Editor’s note: You may want to read more of Autotrader’s model vs. model comparison car reviews as well as the 2005-2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee used car review and the 2003-2009 Toyota 4Runner used car review.
The 2005-2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee and the 2003-2009 Toyota 4Runner are both tempting purchases on the used market. They offer brawny styling, muscular powertrains, go-anywhere capabilities and a lot of room inside and in back. Most importantly, they’re increasingly becoming more affordable. But which one is better? And which one should you get? We’ve created a close comparison of the 4Runner and the Cherokee to help you decide, but first let’s cover the basics of both models.
2005-2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee: The Basics
The 2005-2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee is the third-generation version of the popular SUV. Originally available in V6 or V8 guise, the Grand Cherokee later added a high-performance SRT8 version that was one of the fastest SUVs on the market. Although this particular Grand Cherokee was criticized for its cheap interior, updates for 2008 and high-end Overland models improved things.
2003-2009 Toyota 4Runner: The Basics
The 2003-2009 Toyota 4Runner represented a major change for the long-standing SUV, as the 2003 model year saw the availability of V8 power for the first time. Available in SR5, Sport or Limited trims, the 4Runner touted all the usual 4Runner traits: excellent reliability, go-anywhere capabilities and a unique roll-down window in back.
According to reliability experts at Consumer Reports, the 2005-2010 Grand Cherokee and 2003-2009 4Runner are almost polar opposites when it comes to reliability. While Consumer Reports consistently rated the Grand Cherokee between average and worse than average, the 4Runner always scored better than average. As a result, drivers who prioritize reliability above all else will likely stop this comparison here and choose the 4Runner over its Jeep rival.
The 2003-2009 4Runner offered two engines. Standard was a 245-horsepower 4.0-liter V6, while drivers looking for more muscle could upgrade to a 4.7-liter V8. That engine started out with only 235 hp, less than the V6, but was bumped to 270 horses in 2005. Fuel economy was 17 miles per gallon in the city and 21 mpg on the highway with the V6 and 15 mpg city/19 mpg hwy with the V8.
The 2005-2010 Grand Cherokee offered an impressive five engine choices during its run. Most models used a 210-hp 3.7-liter V6, which returned 17 mpg city/21 mpg hwy. Drivers who wanted more power could upgrade to a 4.7-liter V8, which made 230 hp from 2005 to 2007 and 305 hp from 2008 to 2010, returning 14 mpg city/19 mpg hwy. An available HEMI 5.7-liter V8, which maxed out around 350 hp, also returned 14 mpg city/19 mpg hwy, while the high-performance SRT8 model touted a 420-hp 6.1-liter V8 that returned 12 mpg city/15 mpg hwy.
Finally, the Grand Cherokee also offered a fuel-efficient option. A 215-hp 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6, offered beginning in 2007, boasted up to 18 mpg city/24 mpg hwy.
The result: A turbodiesel Grand Cherokee is the most efficient of this bunch, but it was made in low numbers and can be hard to find. Otherwise, fuel economy is relatively similar between the 4Runner and the Grand Cherokee: fairly mediocre compared to smaller SUVs and today’s models.
All 4Runner and Grand Cherokee models came standard with anti-lock brakes and stability control. Disappointingly, neither model offered side-curtain airbags as standard equipment; instead, the feature was relegated to the options list for both models. Neither the 2005-2010 Grand Cherokee nor the 2003-2009 4Runner ever offered modern electronic safety aids such as a backup camera, lane-departure warning, a blind spot monitoring system or other similar high-tech gadgets.
In terms of crash testing, the Grand Cherokee performed slightly better than its 4Runner rival. The Jeep earned a perfect 5-star score in front- and side-impact ratings, while the 4Runner earned a 5-star side-impact score and a 4-star front-impact score. Both models earned only average ratings for rollover safety.
The result: With its slightly higher crash-test ratings, the Grand Cherokee has a small edge over the 4Runner here. But when it comes to technology, neither of these two SUVs is at the pinnacle of safety, even among rival models from the same era.
Most people who bought the 4Runner and Grand Cherokee did so for the engine power, interior size and go-anywhere capabilities — and not the cutting-edge technology. As a result, these two models are both pretty sparse when it comes to features and equipment, with the most high-tech options including a navigation system, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated seats and leather upholstery.
With that said, the Grand Cherokee took things a little further than its 4Runner rival, touting options such as power adjustable pedals, a Boston Acoustics premium sound system, rear park assist, Bluetooth and a rear DVD player — simple features by today’s standards, but enough to get our recommendation over the 4Runner for drivers interested in technology.
Examining only the years when these versions of the Grand Cherokee and 4Runner overlapped — 2005-2009 — you’ll quickly discover that the 4Runner is much, much more valuable on the used market. There are about 1,350 different 2005-2009 4Runner models on Autotrader with an asking price of about $13,600, while there are around 3,300 Grand Cherokees from the same time period with an asking price of $11,200. Remove valuable SRT8 models from that search, and average asking prices drop to just $10,300.
Is the 4Runner worth a $3,000 premium — more than 20 percent — over the Grand Cherokee? It’s hard to say, especially since the Grand Cherokee offers more technology, better available gas mileage and stronger safety ratings. The answer to this question will likely come down to how much you value the 4Runner’s increased reliability.
Choosing between the 2003-2009 Toyota 4Runner and the 2005-2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee is difficult because both models have major strengths. In the Grand Cherokee’s case, it’s increased technology, better safety ratings, an available fuel-efficient diesel model and wider engine choices with more power. But the 4Runner has the ultimate trump card: amazing reliability, which is highly important to most used-car shoppers. Which one is best? It all depends on your priorities, but we think most shoppers in this segment are concerned with dependability and capabilities above all else — and that means the 4Runner is probably the one we’d go with.