- Jeep and Land Rover are two of the most experienced brands in the world when it comes to building SUV s.
- With the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Land Rover Discovery, car buyers can get a dose of rugged off-road capability with everyday luxury.
- At the end of the day, the Land Rover Discovery’s modern design and superior driving dynamics came out on top.
Jeep and Land Rover. Few can rival the duo when it comes to building rugged SUVs. But with the SUV market surging, everyone is jumping into the pond. As a result, that pond is quickly filling with posers passenger car-based crossovers masquerading as the “real deal.” Let’s just say you might not want to take one of these vehicles down a rocky trail.
Fortunately for the off-roading faithful, the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Land Rover Discovery aren’t just surviving. They are thriving.
The current fourth-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee has been a critical and sales success since it debuted in 2011. It’s widely considered to be the best and most complete vehicle to ever carry the vaunted Jeep badge. On the other hand, Land Rover’s fifth-generation Discovery arrived new for the 2017 model year. It’s been a solid hit for Jaguar Land Rover’s burgeoning lineup of premium SUVs.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee has positioned itself as the flagship of the American brand, bringing luxury and capability to jeepers. The Land Rover Discovery has become the unconditional family SUV, taking people to places where few vehicles can.
That mentality—in their “Above and Beyond” and “Do Anything” slogans—has set both brands on parallel roadways toward developing capable 4×4 SUVs. Jeep’s mainstream approach has given four-wheel-drive access to a great swath of humanity, and the brand has successfully satisfied those who want a more premium experience behind the wheel with the Grand Cherokee. Its efforts don’t stop there—a new Jeep Grand Wagoneer is in the works, and it will supplant the Grand Cherokee at the top of the automaker’s lineup.
Land Rover’s lineup continues to be premium, but its off-road heritage has not been forgotten. With the new Defender, the brand has shown what it’s capable of while satisfying those who want a luxury experience.
With the Grand Cherokee and Discovery established as capable veterans, we asked ourselves if the luxury experience in the Land Rover is worth the premium over the mainstream but talented Jeep.
Comparing The Jeep Grand Cherokee And The Land Rover Discovery
Boasting space for five and ample cargo room, the Grand Cherokee is available in seven trims—from the wallet-friendly Laredo starting at $33,645 to the asphalt-rippling 707-hp Trackhawk, there’s a Grand Cherokee for almost everyone. Its unibody structure, derived from the old but still good Mercedes-Benz ML-Class platform, has received few improvements since the fourth generation made its debut more than a decade ago. But by bringing in midcycle updates to its interior and exterior design and adding new engines and trims, the Grand Cherokee doesn’t feel like it’s about to get a redesign after a 10-year run.
Our Summit tester stands atop the mainstream Grand Cherokee lineup and distinguishes itself from other Grand Cherokees with its 20-inch wheels, new fascia, grille, and LED lamps. Although the Summit keeps the 3.6-liter V-6 as the standard engine, we drove a unit with the optional 5.7-liter V-8, which delivers 360 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque via an eight-speed automatic. As with most Grand Cherokees, our Summit came equipped with the Quadra-Trac four-wheel-drive system, and its air suspension provides a smooth ride on pavement while helping clear obstacles during off-road driving.
Although the Discovery sits at the middle of Land Rover’s lineup, the SUV offers space for five passengers, with an optional third row for a 5+2 configuration. The Discovery has been around since 1989, and it was the first off-road-oriented family SUV for Land Rover. With the fourth generation arriving in 2017, the Disco now shares its platform with its bigger, more opulent siblings, the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport. Besides changing its design completely, the Discovery got a brand-new interior that’s more advanced and elegant than ever.
For our comparison, we drove a 2020 Discovery HSE powered by the 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 with 335 hp and 332 lb-ft. Land Rover still offers a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 in the Disco, but the gas engine has more horsepower and is faster. Our HSE was also equipped with the optional air suspension, 20-inch wheels, and the seating package for seven.
With all that, our Discovery crossed the checkout counter at $76,034, but customers can get a decently equipped Disco closer to the $62,775 that our Grand Cherokee Summit costs (including the air suspension). With both SUVs priced at more than $60,000, which of the two offers the best luxury experience?
Which Drives Better, The Land Rover Discovery Or The Jeep Grand Cherokee?
Luxury SUVs aren’t just about the polished materials and a more elegant drive. The holistic experience for all occupants is important. Although the Discovery’s supercharged V-6 is no V-8, it feels adequate on the road. The engine is punchy enough when merging on the freeway and when climbing hills, and although the Grand Cherokee feels more powerful, the Discovery delivers in a good manner. Its eight-speed automatic transmission shifts quickly, but it upshifted early on a couple of occasions when using Sport mode. Press down the throttle, and the tranny will downshift smoothly and swiftly to provide more torque.
The Grand Cherokee’s V-8 is energetic. The additional 25 horses over the Disco might not sound like much, but the extra 58 lb-ft help deliver a more dynamic drive. Whether you’re trundling up a hill or simply cruising through the neighborhood, the Hemi feels effortless, acting like nothing can challenge it. Its eight-speed automatic also feels more refined than the Disco’s, making smooth shifts and holding gears for as long as it needs to.
“The Hemi is endlessly torquey and never feels stressed or strained,” features editor Christian Seabaugh said. “Its muted exhaust note is reassuring, too, and never intrusive.”
On the twisty Southern California roads of the tony Palos Verdes Peninsula , the Land Rover felt planted despite its wide, tall body. The optional air suspension kept the vibrations inside the cabin to a minimum while driving over big ruts or bumps caused by the turbulent slow-motion landslides of Portuguese Bend. “On high-frequency harsh impacts, the Discovery started to feel a bit floaty, but that’s a fairly extreme scenario,” Seabaugh said. “The suspension manages body roll fantastically well through corners.”
Like the Land Rover, the Grand Cherokee’s air suspension helps it deliver a refined ride. Although the Jeep’s cabin was mostly tranquil and serene, there were some instances where the ride felt harsher than that of the Land Rover. Its buttoned-down shape delivered virtually no body roll, which is impressive given its chassis hasn’t received significant updates for about a decade. Jeep got its money’s worth from the Mercedes donor platform.
Both SUVs have a light but definitive steering feel, requiring little effort to control them. The Jeep’s steering, however, felt a tad more direct, showing more refinement at the wheel.
Which Has The Better Interior, The Jeep Grand Cherokee Or The Land Rover Discovery?
Although both SUVs deliver a remarkably similar ride, there’s a more significant contrast in their cabins. The Grand Cherokee’s Summit package adds leather throughout the cabin, and that includes the dash, door panels, and center console. Its interior feels a step above the rest of the Grand Cherokee lineup.
But that might not be enough compared to other premium SUVs. It’s evident that other parts—like the switchgear and hard plastics in lower door panels—are shared with lower-spec models. The HVAC controls and the volume and tuning knobs feel adequate for a $35,000 SUV but fall short for a $62,000 vehicle.
The Discovery, however, leaves a great first impression when you open its door.
“The interior is a rich mix of thick, contrasting leathers and interesting textures and materials, and it’s just genuinely really nicely done,” Seabaugh said. Besides the chic mix of colors, the clean look in the Land Rover’s dash and center console is clever and innovative.
Designers paid close attention to outlining a handsome cabin and delivering a superior experience. Mostly everything is hidden from plain view until the ignition is switched on—from the A/C knobs to the digital instrument cluster and even the transmission’s rotary knob, the Discovery’s cabin looks clean and elegant. Start the engine, and the high-resolution screens will light up, the rotary gear knob will rise, and the HVAC and steering wheel buttons will illuminate. It’s a visual treat, indeed.
The two cabins are comparatively quiet—even at freeway speeds—though the engine roar of the Jeep’s V-8 is more pronounced than Disco’s V-6. From the driver’s point of view, the Jeep’s infotainment and radio buttons are closer to reach, and it’s easier and faster to change radio stations thanks to a tuning knob. The Land Rover’s volume knob is a far stretch for the driver, and selecting a radio station requires cycling through the infotainment screen.
From the second row both SUVs feel expansive, but the Land Rover has an advantage thanks to its bigger body style. The Disco’s second row can slide fore and aft, to provide legroom for the third row. Our Grand Cherokee, however, treats rear passengers with its optional dual entertainment screens. Although it’s a bit old school in the era of tablets and smartphones, the screens are great to keep kids occupied during long road trips, but they’re quite expensive. For less than $1,995, you can buy a couple of iPads and still have money to pay for fancy headphones, game apps and Disney+
The Jeep’s aging cabin lacks useful cubbies. Besides the deepish space in front of the shifter, there are no other places to stash your phone, wallet, or keys. That’s thanks in part to the DVD player being stacked in the center console, which takes pretty much all the space available. Although the Disco’s cabin isn’t known for its clever packaging, there are more cubbies and useful places to stash your personal belongings.
One would think that because of the Grand Cherokee’s advancing age, its technology wouldn’t be up to date. But Jeep has done a good job updating the infotainment system. We’re big fans of the intuitive Uconnect infotainment system. Through an 8.4-inch touchscreen, the updated Uconnect system works like a smartphone and adds modern graphics; Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard.
Although the Disco’s 10.0-inch infotainment screen looks sharp on a first glance, it has its flaws. Apple CarPlay crashed a few times in the Land Rover, and the only thing that got it working again was shutting off the engine and waiting for all screens to turn off before restarting the car. Not ideal for any vehicle, let alone an SUV priced above $70,000. Land Rover’s latest native infotainment system, which just made its debut on the new Defender, can’t come soon enough.
Yet the Discovery’s digital cluster display is far superior to the analog gauge cluster in the Grand Cherokee. With an option to see the navigation system at all times, the Disco’s contemporary display looks premium on a luxury SUV. This is especially true when compared to the Jeep’s speedometer and tach, which look dated. Just like the switchgear, the Jeep’s instrument panel is OK for a $35,000 SUV, but Jeep needs a better offering for those who are paying more.
Which Is Better, The Jeep Grand Cherokee Or The Land Rover Discovery?
Both the Grand Cherokee and Discovery bring something special in terms of luxury and capability.
Although Jeep technically isn’t a luxury brand, the Grand Cherokee behaves like one on the road. Its powerful V-8 and light steering deliver a finesse drive, and it’s complemented by a subtle suspension that delivers a polished ride. But the Land Rover’s newer chassis and its well-calibrated air suspension kept vibrations out of the cabin, and its supercharged V-6 didn’t leave anything on the table in terms of performance.
If we were shopping for a loaded Grand Cherokee Summit, we could check all the options and still stay below $65,000. The Discovery, however, can quickly escalate past that price, but there are decently equipped Discos for $65,000. To bring the Landie closer to the Jeep for this comparison, we chose to ignore features such as adaptive cruise control, 360-degree camera, seven-seat package, head-up display, black-contrast roof, activity key, trailer hitch, tow assist, console cooler, and a bunch of other minor items, which would have knocked nearly $10,000 off the sticker price and brought it much closer to the loaded Jeep. Still, the Disco seemed pretty well equipped.
You could blindfold a passenger with an Hermès scarf and they wouldn’t be able to discern the dynamic differences between these two vehicles. As such, everything came down to the details. The Jeep’s cabin can easily improve if the switchgear, buttons, and hard plastics were switched for higher-quality materials. The Land Rover’s fancy cabin, however, provides a premium experience that’s truly notable.
If we had to spend our own money, we’d go for the chic cabin and modern lifestyle that the Land Rover Discovery provides. The attention to detail and a powertrain that is just to the good side of adequate make it a more compelling off-road-ready SUV that rides remarkably well on paved surfaces.
In this case, the premium for a luxury badge is worthwhile.
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Land Rover Discovery