Ford and Jeep are two auto manufacturers who have earned a reputation for developing SUVs that are uncompromising on size, capability, and diversity. Both of their lineups are filled with vehicles built for utility, from the ever-rugged Jeep Wrangler to the simple and stylish Ford Edge. 2019 was a big year for both of these automakers, and at the top of everyone’s mind were the 2020 Ford Explorer and the 2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee. These are both mid-range SUVs that attempt to appeal to a broad market by providing a driving experience that boasts incredible utility, power, and value. However, both of these vehicles are peak competitors, hoping to captivate similar kinds of drivers by claiming to be the better choice. In this article, we’ll put these vehicles to the test and thoroughly compare the 2020 Ford Explorer vs 2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Keeping Up With Appearances
Fortunately, no matter which SUV tickles your fancy, both come with a considerable amount of style and value right away. Take, for instance, the Ford Explorer, starting at a $32,765 MSRP, the price tag alone is bound to catch a potential buyer. The styling of the Ford Explorer is also rather timeless, staying true to the somewhat boxy designs of older models while remaining relevant with its array of sharp black accents and minimalist front headlights. Buying the 2020 Ford Explorer is exciting and full of options. There are five trims for the Explorer, including Explorer, XLT, Limited, ST, and Platinum. Although, what makes the Ford Explorer standout is the fact that the SUV offers three rows of seating instead of two, bumping up that max seating capacity to 7.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee, while similar in some ways, sets up a completely different list of promises. At first glance, you have an SUV that is in-line with the rest of the Jeep brand with the iconic front grille and rugged aesthetic. With a ground clearance of 8.6 inches, the Jeep Grand Cherokee rides rather high, making even base models apt for some light trail running. While better equipped for the dirt, the Jeep Grand Cherokee only sports enough room for five maximum, which can be a turn off to some potential buyers. Although, the Jeep Grand Cherokee provides much more in terms of trims, including the Laredo, Upland, Altitude, Limited, Limited X, Trailhawk, Overland, High Altitude, Summit, SRT, and Trackhawk. And with a starting price of $32,045 MSRP at the lowest trim, the Jeep Cherokee does have a leg up on the Ford competition at first glance.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of performance and powertrains, it is important to mention that both the Ford Explorer and the Jeep Grand Cherokee don’t skimp in terms of power delivery. Both models are uncompromising in terms of what they bring to the table, making it no surprise why both of these SUVs are getting a lot of attention.
With that said, the 2020 Ford Explorer does offer possibly the most well-rounded set of powertrains within its class. Base models of the Ford Explorer start incredibly strong with the 300 horsepower 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine, which offers up 310 lb-ft worth of torque, and has no issue in delivering top-notch performance with the accompanying 10-speed automatic transmission. While this starting engine is pretty worthwhile already, you can also purchase the Ford Explorer with a hybrid powertrain, which improves fuel economy, a huge plus for an SUV of this size. This hybrid powertrain pairs an electric motor to a 3.3-liter V6 to make a combined 318 horsepower and 322 lb-ft worth of torque.
Some drivers understandably want a little more oomph when they tap the gas pedal, and it can undoubtedly be found in the 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6 engine that churns out 365 horsepower and 380 lb-ft worth of torque with the help of that same 10-speed automatic transmission. This same engine can be tweaked to deliver even more power in the Explorer ST model, churning out a total of 400 horsepower and 415 lb-ft worth of torque.
The Ford Explorer can also be transformed into a rather competent off-road vehicle with the available all-wheel-drivetrain. Although, no matter what version of the Ford Explorer you drive, you’ll be able to swap between multiple drive modes, which include Normal, Sport, Trail, Slippery, Tow/Haul, and Eco with Snow and Sand drive modes available only on four-wheel models.
How does the Jeep Grand Cherokee compare? Performance in the Jeep Grand Cherokee is pretty robust near the high end, but power-delivery falters a bit at the start. Entry-level models of the Jeep Grand Cherokee sport a somewhat underpowered 295 horsepower 3.6-liter V6 that is responsible for 260 lb-ft worth of torque with the help of 8-speed automatic transmission. Although, once you move past the starting model, things become overpowered.
On the highest trim, you can find powertrains that utilize a 6.2-liter V8 that pumps out 707 horsepower making it one of the most powerful SUVs on the market, however, with an MSRP of $87,095, that kind of machine power may not be worth it. Sure, you can downsize to something like the optional 5.7-liter V8 with its 360 horsepower power delivery; however, even with its extra two cylinders, it still can’t quite compare to the top-of-the-line Ford Explorer model.
A Comparison of Technology
While we could have a go at comparing the interior cabin of the Ford Explorer and the Jeep Grand Cherokee, it isn’t quite an equal match. The Jeep Grand Cherokee does make use of plenty of high-quality cloth, plastic, wood, and leather materials, and gives rear passengers 38 inches of legroom, however, it simply pales in comparison to the size of the Ford Explorer. Ford, instead, offers drivers 87.8 cubic feet of cargo space to work with, and with extra seating available, the Jeep Grand Cherokee cannot compare. But what about technology?
In the realm of safety technology, once again, the Jeep Grand Cherokee falls short. For starters, the crash test ratings issued by the federal government reach only as high as four out of five stars. And while active safety technology is available on all trims, it’s not a standard addition, as drivers will instead have to shell out extra cash for extra peace of mind. Infotainment is a decent step up, though, with base models getting two USB charging ports and a 7.0-inch infotainment screen that is integrated with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
On the other hand, the Ford Explorer delivers a more cohesive package. All base models come standard with Ford’s Co-Pilot 360 safety suite, which includes features like blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection. Even the infotainment screen in the base model Ford Explorer is a step above the Jeep Grand Cherokee, offering 8.0-inches of dazzling display, complete with Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment software that, yes, is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The Superior Buy
While the Jeep Grand Cherokee may be the better buy for drivers who want something beefy and powerful, to get that kind of package, you’ll have to pay a hefty price tag. While lower-level models do live up to some expectations, they don’t necessarily blow the Ford Explorer out of the water by any means. Combined with the fact that the Ford Explorer offers hybrid powertrains and greater infotainment and safety tech and you have a clear winner. When we get right down to it, we couldn’t recommend the 2020 Ford Explorer enough, no matter what you expect out of your SUV driving experience.