Jeep Grand Cherokee vs. Ford Explorer

The popularity of the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ford Explorer is undeniable. 

Both midsize SUVs have been best sellers since their debut in the 1990s. The Explorer launched in 1991 as Ford’s first 4-door SUV, replacing the Bronco II. The Grand Cherokee followed in 1992.

Both SUVs are practical family cars, with lots of space and adventure potential, as both are capable of towing a small camper or boat. Both can do some off-roading, particularly the Grand Cherokee.

If you’re looking to buy a midsize SUV, trying to decide between Jeep Grand Cherokee vs. Ford Explorer can be difficult. To help you come to a decision, we’ll take a closer look at the following for both vehicles:

  • Specifications

  • Safety

  • Reliability

  • Interior and infotainment

  • Cargo space

Differences between the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ford Explorer

Here’s a top-level look at the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ford Explorer.

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee: Price, engine and specifications

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From $34,200

Engine: Base V6 and three V8 options; 293-707 horsepower

Miles per gallon: 11-19 mpg city/17-26 mpg highway


2021 Ford Explorer: Price, engine and specifications

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From $32,225

Engine: Base 4-cylinder; two twin-turbocharged V6s; 285-400 horsepower

Miles per gallon: 16-27 mpg city/23-29 mpg highway

Both SUVs have powerful base engines that are more than adequate for accelerating on the highway and delivering plenty of oomph. 

You can upgrade to the Grand Cherokee’s V8s options, which have 360 and 475 horsepower…and then at the top of the line is the supercharged V8 in the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk model that packs a whopping 707 horsepower - the same engine in the muscular Dodge Challenger and Dodge Charger Hellcat models.

If you love playing in the dirt, consider the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk model, which comes with a two-speed transfer case, an electronically controlled limited-slip rear differential, hill-descent control, Kevlar-reinforced tires, and the Quadra-Lift air suspension that provides additional ground clearance for off-roading.

The Ford Explorer Timberline edition debuted in 2021 and is designed for off-roading, with lifted suspension, all-terrain tires and a Torsen limited-slip differential. 

Both the Explorer and Grand Cherokee are capable of towing a trailer, boat or camper. The Explorer has a 5,000-5,600-pound towing capacity. That’s bested by the Grand Cherokee, which can tow 3,500-7,200 pounds when properly equipped.

Head to Head: Safety Features

The 2021 Ford Explorer comes standard with a long list of standard safety features, including:

  • Driver drowsiness monitoring

  • Blind spot monitoring

  • Rear cross traffic alert

  • Lane keep assist

  • Rearview camera

  • Forward collision warning

  • Forward automatic emergency braking

  • Pedestrian detection

  • MyKey (lets you do things like set audio volume and speed limits for secondary drivers)

According to U.S. News and World Report, the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee has an extensive list of safety features as well, but more come at added cost than the Explorer. Standard safety features for the Jeep Grand Cherokee include:

  • Rearview camera

  • Rear parking sensors

  • Blind spot monitoring

  • Rear cross traffic alert

Head to Head: Reliability

The 2021 Explorer has a predicted reliability score of 81 out of 100 from J.D. Power, while the 2021 Grand Cherokee has a predicted reliability score of 84 out of 100. 

A J.D. Power predicted reliability score of 91-100 is considered the Best, 81-90 is Great, 70-80 is Average, and 0-69 is Fair and considered below average.

Both SUVs are covered by a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Head to Head: Interior and Infotainment 

Both the Explorer and Grand Cherokee come standard with an infotainment system, automatic climate control, satellite radio, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and multiple USB ports. A Wi-Fi hot spot is standard with the Explorer, and optional with the Grand Cherokee, and both are available with upgraded infotainment and audio systems.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee is equipped with what’s considered one of the best infotainment systems on the market, Uconnect. It’s easy to use and includes “crisp graphics, fast responses and handy physical controls,” according to U.S. News and World Report. The Explorer’s infotainment system was upgraded for 2021, but it still has its quirks and isn’t as easy-to-use as the Grand Cherokee’s.

When it comes to interior quality, again the Jeep comes out ahead, with reviewers calling it “first-rate” and “modern and cleanly styled.” The higher the trim level, the better it gets. The Explorer’s interior, while not unattractive, has been called “bland” and “low rent,” due to the high amount of plastics compared to rivals.

The Grand Cherokee has comfortable and roomy seating for up to five, with enough headroom and legroom in front and back for adults and children. The Explorer seats seven due to its third row, but its second and third row are more cramped than competitors in the segment.

Head to Head: Cargo Space

Cargo area is definitely where the Explorer shines, with 18.2 cubic feet of space behind the third row, 47.9 cubic feet behind the second row, and 87.8 cubic feet behind the front seats.

The Grand Cherokee has a smaller cargo area than competitors in the midsize SUV segment; 36.3 cubic feet behind the second row, and 68.3 cubic feet with the second row of seats folded.

Buy a Jeep Grand Cherokee or Ford Explorer from EchoPark

Closer to making your decision about Jeep Grand Cherokee vs. Ford Explorer? Start browsing for your used SUV today or visit one of our stores to find the right ride for you.