When you’re in the market for a good, off-road capable, family-sized SUV, you may notice that while there aren’t a lot of contenders in the market, the ones that are there are pretty fierce. Just look at the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L vs 2021 Dodge Durango faceoff, for example. While it’s fun to poke fun at any brand that isn’t your favorite, the truth here is that one model isn’t necessarily “better” than the other. Instead, there’s a top pick for each audience type. When you want an off-roading family SUV, you’ll love your Grand Cherokee L. However, when you like to drift through curves and rev up your engine, a model like the new Dodge Durango is perfect for you.
What Are the Main Differences Between the Models?
No one buys a Jeep just to look fancy, and well, if they do, they’re missing out on some key features. As always, Jeep designs its model to be off-road friendly. While we’re not talking Wrangler-level territory here, the Grand Cherokee L is made with off-roading in mind. While you won’t go rock crawling in this model, you can rest assured that it’ll get you and your family to the campsite safely.
The Durango, on the other hand, has a sportier appeal in mind. It’s made for the streets first and foremost, with its Hellcat V8 engine, capable of producing up to 710 horsepower. Yeah, not exactly hitting the “family-friendly” tag here, either. That engine is made with speed in mind, and while legally you’re not supposed to take advantage of that power on the highway, this model is made to track race at the very least.
That said, both models are designed for family-friendliness when it comes to their interior. Both the Grand Cherokee L and the Durango can seat up to 7 people, thanks to third-row seating. However, the Grand Cherokee L does offer best-in-class second-row legroom ratings, providing passengers with more comfort than the Durango does. Sorry, Dodger owners. Overall, the top difference here is that the Jeep model is family-friendly and off-road-ready, while the Durango is spacious yet speed-driven.
Why Choose the Jeep Grand Cherokee L Over the Dodge Durango?
Well, one fun reason to choose the Grand Cherokee L is quite simple. That reason is front massaging seats! While both models include options for heated and ventilated (or air-conditioned) seating, only the Grand Cherokee L offers massage seats for the driver and front passenger. Yes, you can literally get massage seats in a non-Cadillac model. Even outdoorsy folks can get fancy if they really want to now, thanks to Jeep.
But let’s head back to practicality. First off, the Grand Cherokee L has the edge over the Durango when it comes to performance. While the Durango arguably does offer a slightly higher towing capacity, topping the Grand Cherokee L’s max capacity by about 1,500 pounds, the Jeep model has everything else. And by “everything else,” we mean all-weather and off-road power.
The 2021 Grand Cherokee L includes Jeep’s Selec-Terrain Traction Management System. This system comes with five different modes, including the following:
While we don’t recommend rock crawling like you might in a Wrangler Rubicon, yes, it IS possible to tackle rocky roadways in this vehicle. As you can see, there’s a mode for each specific road condition. Sure, when you want to feel peppier and sporty like you might in the Durango, you can pop the L into sport mode. However, when you come across slick, icy highways or muddy backroads, the Grand Cherokee L has you covered.
The best part about this model is that you can customize it to match your specific balance of off-road to on-pavement driving. This is thanks to three available 4×4 systems:
- Quadra-Trac I
- Quadra-Trac II
- Quadra-Drive II
In short, when you’re not planning to head off-road constantly, but you want all-weather reliability, the Quadra-Trac I system is more than enough. Further, Quadra-Drive II uses these features, plus a two-speed transfer case to tackle even rougher road conditions. This is a great option for those families who spend weekends in the woods.
Finally, when you want to get closer to Wrangler-like power, the Quadra-Drive II package is for you. This one lets you switch back and forth between on-road handling and off-road prowling, thanks to a unique Quadra-Lift air suspension addition. While the 2021 Dodge Durango prides itself on horsepower and its engine’s loudness, it can’t keep up when the going gets rough. It’s a great model for the street, but when you need a nice mix of practical and adventurous, the 2021 Grand Cherokee L is the way to go.
How About Safety?
All these performance features and interior specs are nice, but safety concerns are a top priority when the family is involved. So, which model wins this battle? Both the L and the Durango offer a plethora of driver assist features. However, the L does take the cake by offering more driver assist features than any other model in its class.
The Grand Cherokee L offers the following driver assist features:
- Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go
- Full-Speed Collision Warning
- Active Braking and Pedestrian/Cyclist Detection
- Active Lane Management
- Blind-Spot Monitoring
- Rear Cross-Path Detection
- Active Driving Assist
- Intersection Collision Assist
- Head-Up Display
- Night Vision Camera
While many of these features likely sound familiar, there are also several unique features that stand out. First off, we’ve got Active Driving Assist. This feature ensures that you stay on track by keeping you centered and by keeping you at a safe distance from the vehicle ahead. This isn’t time to start typing up a text message, but it does make the drive a lot more relaxing.
Second up is Intersection Collision Assist. This is perhaps one of the handiest driver assist features, as it’s the first to specifically address intersections. Statistically, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, roughly 40% of accidents occur at intersections. That’s almost half. So, this system’s ability to provide alerts when it detects the potential for an intersection accident, paired with the L’s Active Braking feature, makes it an ideal family vehicle candidate.
Finally, we’ve got a Night Vision Camera available with this model. The L’s Night Vision Camera actually shows you what’s ahead so you can see what’s in front of you, which is often more important than whatever you’re leaving behind. This camera uses thermographic technology to detect people and critters that are within 100 yards of your vehicle. This feature is especially important if you’re using your Grand Cherokee L for camping trips and off-roading adventures.
This isn’t to say that the Durango falls short in the safety department. It includes great safety features such as Blind Spot Monitoring, Brake Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control, and more. However, with more available safety features than any other model in its class, the Grand Cherokee L takes the safety suite win.
Drive Home in the Grand Cherokee L
It’s easy to see that the Grand Cherokee L is the best model for family drivers. When you need a spacious vehicle that can handle all road types while keeping your family safe and secure, Jeep takes the cake. However, single drivers and speed demons everywhere can benefit from the Durango. It’s a great, spacious model that offers a sporty twist on the third-row SUV life.
While the Durango is still a great option, off-road enthusiast families will find much more pride and satisfaction in owning the Grand Cherokee L. When you’re ready for your next family adventure, the Grand Cherokee is the vehicle you’ll want to drive. If we haven’t already made it cleat enough, the best thing to do if you’re a family driver is parade around proudly in your Grand Cherokee L.