Compared: 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee L vs. 2022 Ford Explorer

Two of the most popular American mid-size SUVs approach the luxury segment with space and style.

Jeep | Ford

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There are more than a dozen midsize SUVs with three rows of seats. We’re comparing two very familiar names—Explorer and Grand Cherokee—that together have sales in the tens of millions since they debuted in the early 1990s. The Explorer was all new for 2020 and comes standard with seven-passenger seating. The Grand Cherokee, specifically the longer L model introduced for 2021, is the first Jeep with a third row since the Commander. Here’s how they stack up.

Jeep Grand Cherokee L vs. Ford Explorer: Pricing

A 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee L costs $1,500 more than the two-row model for good reason: There’s more space. The base Laredo costs $41,080 including an outrageous $1,795 destination charge. There are six trims, ranging from well-equipped to Range Rover-like luxury: Laredo, Altitude, Limited, Overland, Summit, and Summit Reserve. Prices on the top models can reach $70,000, while most midlevel trims with decent options will hover in the $50,000s.

Rear-wheel drive is standard with four-wheel drive a $2,000 option on all but the Summit Reserve, which comes only with four-wheel drive. The off-road Trailhawk is not available on the L, and as a result, none of the trims carry the Jeep “Trail-Rated” badge. However, there’s a hidden exception: Order the Overland 4x4 and select the Off-Road Group package ($1,095).

The 2022 Ford Explorer costs just under $35,000 for the base model, which is so base and spartan that only rental fleets should consider it. There are seven more models that mimic some of the trim levels on the F-150 pickup: XLT, ST-Line, Limited, Timberline, ST, Platinum, and King Ranch. A well-equipped Explorer runs in the high $40,000 range, while loaded trims crest $60,000. Rear-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is optional on all trims for $2,000.

Jeep Grand Cherokee L vs. Ford Explorer: Engines

The Jeep comes standard with a 3.6L V6 that makes 293 hp. It’s fine enough in smaller Jeeps, but labors to move the larger, heavier Grand Cherokee L in anything resembling a hurry. It’s also coarse and loud under hard acceleration.

The proper upgrade is the 5.7L V8 with 357 hp and 390 lb.-ft. of torque. It’s optional with the Overland, Summit, and Summit Reserve trims. Frankly, it’s necessary for a vehicle this large but consumes more fuel (an EPA-rated 17 mpg combined for the V8 four-wheel drive versus 21 mpg for the V6 4WD). The two-row Grand Cherokee will be offered with Jeep’s 4xe plug-in-hybrid system starting in spring 2022, but there are currently no plans to offer that powertrain in the three-row Grand Cherokee L.

Ford offers the Explorer with three engines. The majority of Explorer models come with a 2.3L turbocharged four-cylinder that’s powerful for its size and outguns the V6 in the Jeep. On Limited and Platinum models, you can order a hybrid with a 3.3L V6 and a single electric motor for a total of 318 hp, although the fuel economy is hardly improved compared with the standard four-cylinder (25 mpg combined versus 23 mpg combined). Speed junkies will want to splurge on the twin-turbo 3.0L V6 with 365 hp in the Platinum and 400 hp in the ST and King Ranch. This much power is rare in the non-luxury SUV segment.

Jeep Grand Cherokee L vs. Ford Explorer: Features

Between the two, the Grand Cherokee L offers more high-end features for performance, comfort, tech, and luxury. Take the optional air suspension, which can be set to one of five heights (offering nearly 11 inches of ground clearance at its peak) and can automatically lower the Jeep at highway speeds and go even lower when parked. The Jeep can show night vision and maps on the digital instrument panel, or keep an eye on passengers with integrated roof cameras aimed at the second and third rows. The interior also boasts superior fit and finish when compared with the Explorer’s cheap and discounted cabin.

The Explorer offers an optional 10.0-inch portrait touchscreen that displays more of the navigation map, and its digital instrument panel is sharper and more vibrant than the one in the Jeep. There are more driving modes, but you won’t go as far off-road with an Explorer, since it doesn’t have a low range or as much clearance. But there are available self-sealing tires that can heal punctures of up to a quarter-inch in diameter. The ST also comes with legitimate hardware for driving enthusiasts, including Brembo brakes, sport dampers, and perfectly tuned steering. It’s a big SUV that handles like a much smaller one.

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Clifford Atiyeh
Clifford Atiyeh is an independent writer, photographer, and creative consultant. He has reported for dozens of websites, magazines, and newspapers in his 20-year journalism career, during which he has tested more than 650 new vehicles. His automotive expertise focuses on product development, market analysis, and the litigation and legislation affecting the industry. Clifford is vice president of the New England Motor Press Association and runs a marketing consultancy.