2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L vs 2021 Toyota Highlander

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  • 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L

    A silver 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Laredo is angled left.

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    2021 Toyota Highlander

    A white 2021 Toyota Highlander LE is angled right.

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    290-357Horsepower (hp)295
    17.2Cargo Space (cu.ft.)16
    7,200Max Towing (lbs)5,000

    Do you remember when the only practical transportation for large families was the minivan? The dreaded “mom-mobile” minivans of years past were cumbersome to drive, but they made up for their shortcomings with their spacious cabins ideal for hauling passengers and cargo (i.e. kids and all their stuff). Fast forward to 2021, and we have automakers like Jeep and Toyota to thank for giving families more stylish options like the Grand Cherokee L and the Highlander. But which full-size SUV will win the race between the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L vs 2021 Toyota Highlander? It’s time to find out.

    The all-new Grand Cherokee L is making waves in the midsize SUV segment as the newest extension to the Jeep lineup offers seating for eight across three spacious rows. Veterans like the Toyota Highlander might boast a slightly lower sticker price, but that extra cash is money well spent. The Grand Cherokee L offers the legendary capability of the Jeep brand, and that translates to grand adventures with the family where memories are truly priceless.

    The Grand Cherokee L certainly comes out ahead of the Highlander when it comes to adventure on and off the pavement, but what happens when you look at the actual specs? Do the numbers match the Grand Cherokee L’s adventurous spirit? Fortunately for Jeep fans, the answer is a resounding “yes” across the board as the Grand Cherokee L easily overtakes the Highlander as the best midsize SUV of 2021.

  • Performance

    A maroon 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L is shown driving around a corner after winning a 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L vs 2021 Toyota Highlander race.

    Midsize SUVs like the Grand Cherokee L prove that size doesn’t matter when it comes to capability and performance. The Grand Cherokee L offers two award-winning powertrains that are paired with Jeep’s TorqueFlite 8-speed automatic transmission, outnumbering the options you’ll find on the Toyota Highlander. This gives the Jeep a significant lead over the Toyota right out of the starting gate.

    Two Capable Engines from Jeep

    Jeep’s newest SUV comes standard with the proven 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine that’s earned seven Wards 10 Best Engines and Propulsion System Awards. Impressive, right? The Pentastar is equipped with fuel-saving engine stop-start technology that boosts its efficiency without sacrificing output to deliver 293 horsepower, 260 lb-ft of torque, and a max towing capability of 6,200 pounds.

    For more capability, you can opt for the 5.7-liter V8 that’s equipped with Fuel Saver Technology that optimizes the engine’s performance and efficiency by deactivating unneeded cylinders when you don’t require maximum power. This makes the V8 highly efficient, even as it delivers 357 horsepower, 390 lb-ft of torque, and a class-leading towing capability of 7,200 pounds. Talk about power!

    One Engine Option from Toyota

    In contrast, the Toyota Highlander isn’t as focused on performance or capability as the Grand Cherokee L. The Highlander comes standard with a 3.5-liter V6 engine and 8-speed automatic transmission. This pairing delivers 295 horsepower, 263 lb-ft of torque, and a towing capacity of only 5,000 pounds, all of which pale in comparison to the powerful Grand Cherokee L.

  • Capability

    When you think of off-road adventures, do you immediately think of the Jeep lineup? While rigs like the Wrangler are known for tackling harsh terrain with ease, Jeep equips the Grand Cherokee L with its legendary four-wheel-drive technology. This means the full-size SUV is well-equipped for any adventure you have in mind.

    Premier Off-Road Features from Jeep

    The Grand Cherokee L is designed to transition between on and off-road driving. You can outfit the SUV with one of Jeep’s three incredible 4x4 systems:

    • Quadra-Trac I provides full-time 4x4 that monitors for tire slip and automatically distributes torque as needed.
    • Quadra-Trac II has a two-speed transfer case that offers a low gear range, which improves the SUV’s maneuverability, performance, and traction off-road.
    • Quadra-Drive II has a two-speed transfer case and a rear electronic limited-slip differential that works to anticipate low traction conditions and distribute the torque proactively as needed.

    You also have the option of extra off-road features, such as Quadra-Lift air suspension and the Selec-Terrain traction management system. The Quadra-Lift air suspension enhances the Grand Cherokee L’s off-road capability because it adjusts the height of the vehicle with five unique settings. Normal Ride Height offers 8.3 inches of ground clearance and is ideal for pavement driving, while Off-Road 1 and Off-Road 2 lift the vehicle 1.6 to 2.4 inches to offer a maximum ground clearance of 10.9 inches and 24 inches of water fording capability. Park Mode lowers the SUV by 1.8 inches for easy access, and Aero Mode lowers it by 0.8 inches to optimize aerodynamics and performance.

    Jeep gives you the option to customize how the Grand Cherokee L performs with the Selec-Terrain traction management system, which finetunes the torque split, braking, handling, steering, suspension, throttle control, shift patterns, stability, and more based on the driving conditions. The system includes five terrain modes: Auto, Sport, Rock, Snow, Mud/Sand. You’ll also find advanced tools like Hill Descent Control on top-tier trims like the Overland and Summit.

    A Lack of Options from Toyota

    In contrast, the Highlander isn’t designed for off-road adventures, and that means its performance and off-road options are few and far between. The XSE sport-tuned suspension is about as fancy as the Highlander gets, and even then, it tunes the suspension to perform better at higher speeds rather than in challenging conditions. You can opt for the Highlander with Dynamic Torque Vectoring all-wheel drive for an increase in capability and the addition of Multi-Terrain Select drive modes like Mud and Sand, Rock and Dirt, Snow, and Normal, but this system cannot match the capability of the Grand Cherokee L.

  • Technology

    A close up shows the infotainment system with music playing in a 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L.

    Connectivity features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a Wi-Fi hotspot, and remote vehicle access via a smartphone app are standard throughout the midsize SUV segment. That’s no different with the Grand Cherokee L or the Highlander, both of which offer the latest in connectivity features as well as advanced tools like a digital rearview mirror that gives you a high-definition view of what’s behind you on the road in real-time. Where you’ll see the biggest technology differences between the models is in their suites of safety and driver-assist tools.

    Jeep Driver-Assist Features

    The Grand Cherokee L leads the segment by offering the most safety and driver-assist features that actively work to enhance your vision and minimize the potential for collision. Every Grand Cherokee L comes standard with a long list of safety technologies, including:

    • Full-Speed Collision Warning
    • Active Braking and Pedestrian/Cyclist Detection
    • Rear Cross Path Detection
    • Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop and Go
    • Active Lane Management
    • LaneSense Lane Departure Warning
    • Lane Keep Assist
    • Advanced Brake Assist
    • Blind Spot Monitoring
    • ParkView Rear Back-Up Camera
    • ParkSense Rear Park Assist Sensors with Stop

    These features monitor every angle around the SUV and alert you to obstacles, vehicles, pedestrians, and more to optimize your safety whether you’re navigating a busy city street, backing out of your driveway, or cruising at highway speeds.

    Jeep extends its standard suite of safety features with an impressive list of advanced tools. Active Driving Assist uses sensors, radars, and cameras to keep the SUV centered in its lane with only minimal input from you in the driver’s seat. Hands-Free Active Driving Assist extends this capability even further, while Drowsy Driver Detection alerts you of frequent lane deviation. The optional Night Vision Camera uses infrared sensors to search for pedestrians and animals on the road, while the Head-Up Display puts all the information you need in a crisp, customizable display on the windshield.

    Toyota Safety Sense

    The Highlander is equipped with Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.5+ suite of active and passive safety features. The Pre-Collision System with Low-Light Pedestrian Detection monitors for potential impacts and can bring the SUV to an emergency stop. Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control monitors the flow of traffic ahead and adjusts the Highlander’s cruising speed as needed, while the Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist and Lane Tracing Assist help you keep the SUV in its lane. You can also add enhanced tools like Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert and Front and Rear Parking Assist with Automatic Braking.

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