- The 2020 Ford Explorer is all-new while the 2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee is mostly unchanged since the 2011 model year.
- The Explorer now has a hybrid option, which is unavailable for the Grand Cherokee.
- The Ford is more family-friendly with three rows of seats, but the Jeep is more capable off-road.
The Ford Explorer and the Jeep Grand Cherokee are two very popular choices in midsize SUVs. The Explorer has been fully redesigned for 2020, while the Grand Cherokee has had a series of updates since the 2011 debut of the current WK2 generation of the Jeep. These two SUVs have different strengths and weaknesses that are worth pointing out if you’re shopping for a new crossover.
Let’s take a look at the differences and similarities between the Explorer and the Grand Cherokee and see which one is better for you.
The size of the Ford Explorer hasn’t changed much with its 2020 update, and it’s still a bigger SUV than the Jeep Grand Cherokee. The Explorer is longer, a little wider and a little taller than the Grand Cherokee, mainly because the Ford has three rows of seats and the Jeep only has two. See the 2020 Ford Explorer models for sale near you
The Jeep has a look that hints at its off-road nature, while the Ford has more of a street-friendly look. This partially comes from the fact that the Jeep has more ground clearance than the Ford, which helps with off-road performance while also giving it a more rugged aesthetic. The looks of both SUVs can change quite a bit, depending on which trim you pick, meaning they both have a nice variety in their respective model ranges. See the 2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee models for sale near you
One of the biggest differences between these two SUVs is the maximum seating capacity. Every Grand Cherokee has two rows of seats, which can seat up to five people. Every 2020 Explorer has standard three-row seating and can seat up to seven people — or six if you opt for the available second-row captain’s chairs. As for interior quality and design, these two are pretty evenly matched and can get legitimately luxurious in the higher, more expensive trims.
Seating space is generous in the first two rows of both of these SUVs. Third-row seating is a little tight in the way back of the Explorer, but it’s fine for children or for occasional use for adults. As for cargo space, the Grand Cherokee has one of the smallest cargo holds in its class, while the Explorer’s cargo space is above average for a midsize three-row SUV. This adds up to the Ford being a decidedly more family-friendly crossover than the Jeep.
The Explorer and the Grand Cherokee both have four engine options, and their engine lineups are quite different. The Jeep offers multiple V8s, and the Ford has a hybrid option. They both have standard rear-wheel drive and optional four-wheel drive.
2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee Engines
- 3.6-liter V6; 295 horsepower, 260 lb-ft of torque; 19 city/26 highway mpg
- 5.7-liter V8; 360 hp, 390 lb-ft of torque; 14 city/22 hwy mpg
- 6.4-liter V8; 475 hp, 470 lb-ft of torque; 13 city/19 hwy mpg
- 6.2-liter supercharged V8; 707 hp, 645 lb-ft of torque; 11 city/17 hwy mpg
2020 Ford Explorer Engines
- 2.3-liter turbocharged inline-four; 300 hp, 310 lb-ft of torque; 21 city/28 hwy mpg
- 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6; 365 hp, 380 lb-ft of torque; 18 city/24 hwy mpg
- 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 (ST); 400 hp, 415 lb-ft of torque; 17 city/23 hwy mpg
- 3.3-liter hybrid V6; 318 hp, 322 lb-ft of torque; 27 city/29 hwy mpg
The turbocharged 4-cylinder base engine in the Explorer is both more powerful and more efficient than the base V6 in the Grand Cherokee. It’s also worth noting that the Explorer ST returns better fuel economy and puts up better performance numbers than the 5.7-liter V8 in the Grand Cherokee R/T.
However, if high performance on the road or serious off-road capabilities are priorities for you, then you’ll find more to love in the Jeep. The 6.4-liter V8 in the Grand Cherokee SRT and the fire-breathing, 6.2-liter supercharged V8 in the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk (the same as that of the Dodge Hellcat muscle car) deliver performance that the Explorer simply can’t match. Also, a 4×4 Grand Cherokee is generally going to be better off-road than any Explorer, especially the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk, which has various off-road improvements such as off-road suspension, more ground clearance and a more advanced 4×4 system.
The Explorer and the Grand Cherokee both have excellent infotainment systems. In the Jeep, you get a standard 7-in UConnect system, which is upgradable to an 8.4-in unit. In the Ford, the standard system is an 8-in screen that can be upgraded to a vertically-oriented 10.1-in screen. If you like a really big screen, you’ll prefer the Explorer, but both systems are user-friendly and come standard with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay on all trims.
The Explorer is a little more generous with standard safety tech than the Grand Cherokee. The Ford comes standard with the Co-Pilot360 driver assistance tech suite, which includes 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 Jeep offers blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert as the standard kit and has more safety tech features available at an additional cost.
The Grand Cherokee has a starting MSRP of $32,045, and the Explorer starts at $32,765. Those are very similar starting prices, but the Jeep can get a lot more expensive than the Ford on the higher end because of the insane Trackhawk model, which starts at $86,900. The most expensive Explorer is the Platinum model, which starts at $58,250. In general, these two SUVs are priced pretty similarly when similarly equipped.
The Ford Explorer and the Jeep Grand Cherokee are two good SUVs with different strengths. If you’re looking for a good family SUV that’s good on gas while delivering good performance, there’s an Explorer out there for you. However, if you’re looking for more off-road capability and features such as third-row seating and a lot of cargo space aren’t that important to you, or if you want an SUV with 707 horsepower, then you’ll likely find more to love in the Grand Cherokee. Find a Jeep Grand Cherokee for sale or Find a Ford Explorer for sale