Spring is here and the outdoors are defrosting. It’s the time to start thinking about everything you didn’t do because you spent most of winter trying to walk out of your house without falling in a pile of snow.
That snow might also be the reason why you’ve been looking at some popular midsize SUVs. The Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee were two of the most popular models when the category exploded 20 years ago, and remain in demand today. So what are the deals like if you’re trying to find a clean example today?
The Jeep Grand Cherokee was redesigned for 2011 and signaled Chrysler’s step away from the cost-cutting Daimler days. While still derived from the Mercedes-Benz M-Class underneath, the current Grand Cherokee blends off-road ability with car comforts – a feat it pulls off convincingly.
The first Grand Cherokee was a breakthrough product for Jeep, as shown when they broke Cobo Hall to get it into the Detroit Auto Show in 1992, and the new one is kind of the same story. Options like air suspension, selectable terrain modes and a turbodiesel V6 engine are still rare in the mainstream segment. But then the Grand Cherokee can be loaded up to be a pretty convincing luxury SUV.
You could get a current-shape Grand Cherokee for less than $20,000, but for less than $30,000, you can get a high-trim Limited or Overland model that’s fitted with upgraded leather upholstery, big wheels and a panoramic moonroof. There are several four-wheel drive systems available, and the Jeep Grand Cherokee is better shaped to avoid getting stuck than most all-wheel drive crossovers. If space isn’t a priority over style and capability, the Jeep Grand Cherokee is a great midsize SUV to consider.
While the Ford Explorer started off as a truck with a car interior, few owners used it any differently than they would have a station wagon.
I hope the, “Have you driven a Ford… lately?” tune is stuck in your head all day, too.
Like the Jeep, today’s Explorer can be loaded up with lavish extras like airbags mounted in the rear seat belts and its own selectable terrain system. Well-equipped Explorer XLT and Limited models can be had for around the $25,000 mark, too.
The Explorer’s key advantage over the Jeep is its standard seating for seven. It’s larger overall, too, with a minivan-like well behind the third-row seats, which helps it offer more space when those seats are up than other rivals. But frankly, no version of the Explorer can reach the Jeep’s level of style and class. And versions the available MyFord Touch infotainment system can be a little frustrating to live with.
So what if you need the Explorer’s seven seats, but want the Jeep’s more rugged image and abilities? Welcome to the Land Rover LR4.
Let’s talk price first. It is possible to get a 2011 or newer LR4 with leather and a third row seat, but you won’t do it for much less than $40,000. But with that out of the way, the LR4 is a truly accomplished vehicle that’s more than just a pretty badge.
What started out as the Land Rover Discovery in the 1990s has matured into a really slick luxury SUV, more of a mini Range Rover than matured Defender. Today’s LR4 (Discovery 4 in other markets) has a stunning interior with high-quality wood and leather trim. That’s before you get to the whole raft of off-road mechanics and electronics to keep you going on just about any surface. Most are equipped with a third-row seat that can accommodate adults, too. And everyone gets a great view out of the SUV thanks to lots of glass and upright seating.
There are other quibbles besides the price. The infotainment system is slow, there’s not much cargo space with all the seats up and the LR4 could offer better fuel economy.
Still, the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Ford Explorer and Land Rover LR4 stand out with ability, space and luxury – or some combination of the three.