Two staples of the American midsize SUV market since the early 1990s are the Ford Explorer and the Jeep Grand Cherokee. These two vehicles were instrumental in kicking off the SUV craze that started in the ’90s and haven’t slowed down since. Today, both names endure as versatile family haulers that have done a good job keeping up with the times.
Both the Explorer and the Grand Cherokee have been mostly unchanged since 2011, but 2019 is the final model year for the fifth-generation Explorer with an all-new replacement around the corner. Let’s take a look at how these two long-time competitors compare to each other in 2019.
The 2019 Explorer and the 2019 Grand Cherokee are similar in terms of height and width, but the Ford is about eight inches longer than the Jeep. That’s a pretty big difference for two SUVs that are in the same class, but the reason for the extra length on the Explorer is because it has three rows of seats and the Grand Cherokee has two. See the 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee models for sale near you
As for styling, both SUVs have benefited from recent face-lifts that keep them looking fresh. They both have traditional boxy SUV profiles with plenty of modern styling cues to give them modern appearances. They both do a nice job of looking premium and rugged at the same time, especially in the more luxurious trims. See the 2019 Ford Explorer models for sale near you
As we mentioned, the biggest difference on the inside of the Explorer and the Grand Cherokee is how many seats there are. The Grand Cherokee is only available with two rows of seats, meaning it can seat a total of five people, but the Explorer comes with a third-row seat, bringing its occupancy up to seven. The third row is a little tight, but it’s nice to have in a pinch in case you need the extra seating.
As for interior design and comfort, the inside of the Grand Cherokee is a little nicer than the Explorer. It has nicer materials throughout the model range and feels a little more expensive than it is. The interior of the Ford isn’t bad, but its design is a little dated and it can feel cheap in the lower trims. Both SUVs can be optioned to be very nice on the inside in the higher, more expensive trims with features like leather seats, navigation and back-seat entertainment systems.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Ford Explorer both have some very interesting engines available under the hood.
2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee Engines
3.6-liter V6; 295 horsepower, 260 lb-ft of torque; 19 miles per gallon in the city and 26 mpg on the highway
5.7-liter V8; 360 hp, 390 lb-ft of torque; 14 mpg city/22 mpg hwy
6.4-liter V8; 475 hp, 470 lb-ft of torque; 13 mpg city/19 mpg hwy
6.2-liter supercharged V8; 707 hp, 645 lb-ft of torque; 11 mpg city//17 mpg hwy
2019 Ford Explorer Engines
3.5-liter V6; 290 hp, 255 lb-ft of torque; 17 mpg city//24 mpg hwy
3.5-liter twin-turbo V6; 365 hp, 350 lb-ft of torque; 16 mpg city//22 mpg hwy
As you can see by the numbers, the Grand Cherokee has a greater focus on high performance than the Explorer. For most drivers, the engine options in the Explorer are more than sufficient. However, if you’re looking for a serious high-performance SUV, then you’ll find what you’re looking for in the more performance-oriented trims of the Jeep like the SRT and the Trackhawk.
One of the big differences between the Explorer and the Grand Cherokee is where the power goes. The Explorer is standard with front-wheel drive with optional all-wheel drive. Since the Grand Cherokee is more of an off-roader, it comes standard with rear-wheel drive and has multiple different 4-wheel-drive systems available depending on how much off-road capability you require.
If fuel economy is a bigger priority to you than performance at a drag strip or off-road dominance, then a 4-cylinder Explorer or a V6 Grand Cherokee is a great choice for a frugal family SUV with performance that’s more than adequate for everyday driving.
The Ford SYNC 3 and the Chrysler Uconnect infotainment systems available in the Explorer and the Grand Cherokee, respectively, are both pretty user-friendly and are both compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which are standard in the Jeep and optional in the Ford. These are nice connectivity features for keeping you off of your phone while you’re driving.
As for safety tech, Ford has a handy package of driver-assistance features called the Safe & Smart package. Ford Safe & Smart includes blind spot monitoring, automatic high beams, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and rain sensing wipers. This package is available on every 2019 Explorer except for the base model.
With the Grand Cherokee, driver-assistance tech is more a la carte. A couple standard features include blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic detection and ParkSense rear park assist. Beyond that, it’s available with adaptive cruise, emergency braking, lane-keeping assist and more advanced versions of ParkSense that can help you with both parallel and perpendicular parking.
Due to its smaller size and fewer seats, the Jeep Grand Cherokee has a lower starting price than the Ford Explorer, but it can also get much more expensive. The Jeep starts at $31,695 and the Ford starts at $32,365.
The top trim of the Explorer is the Platinum model, which starts in the mid $50k range while the most expensive Grand Cherokee is the 707-hp Trackhawk which starts all the way up in the mid $80k range. Comparable to the Explorer Platinum is the Grand Cherokee Summit, which is priced similarly to the fancy Explorer.
To put it simply, the Grand Cherokee is a more of a high-performance off-roader than the Explorer. With the exception of seating more than five people, the Jeep can do everything the Ford can do, and then some. For that reason, we recommend the Grand Cherokee over the Explorer, unless you’re looking for three rows of seats. The Explorer is a great SUV for most families, but the Grand Cherokee truly has something for everyone from families to off-road enthusiasts to adrenaline junkies. Find a Jeep Grand Cherokee for sale or Find a Ford Explorer for sale