Update: Hold your horses! The all-new Grand Cherokee L, which seats 7, is just about to be unleashed! Learn more about it over at Jeep’s website.
Named after the Cherokee tribe of North American Indians, the Jeep Cherokee and Jeep Grand Cherokee are highly celebrated in US automotive history alongside the iconic Jeep Wrangler.
While the Wrangler may be the king of off-roading, the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee are far more comfortable and practical for the average American family.
But what exactly sets the two apart? Let’s find out.
As the name would suggest, the Grand Cherokee is the Cherokee’s larger sibling. These two SUVs belong to different segments: The Jeep Cherokee is a compact SUV, whereas the Grand Cherokee is a mid-size SUV. As such, the Grand Cherokee offers a roomier interior and houses a bigger engine under the hood.
The Jeep Cherokee starts at just $26,310 for its base Latitude FWD model, which is exclusive of its destination charge. The price soars to $36,895 for the High Altitude trim.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee, however, starts at $34,220 for the base model Laredo FWD, while the range-topping 4×4 Trackhawk starts at a whopping $87,915.
Different trim levels come with different engines, interiors, features and more. Technology like forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, lane departure assist and lane departure warning also depend on trim level.
Both Jeeps are relatively large SUVs in their respective segments. The Cherokee is a chunky compact SUV that borders on midsize, and the Grand Cherokee is a big presence on the highway.
Between the two, the Jeep Grand Cherokee’s exterior dimensions are significantly larger than the Cherokee.
The Jeep Cherokee is 182 inches long, 73.2 inches wide, and 65.7 inches high, with a wheelbase of 106.4 inches. The Jeep Grand Cherokee, on the other hand, is 189.8 inches long, 76.5 inches wide, and 69.3 inches high, with a wheelbase of 114.7 inches.
Both SUVs are distinctly Jeep, featuring a 7-slot front grille which represents all 7 continents that Jeep has conquered over its long history.
Whereas the Cherokee goes for a sportier, more nimble look, the bigger Grand Cherokee has a more classic full-size SUV look.
Some compact and mid-size SUVs end up looking similar in size, but the Grand Cherokee looks considerably bigger than its younger brother.
We’re personally a big fan of the Grand Cherokee’s exterior design. It has tons of road presence and a more masculine appearance than the average modern-day SUV.
The interiors of the two SUVs are very similar. It’s obvious that the design of the Grand Cherokee was directly carried over to the Cherokee.
Although there are minor design differences here and there to things like the shape of the air conditioning vents or cup holder positioning, the main difference is simply in size.
Higher trims offer upscale upholstery, fine-stitching, heated seats and more.
Both interiors feel rather outdated in 2021, and you might want to hold off for the all-new 7-seater Grand Cherokee L coming later this year boasts a more luxurious and modern interior.
On the inside, the Jeep Cherokee offers a roomy interior with up to 39.4 inches of headroom, 41.1 inches of legroom, and 57.6 inches of shoulder room in the front, and up to 38.5 inches of headroom, 40.3 inches of legroom, and 55.1 inches of shoulder room in the rear. Therefore, adults of over 6 feet are will find both rows quite comfortable.
Meanwhile, the Grand Cherokee offers 0.5 inches more headroom, 0.8 inches less legroom, 1.1 inches more shoulder room in the front, and 0.7 inches more headroom, 1.7 inches less legroom, and 2.9 inches more shoulder room in the rear.
But where the Grand Cherokee really excels is in the width it provides. Fitting the fifth passenger in the middle of the back row is much less of a squeeze than it is in the Cherokee.
You might also be surprised to find the Cherokee offers slightly more legroom than the Grand Cherokee, but as we are just about to find out, this allows for it to have a big advantage in cargo space.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee gets the upper hand when it comes to cargo space. It offers 36.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, and up to 68.3 cubic feet of cargo space when the rear seats are folded down.
By comparison, the Jeep Cherokee offers 24.6 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, and up to 54.9 cubic feet when the rear seats are folded down.
The size of the Grand Cherokee’s trunk is significantly larger than the Cherokees, and a bigger difference than we would typically see in a compact vs midsize SUV.
Many models of the Jeep Cherokee feature a standard 2.4-liter 4-cylinder MultiAir® Engine rated at 180 horsepower and 171 lb.-ft. of torque. However, they can also be had with an available turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 270 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque or a 3.2-liter V6 that generates 271 horsepower and 239 lb.-ft. of torque.
When equipped with the V6 engine, this SUV can tow up to 4,500 pounds.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee, on the other hand, can be had with any of four engines. The base engine is a 3.6-liter Pentastar® V6 engine that makes 295 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque.
Most of the models can also be had with an available 5.7L V8 engine that makes 360 horsepower and 390 lb.-ft. of torque. If you want more power, you can opt for the SRT® model that features a 6.4-liter V8 engine that makes 475 horsepower and 470 lb.-ft. of torque.
The Trackhawk® is the most powerful model; it features a supercharged 6.2L V8 engine that is good for 707 horsepower and 645 lb.-ft. of torque.
The Grand Cherokee tows up to 7,200 pounds.
Being Jeep SUVs, both the Jeep Cherokee and the Jeep Grand Cherokee are engineered to be capable off-roaders. While the base model is capable in itself, Jeep offers various options that turn it from a family hauler to a proper off-road vehicle.
The Jeep Cherokee can be had with an available Jeep® Active Drive I 4×4 System that only engages when it is required thanks to its rear axle disconnect feature. This can improve fuel efficiency during normal driving.
It can also be had with an available Jeep® Active Drive II 4×4 System that adds low-range gearing or an even tougher Jeep® Active Drive Lock 4×4 System that includes a rear locking differential. This makes it far more capable on muddy trails and other off-road pursuits.
This SUV can also be had with an available Jeep® Selec-Terrain® Traction Management System that enables you to choose any of five drive modes, which include Auto, Sport, Snow, Sand/Mud, and Rock modes.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee, on the other hand, offers even more off-road capability options.
It can be had with an available Quadra-Trac I® 4WD System that includes a brake lock differential, an available Quadra-Trac II® 4WD System that features a 2-speed transfer case, a Trailhawk®-specific Quadra-Drive II® 4WD System that includes an electronic rear limited-slip differential, or an SRT-specific Quadra-Trac® Active On Demand 4WD system that enhances performance.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee also ups the ante with an available Quadra-Lift® Suspension System that enables you to raise the ride height of the SUV when you wish to drive on off-road trails.
The smaller Cherokee wins when comparing fuel efficiency.
AWD Cherokees fitted with a 2.4L I4 engine achieve a gas mileage of 21/29 mpg (city/hwy), whereas the 3.2L V6 variants get 18/24 mpg.
The AWD versions of the Grand Cherokee fitted with the regular 3.6L V6 engine achieve a gas mileage of 18/25 mpg (city/hwy). The SRT and Trackhawk models achieve less.
The Cherokee and Grand Cherokee are both legendary SUVs, but ultimately the buyer needs to ask themselves what they want.
Do they need a bigger, midsize SUV that can comfortably accommodate 5 adult passengers and have a generously sized trunk to haul large amounts of cargo?
Or do they want a nimbler SUV that is more comfortable running errands around the city, while saving on fuel?
Related: Dodge Durango vs Jeep Grand Cherokee