Cherokee vs. Explorer: The Two Best-Selling American SUVs are leading sales

Suddenly this summer, two of the oldest names in the SUV world have come to the fore and are competing with the Toyota Highlander for the top spot in the midsize segment: the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Ford Explorer. But, for several years these two were considered also-rans in the SUV world, languishing without a lot of attention. What improvements have been made to the Explorer and the Cherokee, and should you skip a Highlander and go for one of these best-selling American SUVs?

Both were redesigned recently

The Ford Explorer got a major refresh in 2020 and the Grand Cherokee for 2022. That’s one reason they’re rising to the top. They’re new. Buyers who are brand loyal, and you know who you are, keep tabs on the brand to see when a new model is coming out and like to buy the freshest version of their favorite. Also, new versions simply bring buyers into showrooms to check them out.

Both SUVs had kind of languished before, too. The Explorer hadn’t seen a major update since 2015. The Grand Cherokee had not been updated since 2014 and was due. It looks like the refreshes worked because at CarSalesBase.com, which tracks sales, the Grand Cherokee is the best-selling SUV so far this year, and the Explorer comes in third, right behind the Highlander, which itself saw a major refresh in 2020.

The 2022 Grand Cherokee is all-new on a new platform.

The new Grand Cherokee – the regular Cherokee is a separate model – was significantly improved in one way that really matters, the interior. Jeep packed in a lot more driver safety tech, such as full-speed collision warning and adaptive cruise control, as well as new 10.1-inch screens for the gauge cluster and the infotainment. The new Grand Cherokee is built on a new platform that is designed just for the Grand Cherokee and its special four-wheel drive systems (Quadra-Trac I and II, and Quadra-Drive II) and Quadra-Lift air suspension. It can come in two- or three-row versions, the longer of which is designed as the L.

Though the standard powertrain is a powerful V6, and a V8 is optional, new for 2022, too, is the PHEV 4xe version, which has a 25-mile electric range.

Is the Ford Explorer a seven-seater?

Three different 2022 Ford Explorers parked in a desert area.
2022 Ford Explorer | Ford Media Center

The Ford dives into the efficiency sector more than the Jeep (at least in non-4xe versions) with its 3.0-liter and 2.3-liter EcoBoost engines. Each is tied to a 10-speed transmission. The interior of the Explorer is also a nice place to be, as it’s filled with high-quality trim and leather. It can be ordered as a six or seven-passenger SUV.

Ford did tune a performance version, however, the Explorer ST. The ST makes 400 horsepower and has a top speed of 143 mph. Ford also offers a hybrid version of the Explorer.

They both offer dedicated off-road versions

SUVs are more about off-roading than ever and the Ford Explorer and the Grand Cherokee both get dedicated off-road versions. Ford’s Explorer Timberline version gets improved ground clearance, bigger tires, and new springs, shocks, and stabilizers. It also gets a sophisticated four-wheel drive system, and hip blackout trim.

The Grand Cherokee, Jeep fans will tell you, is a monster off-road SUV. It has some cool off-road tricks, like the terrain management system and an air suspension. But the Trailhawk version comes with some extras like standard all-terrain tires, integrated off-road camera, Quadra-Lift air suspension with up to 11.3 inches of ground clearance, improved approach, departure, and break over angles, and the Quadra-Drive II active transfer case with a rear electronic limited-slip differential, as well as a disconnecting sway bar for extra wheel articulation.

Do Jeep Grand Cherokee have a lot of problems?

Dashboard 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee L
2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee L | Jeep

Consumer Reports doesn’t recommend the Explorer and gives it a poor predicted reliability score. Consumer Reports also doesn’t recommend the Jeep Grand Cherokee, but it does have a significantly higher score. At J.D. Power, the Grand Cherokee has not been rated yet because the model is new, however the previous model earned a “great” quality and reliability rating. The Ford Explorer earns a “great” reliability rating from J.D. Power, as well as a “great” rating for the driving experience.

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