Comparison: 2011 Ford Explorer vs. 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Brian Konoske

Back in 1992, then-deputy-editor Jean Jennings pronounced the Ford Explorer the winner for truck people and the Jeep Grand Cherokee the best for car people. Today, that situation is reversed. The Explorer has deftly moved with the market. Reborn as a FWD/AWD three-row crossover, it has become much more of a car -- which makes sense, because that's how people use it. The Jeep, though, has too great a sense of self to follow the vicissitudes of the market. It has to be a Jeep, after all, and -- despite missteps like the Compass and the Patriot -- that still means something. It could be that eventually the great majority of SUV buyers will no longer give a damn about the ability to go off-road, but a Grand Cherokee nonetheless will still provide that ability.

One could say that day is upon us already. If so, what keeps the Jeep from being irrelevant is that Chrysler engineers have done such a good job of building a vehicle that works well as a car, despite its off-road capability. The sacrifices a Jeep once demanded are finally gone. They were sacrifices we once were happy to make, because driving a Jeep was so cool; but then, like everything cool, it eventually became less cool, and we weren't as willing to put up with the lousy gas mileage, the unrefined powertrains, the poor ride quality, and the poor quality in general.

The Explorer is better attuned to real life, and it's comprehensively well executed in the way of most modern Fords. But the fact is, we preferred driving the Jeep -- it felt less mundane. Twenty years on, the romantic notions that originally popularized SUVs have largely dissipated, but out here in the iconic American West, where the landscape is like something out of a John Ford western, you realize that, in the Grand Cherokee at least, that romance isn't entirely gone.

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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