Comparison: 2011 Ford Explorer vs. 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Brian Konoske

After a spell on Route 66 and the road that consigned it to a historical artifact, I-40, we headed south along 89A, which follows Oak Creek Canyon into Sedona. Here, the Explorer's electrically assisted steering showed a weakness. Although it's fine at straight-ahead, it has a vagueness off-center that makes placing the vehicle more work than it should be on long, sweeping curves. The Grand Cherokee's steering is heavier overall, but not unpleasantly so, and it's fairly consistent through both curves and straights.

We went to Sedona looking for an off-road trail we'd done years ago, in 1993, at the introduction of the Explorer Limited (denoted by its running boards and three fetching hues of bright white, forest green, and purple). The trail was at the back of a subdivision that butted up to spectacular, towering red rocks. Well, given the number of red-rock formations all around Sedona and the mushrooming subdivisions in the area, we didn't immediately find it. We did find a different trail, Soldier Pass, and after walking in only a few hundred yards, we feared that it was too much for the Explorer. But we let the Jeep have a go at it, since our Grand Cherokee had a four-wheel-drive system with a low range.

Both vehicles have a Land Rover-style terrain-selector knob. The Jeep's includes a mode for rocks, but you have to select low range first. Jeep claims improved approach and departure angles for the new Grand Cherokee, but that's with the Quadra-Lift air suspension and the front air dam removed. We didn't have the former and didn't bother with the latter, and the Jeep still managed fine on the section we tried. We had to pick our way very carefully, however, and it wasn't easy because the high hood makes for lousy sightlines when you're trying to place a wheel precisely. You really need a spotter.

Finally, we found what we'd been looking for: Broken Arrow Trail. A look at the first obstacle, a foot-high sheer slickrock step topped by a second, slightly smaller one, made us realize that any attempt to relive 1993 would relieve the 2011 Explorer of its front fascia, particularly as the Explorer lacks a low range to walk the truck slowly up the rock. (We should mention that the '93 Limited didn't fare so well, either. Several of the test Explorers suffered damage to their molded running boards.)

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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