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2020 Ford Explorer vs. 2020 Jeep Cherokee: Which Is Better?

Ford Explorer and Jeep Cherokee are two old names in the SUV world. They might bring back memories of SUVs from the 90s driven by your parents or even yourself, and they’re two names that still represent big players in today’s SUV market. They compete with each other, but there are a few distinct differences that set them apart and make them good for different drivers.

Which one is right for you depends on your wants and needs. Here are some of the differences and similarities between the Ford Explorer and the Jeep Cherokee.

2020 Ford Explorer vs. 2020 Jeep Cherokee exterior


One of the biggest differences between these two SUVs is size. The Explorer is a midsize SUV, and the Cherokee is a compact SUV. As a result, the Explorer is 17 inches longer and a few inches wider and taller than the Cherokee. This makes the Cherokee more maneuverable and easier to park, but it obviously gives the Explorer more interior space, which we’ll dive into shortly. See the 2020 Jeep Cherokee models for sale near you

In the exterior design department, these two SUVs have distinct character. The Cherokee is one of the more rugged entries in the compact crossover segment, and that’s reflected in its design, especially in the more off-road-ready trims, like the Trailhawk. The Explorer, on the other hand, is intended to be more of a road-going family SUV and has a look that’s sleek and stylish. See the 2020 Ford Explorer models for sale near you

2020 Ford Explorer vs. 2020 Jeep Cherokee interior


In both SUVs, you’ll find mostly nice, quality materials with some hard plastics here and there. The Explorer has been fully redesigned for 2020, but frankly, it doesn’t feel all that modern on the inside. It’s a nice interior, but the design is just a bit bland. The interior design of the Cherokee has a little more character that Jeep shoppers will likely appreciate.

As for seating, every 2020 Cherokee has two rows of seating with a total of five seats, while the 2020 Explorer comes standard with 3-row seating. The Explorer can seat up to seven, but most models have second-row captain’s chairs and a total of six seats. The Explorer is open on the inside and has above-average cargo space for its class. The Cherokee has adequate seating space and below-average cargo space for a compact crossover.

Because it has more seating and more cargo space, the Explorer is clearly intended to be more of a family SUV than the Cherokee. The Cherokee can be good for small families who don’t have a lot of cargo to haul, but if you’re looking for a minivan alternative, you’ll find what you’re looking for in the Explorer.

2020 Ford Explorer vs. 2020 Jeep Cherokee mechanicals


The Cherokee has three engine options and the Explorer has four, including two variants of the same engine and a hybrid option. The Jeep comes with standard front-wheel drive and optional four-wheel drive, while the Explorer returns to its roots of standard rear-wheel drive and optional 4WD.

2020 Ford Explorer Engines

  • 2.3-liter turbocharged inline-four making 300 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque; up to 21 miles per gallon in the city/28 mpg on the highway

  • 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 making 365 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque; up to 18 mpg city/24 mpg hwy

  • 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 (ST) making 400 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque; up to 17 mpg city/23 mpg hwy

  • 3.3-liter hybrid V6 making 318 hp and 322 lb-ft of torque; up to 27 mpg city/29 mpg hwy

2020 Jeep Cherokee Engines

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

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

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

Clearly, both of these SUVs offer quite a bit of variety under the hood. The Explorer achieves excellent fuel economy for its class with its base turbo-four and its frugal hybrid model. It also has a new ST variant that adds exciting on-road performance to this family hauler.

The Cherokee also achieves pretty good fuel economy for its class and is one of the few compact SUVs in its class to still offer a V6 engine. We recommend opting for the turbocharged four-cylinder in the Cherokee if your budget allows it since it’s the best engine available in the Cherokee for both performance and fuel economy.

The Explorer is pretty good off-road, but the Cherokee really lives up to its Jeep name when it comes to off-roading capabilities. This is especially true of the Cherokee Trailhawk which adds special off-road suspension and an upgraded four-wheel drive system to tackle particularly tough terrain. On the other hand, no form of the Cherokee comes close to offering the on-road performance of the 400-hp Explorer ST.

If on-road performance is a priority for you, then you’ll prefer the Ford. If you want an everyday commuter than can also do some pretty technical off-roading, then you’ll love the off-road chops of the Cherokee.

2020 Ford Explorer vs. 2020 Jeep Cherokee technology


The redesign of the Explorer brought with it a generous host of standard driver assistance technology. The 2020 Explorer comes standard with the Co-Pilot360 driver assistance tech suite which comes with blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert, automatic high-beams, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, and post-collision braking. The Cherokee, on the other hand, comes standard with a rearview camera, rear parking sensors and not much else. Available options include lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, and parallel and perpendicular park assist.

As for infotainment technology, these SUVs are a little more evenly matched. The standard infotainment system in the Explorer is an 8-in touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay that’s upgradeable to a big, vertical 10.1-in tablet-style display. The Cherokee has a standard 7-in Uconnect infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and it’s one of the most user-friendly systems on the market.

2020 Ford Explorer vs. 2020 Jeep Cherokee pricing


Since these two SUVs are in different segments, the midsize Explorer is obviously more expensive than the compact Cherokee. The Explorer has a starting MSRP of $32,765 and can cross the $60k mark in the range-topping Platinum trim when you add features like a rear-seat entertainment system. The Explorer hybrid is only available in the Limited trim and starts at $52,280. The smaller Cherokee is much more affordable starting at $25,740 and getting up to around the $40k mark in the top Trailhawk Elite trim when you add extra options.

2020 Ford Explorer vs. 2020 Jeep Cherokee conclusion 


These two SUVs are a little too different from each other to declare one clearly better than the other. The Cherokee is the better off-roader, and it’s much more affordable than the bigger Explorer. Meanwhile, the Explorer is clearly the better family SUV with a lot more space, three rows of seats and a generous cargo hold. Which one is right for you will depend on your priorities.

If you like the idea of a midsize SUV like the Explorer, but with the rugged capabilities of a Jeep, the Jeep Grand Cherokee is worth consideration as long as you don’t need three rows of seats. 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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