A follower asked for my thoughts on Wranglers vs Grand Cherokees for recreational overlanding. I may have gotten a little carried away. I figured this would likely be beneficial to anyone contemplating this decision or the various models available. Again, these are just my thoughts and opinions according to my preferences, needs and 15 years of Jeep experience.
Wranglers vs grands, it’s a bit hard to say without knowing your budget, needs and what model years you’re interested in but lets just dive all in:
Wranglers in overland application, I think you would want a 4-door for the space or if you got a 2-door you will likely want a trailer unless you pack pretty light and only one passenger. Hardtops would likely be preferred. Wranglers are great but also carry a higher price tag with higher resale value. I have owned a 2-door 04 LJ Unlimited which offers a little more cargo space than a typical 2-door wrangler but still not a lot unless it’s only 1 passer with you. They didn’t make many of them (from 04-06) and have become pretty desirable and price shows. Also, it is important to note that aftermarket support is far greater for Wranglers over Grands.
Grand Cherokees: I have owned three 1st gen Grand Cherokees (94,97,98) and a 2011 latest gen. You can typically get them for a lower price (relative for age & miles) and I feel a good bang for your buck. The 1st (93-98) and 2nd gen (99-04) Grands have very similar suspension, power terrain (some also Come in V8) and solid axles as compared to the wranglers. Some of these come with all wheel drive; it can do you fine but I prefer having the control and assurance of the 4WD transfer case models.
The 3rd gen WK (05-10) got independent front suspension with sold rear axle. Some of the higher end packages came with electric locking diffs which continued to be offered in some packages in the 4th gen (WK2).
The WK2 (11-current) we also own. It has independent front and rear suspension. We have the Laredo package and I’m not too impressed with it’s all-time all-wheel-drive for off road. It also does not have a low range option. The “limited” or “overland” trim packages offer some better off-road features such as low range, terrain select and possibly locking differentials. The roof space seems smaller and trunk space is limited. I wish we had looked harder for a clean Jeep Commander instead.
In picking the right Jeep, much comes down to personal preference. In typical Michigan terrain they all can do well on most seasonal road trails in stock form. While independent front suspension can be smoother for long drives, I am used to and prefer off roading with solid axles, selectable 4WD, & a transfer case with low range. I hope this is helpful in making a well informed decision. To each their own, diversity in the overland community is what makes this hobby and lifestyle so interesting.
Happy trail! Hope to see you down the narrow road!
Narrow Road Adventures