|310||Standard Torque (lb-ft)||260|
|27||Fuel Economy (mpg combined)||21|
|87.8||Storage Capacity (cu.ft.)||68.3|
Compare the 2021 Ford Explorer vs 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee, and you'll see for yourself that while one midsize SUV is pricier than the other, a high price tag doesn't always add up to superior quality. This is especially not when it comes to one of these SUV's high-end luxury trims. Overall, most Americans want a great-value vehicle that meets the criteria on their shopping list. While the Grand Cherokee is just pricey, the Explorer offers outstanding everyday value.
So what makes an SUV great? A combination of great fuel economy, excellent driving, a comfortable cabin, reliable safety technology, and smart infotainment features in a well-priced offer will satisfy just about everything most drivers look for in a new car. So does the 2021 Explorer or the 2021 Cherokee satisfy more of these factors? Read on for a breakdown of how each vehicle performs in a variety of categories, and discover why the Ford Explorer is one of the best all-around midsize options on the market.
The base model of the 2021 Ford Explorer comes standard with a 2.3-liter turbocharged EcoBoost engine, which produces 300 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque for satisfying drives every day. The SUV is responsive and handles well, offering amazing feedback through both pedals that make drivers feel like they're in total control over their experience. If you want a more thrilling drive that can take over highway roads, upgrade to the twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V-6 engine, a 3.0-liter design that can churn up to 400 horsepower in the sporty Explorer ST trim. By all SUV standards, this V-6 is a winner, and it accelerates and steers like a much smaller vehicle would.
If you want a more fuel-efficient drive, choose the hybrid version of the Explorer, which combines an electric motor with a 3.3-liter V-6 gas engine for a total of 318 horsepower. While this isn't the most powerful engine, it offers the best value of up to 27 miles per gallon combined. This selection of three very different but all highly capable engines is part of what makes the 2021 Explorer such a great option.
There are two drivetrains available for the 2021 Explorer: a rear-wheel drive option that's an excellent choice for towing and great fuel economy, and an all-wheel drive system that offers supreme traction and handling, even in unsteady driving conditions. For even more stability, add the optional Terrain Management System, a suite of seven driving modes that you can use to optimize the vehicle for a variety of different terrain conditions and driving styles. The vehicle adjusts to give you maximum control and stable driving performance, even when your surface isn't so stable. To optimize your Explorer for sporty driving meanwhile, choose the ST trim, which includes the most powerful V-6 engine, advanced suspension, and a more aerodynamic exterior. This isn't your average family vehicle.
The cabin is where any midsize SUV should shine, and thankfully the 2021 Ford Explorer has its most comfortable cabin yet, a great refuge on the open road for families, couples, and solitary drivers alike. Start with its overall interior aesthetic, which is simple and unfussy, with a clean and almost monochromatic look that feels peaceful. While some cars may opt for excessively trimmed doors and loud stitching, the Explorer's clean look is more satisfying at giving you a break from overstimulation on the road.
Take a deep breath and relax into one of the first row's captain's chairs, which are ergonomically designed to support your back and head during long drives. There's even more passenger space than ever, too. Just look to the standard third row that's accessible via push-button controls, which open up space from the second row to access the back.
If you want a more detailed, luxurious, and amenity-stocked interior, look to the King Ranch edition of the Explorer. This trim includes specially designed leather seats, heated and ventilated first-row seats, 10-way power adjustments with lumbar support, as well as real wood trim around the uniquely crafted instrument panel. Other luxurious available features include a twin-panel moonroof and a cargo management system for optimal safe storage.
There's fun to be had in the 2021 Explorer, too, the center of which is the standard 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system. It's responsive and well-styled while offering an array of entertainment features like smartphone compatibility, as well as available navigation. Upgrade to a higher trim for a unique vertical screen that measures over 10 inches. The available Bang & Olufsen speaker system includes 14 speakers that output crisp and unbelievably rich sound. A wireless charging station is also available; the simple sleeve takes up little space and charges your phone while also holding it safely in place during the most spirited of drives. There are up to nine other places to charge devices, too, including a mix of USB and 110-volt outlets.
The 2021 Cherokee has always been known for its low-maintenance cabin, the kind of place you can get dirty and clean up in a breeze, rather than comfort or luxury. The base models are dominated by flimsy plastic paneling and a crowded console with far too many knobs and buttons. However, higher trim levels offer more to love, like special stitching and badging in the Summit edition and Nappa leather seats with heat and ventilation technology in the Overland edition. Just be aware that these luxury trims come at luxury prices, with every Grand Cherokee variant demanding a several thousand dollar premium over the equivalent Explorer trim.
Customization is fairly easy, both when ordering your Cherokee's cabin and accent colors and when adjusting the seats. There's less seating and a less spacious cabin overall - compared to the 2021 Ford Explorer - but the seats are nonetheless plush enough to keep up to five passengers happy. Storage is limited to a somewhat compact space behind the second row of seats, but it should be adequate when up to two passengers are packing up for travel.
The new Grand Cherokee's infotainment system is also convenient and easy to use, but its standard 7.0-inch screen is noticeably smaller than what you will find in the Explorer, and upgrading to the available 8.4-inch option hardly seems like it is worth the money. Features like Wi-Fi and navigation are locked to these higher, costlier trims as well, even if they're convenient. Put simply, the infotainment in the 2021 Grand Cherokee is dated and badly in need of an upgrade.
A great midsize SUV should also be safe enough to keep you and your beloved passengers safe, which is why the new Ford Explorer has even more active safety features than ever. Take, for instance, the Auto High-Beam Headlamps that can sense low light and adjust automatically, even responding to oncoming traffic. Other features like the available rearview camera and Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control help take care of some of the routine tasks that make driving a chore. The Lane-Keeping System and Automatic Emergency Braking features, meanwhile, monitor your surroundings and alert you of any conditions that can affect your safety.
When it comes to crash tests, the difference between these two vehicles could not be greater. The 2021 Grand Cherokee has received abysmal safety ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In a remarkably bad showing, the Grand Cherokee received the lowest possible "Poor" rating in both the passenger-side small overlap test and in the headlight brightness test. In comparison, the 2021 Ford Explorer received perfect scores in every crash test scenario and was awarded the coveted Top Safety Pick+ designation.