Toyota 4Runner vs Jeep Grand Cherokee

For many buyers, a head-to-head comparison of the Toyota 4Runner and the Jeep Grand Cherokee boils down to the difference between a body-on-frame architecture versus a unibody construction. In my experience, that oversimplifies the comparison.

While it’s true that this structural difference is important in understanding these two vehicles, I found that there are many other ways in which they true rivals. Let’s explore where these two very off-road capable sport utility vehicles cross paths and where they go their separate ways.

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Toyota 4Runner vs Jeep Grand Cherokee Comparison

SpecificationsToyota 4RunnerJeep Grand Cherokee
Length / Width / Height
190.2 - 191.3 / 75.8 / 71.5 - 72 in.
193.5 / 77.5 / 70.8 - 70.9 in.
Curb Weight (base SE)
4,400 - 4,805 lbs
4,238 - 4,784 lbs (3.6L)
5,325 - 5,558 lbs. (Hybrid)
Ground Clearance
9.0 in. 2WD - 9.6 in.
4WD
8.4 in. - 10.9 in. (w/ opt. air suspension)
Max. Cargo Volume
89.7 cu.ft.
70.8 cu.ft.
Max Towing
5000 lbs.
6,200 lbs. - 7200 lbs (3.6L)
3,500 lbs. - 6000 lbs. (Hybrid)
Net Horsepower
270 HP - 4.0L V6
293 HP - 3.6L V6
270 HP - 2.0L I4; Net 375 HP - Hybrid
Fuel Economy
Combined City / Hwy
17 MPG RWD or 4WD
22 MPG RWD or 4WD
56 MPGe; 23 MPG - Hybrid
MSRP
$39,555 - $54,020
$41,530 - $68,685 (3.6 L)
$60,360 - $77,570 (Hybrid)

Tale of the Tape

Jeep-Grand-Cherokee-Tale-of-the-TapeBoth the 4Runner and the Grand Cherokee are marking decades-long anniversaries for the 2023 model year. Toyota celebrates the 40th anniversary of its 4Runner with a colorful retro-looking Special Edition based on the SR5 Premium trim, while Jeep gives a nod to the industry’s movement towards electrified vehicles by acknowledging 30 years of the Grand Cherokee with a 30th Anniversary edition available only from the model’s 4xe plug-in hybrid lineup.

Even with numerous updates over the last 13 years, the 2023 4Runner continues with its 5th generation truck-like platform which by most standards is considered a bit old. Nevertheless, many off-road enthusiasts consider this one of its key selling points. The tough body-on-frame architecture imparts the kind of ruggedness, stability, and strength that these owners consider necessary in the rough and tumble of the outback.

Even so, the 4Runner’s ride comfort isn’t totally compromised to the call of the wilderness, as I discovered in weeklong test driving the Trail special edition (2022). I found front legroom quite generous and its handling benefits from front and rear stabilizer bars that reduce truck-like sway in turns.

Meanwhile, the Grand Cherokee seeks more of a compromise between go-anywhere capability and every day comfortable drivability that the whole family can appreciate. The most recent redesign saw Jeep introducing the two-row 5th generation model for the 2022 model year which also brought the plug-in hybrid to the lineup. A new longer three-row “L” edition entered a little earlier as a 2021 model.

Front legroom in the Grand Cherokee is comparable to the 4Runner’s, but in the second row, the Jeep outdoes the Toyota by five inches. Plus, Grand Cherokee head, hip and shoulder room bests the 4Runner all around though not as significantly. Where the 4Runner excels over the Grand Cherokee on the inside is with cargo space. Fold the rear seats down and you get 89.7 cubic feet – easily enough for a mountain bike.

In the Grand Cherokee there’s just 70.8 cubic feet of cargo space. You would need to go with the Grand Cherokee L to approach the 4Runner’s cargo volume. which is really moving up to a longer vehicle with 5 inches added to the wheelbase and over 20 inches to its overall length. No question that this would make the Grand Cherokee L more difficult for you to park, plus it reduces its maneuverability on excessively bumpy terrains.

Despite its tough demeanor, you can make a case for the 4Runner being a family-size vehicle. Standard five passenger seating can be upgraded to seven in SR5 and Limited trims with no increase in vehicle length. With the Grand Cherokee, five passenger seating is also standard, but you would have to move up to the L for a third row.

Ground clearance in 4-wheel drive editions of the 4Runner is set at 9.6 inches (9 inches in 2WD versions), compared with the 8.4-inch standard in the Grand Cherokee in either 4WD or 2WD. Fortunately for serious off-roaders, the Grand Cherokee can come equipped with an optional air suspension with five height settings that, at its maximum, raises the vehicle to a lofty 10.9 inches above the ground.

The Takeaway: Evidently, Jeep does a bit of a balancing act with the Grand Cherokee appealing to the needs of a wider audience that includes off-road enthusiasts as well as active families, while Toyota sticks with the off-road program throughout the 4Runner lineup. The Grand Cherokee makes the better argument for being family-friendly – it’s easier to get into and out of, and it’s roomier for all occupants. The 4Runner will please those who enjoy a stiffer ride and intend to encounter difficult terrain regularly, while generally being accommodating to its passengers.

Cabin Quality and Design

Toyota-4Runner-Cabin-Quality-and-DesignWhen you step up into the Grand Cherokee cabin, there’s no mistaking Jeep’s intention to present the model as an upmarket premium SUV. Dual zone climate control comes standard in the base Laredo and expands to 4-zone control in the Summit and Summit Reserve trims. Upper trims also enjoy a heated leather and wood steering wheel, leather seats, heated front and rear seats, and ventilated front seats with 12-way adjustment plus lumbar controls and seat back massage.

The 4Runner toughs it out on its base SR5 with single zone front air conditioning. Dual zone climate control kicks in at the Limited grade as do niceties such as heated and ventilated front seats. Oddly, though, 8-way power seat adjustments are the standard across the lineup as a driver-only amenity; passengers make do with 4-way adjustments even in the higher trims.

Nevertheless, the 4Runner has mostly kept pace with the multitude of in-car infotainment advancements, but there are limits likely due to the age of its platform. For example, an 8-inch touchscreen is the only available infotainment display size and phone app integration to engage Apple CarPlay or Android Auto is wired via USB. Alternatively, phone services and music streaming operate wirelessly via Bluetooth. Remote Connect services are available via a Toyota app allowing access to vehicle functions such as lock/unlock as well as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. A 15-speaker premium JBL audio system is featured in the Limited and TRD Pro trims.

The Grand Cherokee, having the advantage of a more recent redesign, offers a more advanced slate of in-car technology including wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, up to three 10.1-inch and two 10.25-inch displays in the cabin and a full color 10-inch head up display to help keep the driver focused ahead. The available front passenger screen allows the passenger to assist with navigation, access to camera viewing and limited visual entertainment. The top-of-the-line Summit Reserve gets a 950-watt McIntosh premium stereo system with 19 speakers.

The Takeaway: Neither of these models could be considered deficient on the interior. But if you seek comfort and convenience on-road as well as off-road, then the Grand Cherokee will likely have more of what you need. On the other hand, if toughing it out with a bit of old-school ambience is more your style then consider the 4Runner.

Performance & Powertrains

Jeep Grand Cherokee Performance & PowertrainsThe standard engines for the 4Runner and Grand Cherokee have proven stamina and reliability, and appear to be comparatively similar V6 powerplants at first glance. However, when you look beyond horsepower and torque, you’ll find that each are influenced quite differently by the respective drivetrains that transmit their power.

The 4Runner employs a 4-liter V6 in all grades that makes up to 270 horsepower and 278 lb.-ft. of torque. A trusty but outdated 5-speed automatic transmission sends power to either rear-wheel drive or one of two four-wheel drive configurations. SR5 and TRD trims offer a part-time 4WD setup while 4WD Limited models utilize a full-time system.

Part-time 4WD in the 4Runner provides the most driver control with two selectable “high” modes for either daily driving or when needing more traction under 55 mph, and a low range gearing mode for negotiating difficult terrain. The full-time system automatically sends optimal power to the wheels that need it utilizing a Torsen locking center differential that changes the front/rear torque split based on driving situations.

The Grand Cherokee started the 2023 model year offering a standard 293-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 and an optional 357-horsepower 5.7-liter HEMI V8, as well as a 4xe hybrid option that pairs a turbocharged 2-liter inline 4-cylinder engine with an electric motor to produce a net 375 horsepower. Jeep quietly discontinued the 5.7-liter engine except as an option in the longer Grand Cherokee L. However, the EPA continues to show fuel economy ratings for the 5.7-liter in the standard-length Grand Cherokee. If there are any available, they are probably unicorns.

The Grand Cherokee V6 produces up to 260 lb.-ft. of torque and is mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. Not only is the setup more fuel efficient than the 4Runner’s, but in my experience, the Grand Cherokee offers smoother acceleration and quieter performance. For optimal fuel efficiency, look to the Grand Cherokee 4xe hybrid, which is where you’ll also exclusively now find the Trailhawk edition.

Three distinct four-wheel drive systems are available on the Grand Cherokee as well as a rear-wheel drive configuration. The most basic is the single speed Quadra-Trac I. Quadra-Trac II adds a low range gearing position, while Quadra-Drive II additionally features the Quadra Lift air suspension system that increases ground clearance up to 10.9 inches. Quadra-Drive is exclusive to the Summit Reserve trim.

Both the 4Runner and Grand Cherokee offer their own versions of terrain control systems to manage speed and braking on a variety of challenging surfaces and road conditions.

The Takeaway: You might think that the 4Runner being the lighter of two models in this comparison would be more efficient and perhaps a bit swifter, but it’s hobbled by its old-school transmission and stodgy aerodynamics. In nearly every performance category, the Grand Cherokee outdoes the 4Runner - power, quickness, towing, fuel economy. If anything, the 4Runner takes to the trails with just a bit more grit.

Safety Equipment and Scores

Toyota-4Runner-Safety-Equipment-and-ScoresThe 4Runner features vehicle and pedestrian detection with automatic braking to help avoid frontal collisions. Standard dynamic radar cruise control automatically adjusts speed to maintain a pre-set distance behind another vehicle. Additionally, Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Traffic Alert comes standard across the lineup. In TRD Off-Road and TRD Pro trims, the 4Runner features a handy multi-terrain monitor that provides drivers with selectable views of the surroundings while navigating difficult trails.

Interestingly, the 4Runner features lane departure alert, but not steering assist to take corrective action if the driver doesn’t respond to alerts when drifting out of a lane. Another example of the platform showing its age.

With the Grand Cherokee, I found its available safety features to be more comprehensive. Standard technologies include a pre-collision safety system, dynamic cruise control, lane keeping assist, blind spot detection and rear cross traffic alert. Upper trims improve on that with driver attention alert, full-speed collision warning with active braking and pedestrian and cyclist detection, intersection collision avoidance assist and front and rear parking sensors.

In addition, the adaptive cruise control features stop and go functionality, which is super convenient in heavy traffic. To take the stress out of parking on crowded streets and in tight spaces, Summit and Summit Reserve trims provide parallel and perpendicular park assist and a 360° camera system.

Unfortunately, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety did not look kindly on the current generation Grand Cherokee giving it a Poor score in moderate overlap front testing, particularly for in how it failed to adequately protect rear passengers from head, neck, and chest injuries.

Similarly, the 4Runner was faulted by the IIHS for inadequate driver’s side protection in small overlap front collision, receiving an overall Marginal score that particularly reflected a Poor score in structure and safety cage evaluation.

The Takeaway: Accident prevention technology is quite extensive in both models, but more so in the upper trims of the Grand Cherokee. Even so, both missed the mark when it came to getting the basics right according to a leading organization for vehicle safety.

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So, which is better, the 4Runner or the Grand Cherokee?

There are many good reasons why these two models have been in the marketplace for decades. Whether it’s how they make you feel or how useful they are for the things you like to do, they have succeeded in creating good reputations for themselves and attracting many devoted fans. So, determining which is better has more to do with you and what you need. Both can take you to places far off the beaten track, for sure. But the 4Runner is better if you need a lot of room for all the gear you might be carrying along for your adventure. On the other hand, the Grand Cherokee is better if you have a boat and trailer weighing over 5000 pounds that you’ll be hauling. The ride will be smoother, quieter and a bit more upscale in the Grand Cherokee, too.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is more popular, the Toyota 4Runner or the Jeep Grand Cherokee?

U.S. sales of the 4Runner in 2022 came in at just over 121,000 units. Sales of the Grand Cherokee in the same period topped 223,300 units.

Would it make better financial sense to buy the 4Runner or the Grand Cherokee?

The 4Runner made the 2023 Kelley Blue Book Top 10 Best Resale Value List. Annual fuel cost is estimated at $3,200 based on 15,000 annual miles with 45% highway /55% city driving. Toyota provides 2-year / 25,000-mile scheduled maintenance and 2-year / 24-hour roadside assistance with unlimited miles.

Estimated annual fuel cost with the Grand Cherokee comes in at $2,450 with the 3.6-liter engine or $1,700 with the 4xe hybrid. Jeep provides 3-year scheduled maintenance but no roadside assistance. Grand Cherokee upper trims and the hybrid variants are priced substantially higher than the 4Runner.