light weight (3600 pounds). Like so many Americans, the Grand Cherokee's svelte past is but a memory (the V-6 four-by-four has put on roughly 1000 pounds). Meanwhile, the unlikely emergence of a whole crop of high-performance SUVs like the BMW X5 and the Porsche Cayenne means there are lots of sport-utes that could eat up a road like this. The Grand Cherokee is not one of them, but this new version -- which was initially developed in tandem with the Mercedes-Benz M-class and which now uses an independent rear suspension for the first time -- was far more fluid than we expected, even if it is still tall and heavy-feeling. Credit also the vastly stiffer body structure, which helps create a ride that is positively plush. Owners of previous Grand Cherokees might not know what to make of it.

Handling has never been an Explorer forte. Built as it was on the Ranger pickup chassis, the first Explorer rode on Ford's ancient "twin I-beam" front suspension and a live rear axle. Later, of course, when its Firestone tires started failing catastrophically, the Explorer revealed a fatal handling flaw -- the tendency to roll over, which helped create the worst automotive recall disaster in a generation. The follow-up version was totally reengineered and had an independent suspension all around, but it still wasn't what you'd call agile. So to say that this new Explorer is far and away the best handling to date is really not saying much, although it's certainly true. The Explorer understeers resolutely, and you can tell the front wheels are doing all the work, but it doesn't have the body lean of its predecessors. Push it in a corner, and it feels like an extralarge Taurus. For the new Explorer, Ford adds a feature that it calls curve control, which senses when the driver has entered a turn at too high a rate of speed and then applies the brakes to help stabilize the vehicle.

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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