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2019 Ford Explorer vs. 2019 Jeep Cherokee: Which Is Better?

Editor’s note: You may want to read more of Autotrader’s model vs. model comparison car reviews as well as the 2019 Ford Explorer review, and the 2019 Jeep Cherokee review.

The Ford Explorer and the Jeep Cherokee are two pretty old names in modern SUV history. However, they’re both quite different today from what they were in their humble beginnings. In 2019, the Ford Explorer is a midsize, 3-row crossover and the Jeep Cherokee is a compact crossover. Although these two SUVs are in different segments, there are a few things they have in common and you might have both on your shopping list.

Let’s take a look at what’s similar, what’s different, and which is better between these two American SUVs.

2019 Ford Explorer vs. 2019 Jeep Cherokee exterior


Both of these SUVs do a nice job looking both rugged and premium. They also both have a lot of visual variety as you work your way through the model ranges. For example, the Cherokee carries an especially upscale look in its more luxurious trims like the Limited and the Overland, but can also look especially rugged in its Trailhawk guise. The Explorer displays similar exterior variety like the luxurious Platinum trim and the aggressive Sport model.

The Jeep Cherokee received a face-lift for the 2019 model year. Its old look used to be a bit of a love-it-or-hate-it affair with unusual proportions, but its new face for 2019 is a bit more agreeable and premium-looking. We think it’s a big upgrade. See the 2019 Jeep Cherokee models for sale near you

The midsize Explorer is quite a bit bigger than the compact Cherokee, especially in length. The Ford is wider and taller than the Jeep by about four inches and longer by 14 inches. The Explorer is so much bigger not only because it’s in a bigger class, but because it has three rows of seats.  See the 2019 Ford Explorer models for sale near you

2019 Ford Explorer vs. 2019 Jeep Cherokee Interior


Much like the exteriors of both of these crossovers, there’s a level of variety in the interiors that might surprise you. In a far cry from their early ’90s ancestors, the Explorer and the Cherokee can both get very luxurious on the inside in the higher trims with features like fancy leather seats that are heated and ventilated in front, premium audio, navigation, and much more.

The biggest difference on the inside of these SUVs is seating. Every Cherokee comes with two rows of seats giving it a maximum seating capacity of five, while every 2019 Explorer comes with a third row of seats, allowing the Ford to seat up to seven. The Ford also beats the Jeep in cargo space, making the Explorer a better fit for big families.

If you’re planning on carrying more than five people with any regularity, you might want the extra seating that the Explorer offers, but if you’re not anticipating having that many passengers, the inside of the Cherokee is one of the best in its class.

2019 Ford Explorer vs. 2019 Jeep Cherokee mechanicals


The Cherokee and the Explorer both have three different engine options, one of which is an all-new turbocharged unit for the 2019 Cherokee. Both SUVs come standard with front-wheel drive and have available all-wheel drive which improves all-weather traction on the road and varying degrees of performance off-road.

2019 Ford Explorer Engines

  • 3.5-liter V6; 290 horsepower, 255 lb-ft of torque; 17 mpg city/24 mpg hwy

  • 2.3-liter turbocharged inline four; 280 hp, 310 lb-ft of torque; 19 mpg city/27 mpg hwy

  • 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6; 365 hp, 350 lb-ft of torque; 16 mpg city/22 mpg hwy

2019 Jeep Cherokee Engines

  • 2.4-liter inline four; 180 hp, 171 lb-ft of torque; 22 mpg city/31 mpg hwy

  • 3.2-liter V6; 271 hp, 239 lb-ft of torque; 20 mpg city/29 mpg hwy

  • 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four; 270 hp, 295 lb-ft of torque; 23 mpg city/31 mpg hwy

The fuel economy numbers for both of these SUVs are around the middle of the road for their respective segments. In the Explorer, we recommend springing for one of the two turbocharged EcoBoost engines if your budget allows it due to the nice blend of performance and efficiency in the 4-cylinder and the thrilling performance of the twin-turbo V6.

The base engine in the Cherokee is nothing to write home about with middling performance and fuel economy, but the other two engines are big upgrades. The V6 gives you a lot more power and torque without sacrificing much in the way of fuel economy and the new turbocharged inline four is both the best-performing and the most efficient Cherokee engine. We strongly recommend the turbocharged engine if you can afford it.

Three different Active Drive AWD systems are available in the Cherokee: Active Drive I, Active Drive II, which adds neutral mode and low range, and Active Drive Lock, which includes a rear locker for serious off-roading. The off-road chops of the Cherokee might surprise you for such a small, affordable SUV.

2019 Ford Explorer vs. 2019 Jeep Cherokee tech

Features and Technology

There’s a lot of new technology that comes with the 2019 update for the Cherokee. This includes a standard 7-in Uconnect infotainment system with standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and an available hands-free power lift gate, which is also available on the Explorer. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay come bundled with the SYNC 3 infotainment system in the Explorer, but that’s only standard on the Limited trim and up.

If you want driver assistance tech in the Explorer, you need to opt for the optional Safe & Smart package: a $1,020 option which includes forward-collision warning with brake support, lane-keeping assist, automatic high beams, rain sensing wipers, blind spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control. This package is available on the midrange XLT model and up. The Cherokee offers less in the way of driver assistance tech. It’s available with blind spot monitoring, rear cross-path detection, forward-collision warning with active braking and lane-departure warning.

2019 Ford Explorer vs. 2019 Jeep Cherokee pricing


Since the Cherokee is in a smaller segment than the Explorer, it’s quite a bit more affordable. The Cherokee has a starting MSRP of $25,490 and the Explorer starts at $32,365. The Cherokee can get up into the high-$40k range in the higher trims and the Explorer can go all the way up to the mid-$50k range.

2019 Ford Explorer vs. 2019 Jeep Cherokee: Which Is Better?


The Jeep Cherokee is a small, but mighty off-roader that also makes a great commuter and errand-runner for single drivers or small families. The Ford Explorer is a good SUV for the family with up to seven seats and lots of available features. It’s hard to say which is better since these SUVs are in different classes, but the Explorer is better for families and the Cherokee is better for anyone who wants a small SUV that’s a little more rugged than its competitors. Find a Ford Explorer for sale or Find a Jeep Cherokee for sale

Eric Brandt
Eric Brandt is an author specializing in Oversteer content, new car reviews, and finding the best car, truck, and SUV deals each month. Born and raised in Wisconsin, Eric can often be found exploring the north woods on his 1983 Honda Gold Wing when the weather allows it. Father of four, husband of one, and unapologetic minivan enthusiast. Eric mastered driving stick by having a 3-cylinder Chevy... Read More about Eric Brandt

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