The Grand Cherokee has unibody construction like most SUVs in its class, while the 4Runner has an old-fashioned body-on-frame layout.
As crossovers continue to grow in popularity, many of the new entries are basically just cars that are shaped like SUVs. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it means that SUVs aren’t nearly as closely associated with off-roading as they used to be.
However, two SUVs that are still thoroughly capable off-road when equipped with 4-wheel drive are the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee and the 2018 Toyota 4Runner. Not only are they capable off-road, but their road manners are good enough that they can be used as your everyday car without hesitating to take an occasional adventure off the beaten path.
Despite being competitors, there’s a lot that’s different between the Grand Cherokee and the 4Runner. Let’s take a look at what they have in common, what they don’t and which one is right for you.
The Jeep and the Toyota have very different looks. Jeep did a nice job making the current generation of the Grand Cherokee look rugged, yet refined. Its appearance accurately reflects its capability, making it look just as at home in a mall parking lot as it does at a campsite. The Toyota 4Runner has a look that’s a little more utilitarian. Its chunky fenders, tall ride-height, and overall tank-like look make it clear that this SUV means business off-road.
Other than the Toyota being a few inches taller than the Jeep, the exterior dimensions of the Grand Cherokee and the 4Runner are very similar. Those extra few inches of height go a long way in making the 4Runner look like a much bigger SUV than the Grand Cherokee.
If you’re looking for a no-nonsense strictly off-road look, then you’ll probably like the Toyota 4Runner’s aesthetic. However, if you want something a little classier and something that looks a little more at home on the road, then you might like the more refined look of the Jeep Grand Cherokee. See the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee models for sale near you
The design ethos of the exteriors of both of these SUVs continues on the inside. The truck-like interior of the 4Runner lets you know that you’re in a capable off-roader, in case the exterior didn’t already tip you off. It looks a bit dated on the inside, which makes sense considering the current generation of the 4Runner has been around since the 2010 model year with little revision since. It is, however, a pretty roomy interior and even has an available third row of seats on the Limited and SR5 Premium trims with seating for up to seven people.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee’s classy exterior gives way to an attractive interior with comfortable seats. Unfortunately, unlike the 4Runner, the Grand Cherokee can’t be had with a third row of seats. The maximum seating capacity for all Grand Cherokees is five people. However, all five people can be comfortable, especially in the higher trims where the Grand Cherokee can get so luxurious, it might make you forget that you’re in a Jeep.
If you want a lot of space and you don’t mind having an interior that’s a little dated, then you’ll like the utilitarian interior of the 4Runner. If you’re looking for something with a bit more of a modern, luxurious touch, then you’ll probably prefer the Grand Cherokee’s interior. See the 2018 Toyota 4Runner models for sale near you
Mechanicals and Capability
The Jeep Grand Cherokee is available with four different engines and the Toyota 4Runner is only available with one. The sole engine in the 4Runner is a 4.0-liter V6 that makes 270 horsepower and 278 lb-ft of torque. Those are pretty middling numbers, but remember, the 4Runner is much more about off-road capability than it is about on-road performance.
The V6 in the 4Runner make the engines in the Grand Cherokee all look pretty good. The base engine is a 3.5-liter Pentastar V6 that makes up to 295 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque making it pretty comparable to the V6 in the 4Runner. If you want a little more grunt from your SUV, you can upgrade to a 5.7-liter Hemi V8 that’s rated at 360 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque. For even more grunt, you can go the next step up to the 6.4-liter Hemi SRT V8 that makes 475 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque. Finally, for the ultimate performance SUV, you can get the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, which comes with the supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi SRT V8 found in the Hellcat muscle cars. This incredible V8 makes 707 hp and 645 lb-ft of torque.
Clearly, the Grand Cherokee is more about on-road performance, and the 4Runner has more of an off-road focus. Perhaps the biggest difference between these two SUVs is their platforms. The Grand Cherokee has a unibody construction that makes it a better road car, while the 4Runner uses old-school body-on-frame construction to make it more capable off-road. One isn’t necessarily better than the other, it’s just two different approaches to off-road-capable SUVs.
Unfortunately, neither the 4Runner nor the Grand Cherokee comes standard with 4-wheel-drive on all trims. The base trims of both come standard with rear-wheel drive, but 4-wheel drive is available throughout the model ranges. The Grand Cherokee has three different 4WD systems available, and the 4Runner has two.
The Grand Cherokee’s 4×4 capabilities begin with the Quadra-Trac I and Quadra-Trac II systems. They’re full-time 4×4 setups with Quadra-Trac II adding a low range. Upgrade to Quadra-Drive II and you get the addition of an electronic limited-slip differential, which is capable of sending 100 percent of the Jeep’s power to one rear wheel.
The SR5 4WD and TRD Off-Road trims of the Toyota 4Runner come with part-time 4-wheel-drive with active traction control. If you upgrade to the Limited 4WD model, you’ll get full-time 4WD with a limited slip differential and a locking feature that makes it it similar to Jeep’s Quadra-Drive II system.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee’s starting price is quite a bit lower than the 4Runner’s. The Grand Cherokee starts at $30,895, which is about average for this segment, and the 4Runner starts way up at $34,810. That price would make more sense if 4-wheel drive was standard, but that’s just for a base 2WD model.
It’s easy to get carried away with pricing on the Grand Cherokee because it has so many luxury and performance trims. The luxurious Summit model starts at $50,995, and the Hellcat-powered Trackhawk starts way up at $86,200. That’s well into Land Rover pricing territory, but it’s actually about right for what you’re getting.
What’s nice about the Grand Cherokee is the variety in its model range. You can get a pretty simple 2WD family car, a rugged off-roader, a high-performance SUV, a luxury vehicle or just about anything in between and they’re all priced accordingly. With the 4Runner, your options are a little more limited.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Toyota 4Runner are two SUVs competing in the same segment that have quite different personalities. The Grand Cherokee caters to a wide range of SUV buyers, from shoppers on a budget to those looking for off-road capability, on-road performance, luxury and much more. The 4Runner is more for the old-fashioned off-road enthusiast who just wants a strong, reliable, body-on-frame SUV with some serious off-road capability. Find a Jeep Grand Cherokee for sale or Find a Toyota 4Runner for sale