2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L vs. Ford Explorer Is a Fairly Even Match

In gaining three rows of seats, the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L has rectified a disadvantage it had against its rivals. One of those rivals being the Ford Explorer, which is also a 3-row unibody SUV. On paper, the Grand Cherokee L and Explorer come close in many areas. But which one deserves a space in your garage?

The 2021 Ford Explorer has power and space, but the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L has towing and off-roading handled

A silver 2021 Ford Explorer with a Yakima roof rack in the desert
2021 Ford Explorer with Yakima roof rack | Ford

In regards to their interior space, the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L and 2021 Ford Explorer trade-off in advantages. The Explorer is shorter than the Jeep, Autoblog reports. And yet, it has more shoulder room overall, and more 1st– and 3rd-row legroom. Plus, the Ford Explorer has more rear cargo space and overall headroom, Car and Driver reports.

The Ford Explorer also has more engine options. The base engine is a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 300 hp and 310 lb-ft, linked to a 10-speed automatic. There’s also a 3.3-liter-V6-hybrid model available with a combined 318 hp, Roadshow reports. And the Explorer ST uses a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 with 400 hp and 415 lb-ft. Rear-wheel drive is standard, and AWD is optional; the ST comes standard with AWD.

The rear 3/4 view of a red 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Overland by a forest
2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Overland rear 3/4 | FCA

In contrast, the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L has carry-over powertrains from the previous-gen model. The base engine is a 3.6-liter V6 with 290 hp and 257 lb-ft linked to an 8-speed automatic. The optional engine is a 5.7-liter V8 with 357 hp and 390 lb-ft. There might be a plug-in hybrid model in the works, Autoweek reports, but it won’t be available until late 2021 at the earliest.

However, while the Grand Cherokee L has fewer engine options, it offers both an AWD and multiple 4WD systems, MotorTrend reports. And both the Overland and Summit trims offer adjustable air suspension on top of that, Car and Driver reports. As a result, the Jeep has more ground clearance and better approach and departure angles than the Explorer, Autoblog reports.

And while the Jeep Grand Cherokee L is down on power compared to the Explorer, it can still tow more. With the V6 Jeep’s 3-row SUV maxes out at 6200 pounds; the V8 bumps that up to 7200 pounds. In comparison, the Ford Explorer can only tow up to 5600 pounds, Car and Driver reports.

How do the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L and 2021 Ford Explorer compare in terms of features?

As of this writing, the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L hasn’t been seen in person. So, it’s difficult to say if it has a better interior or a more comfortable ride than the Ford Explorer. However, reviewers have consistently dinged the Explorer for its plastic-heavy interior. And Autoblog reports that even base trim, the Grand Cherokee L seems to have a “rather great” advantage over Ford’s SUV.

The front seats and dashboard of the 2021 Ford Explorer Platinum
2021 Ford Explorer Platinum front interior | Ford

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In terms of safety features, the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L and Ford Explorer are fairly close. Both have standard adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, and automatic emergency braking, Car and Driver reports. The Jeep one-ups the Explorer, though, by offering an optional driver drowsiness monitor.

Moving on to non-safety-related features, the Grand Cherokee L and Explorer again have some similarities. Both SUVs have standard Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, WiFi, and optional 10.1” center touchscreens. But the Jeep’s standard screen is slightly larger than the one in the Ford. However, while the Explorer’s standard digital gauge cluster is smaller than the Jeep’s display, the optional one is larger, MT reports.

The front seats and dashboard of the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve
2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve front interior | FCA

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It’s at these SUVs’ highest trim levels where the differences start growing larger, though. In Platinum trim, the Explorer ST offers leather upholstery, heated 2nd-row seats, optional massaging front seats, and either a 12- or a 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen stereo. But in Summit Reserve form, the Jeep Grand Cherokee L adds quilted Nappa leather as well as heated and ventilated 2nd-row seats to that. Plus, it has a production-car-first in the form of a McIntosh audio system.

Which SUV is the right one for you?

It’s difficult to discuss value as of this writing because Jeep hasn’t released 2021 Grand Cherokee L pricing. Car and Driver estimates the base Laredo trim will start at $38,000 and the Summit at $55,000. In comparison, the 2021 Ford Explorer starts at $32,225; the range-topping Platinum trim starts at $54,480. So, in terms of price, they’re fairly equal.

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So, which one should you consider? If you’re chasing after space and power, the Ford Explorer has the edge over the Jeep Grand Cherokee L. But if you want some extra features, or need greater towing and off-road capability, the Jeep is the way to go.

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