Why you'd consider these luxurious but different SUVs
Consumers in the market for an SUV have more to think about today than ever before because the variety of vehicle sizes, engines, and features seem to get more complex every year. Many luxury SUV shoppers, however, have found a safe choice with the popular Lexus RX. Some buyers might not realize the Jeep Grand Cherokee and its high-end Overland and Summit models offer loads of luxury with Jeep capability. Although the Lexus has a starting price more than $10,000 USD higher, the Grand Cherokee can be optioned to be just as expensive. One of these SUVs aims to combine the capability we used to expect from SUVs with premium appeal while the other is more singularly focused on delivering a luxurious experience.
This car comparison is based on our extensive knowledge and understanding of the automotive market, not necessarily recent driving experience.
MPG (L/100km) Advantage: Lexus RX
When comparing the base engines of each, the Lexus RX 350’s 3.5-liter V-6 with front-wheel drive delivers an EPA-rated 23 mpg (10.2 L/100km) combined city/highway (all-wheel drive is rated at 22 mpg (10.7 L/100km) combined), and the rear-drive Jeep Grand Cherokee powered by the 3.6-liter V-6 is rated at 21 mpg (11.2 L/100km) combined. Surprisingly, the four-wheel-drive Grand Cherokee with the same V-6 also delivers 21 mpg (11.2 L/100km) combined, though with 1 mpg lower ratings in city/highway.
The most fuel-efficient model in the RX lineup is the RX 450h hybrid. It’s rated at 30 mpg (7.8 L/100km) combined, but there is an almost $9,000 USD premium for the AWD-only hybrid model compared to an RX 350 AWD. Jeep has yet to offer a hybrid. Aside from eight-cylinder options, the Grand Cherokee once offered a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 that’s currently being investigated by the EPA.
Safety Advantage: Lexus RX
The Lexus RX 350 is considered a 2017 Top Safety Pick+, the highest rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The Lexus received this rating because the crossover managed to receive the highest rating of Good in all crash evaluations, a Superior rating for the crash avoidance and mitigation evaluation, and the second-highest rating of Acceptable for the headlights test. The Grand Cherokee received the highest rating of Good in four crash evaluations (moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraints and seats) but the second lowest rating of Marginal for the difficult small overlap front crash test. The rating of Basic was issued for the crash avoidance and mitigation test. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued the highest overall rating of five stars for all-wheel-drive RX models and four stars for front-drive models. Similarly, the four-wheel-drive Grand Cherokee received a five-star rating but four stars for rear-drive models.
All 2017 Lexus RX models come standard with Lexus Safety System+, which includes an automatic braking feature, a pre-collision system capable of detecting pedestrians, adaptive cruise control, automatic high-beam headlights, lane keep assist, and lane departure alert with steering assist. Available in the Limited model and above for $1,495 USD, the Jeep Active Safety Group includes adaptive cruise control, advanced brake assist with forward collision warning (automatic braking), lane keeping assist, parallel and perpendicular park assist, and rain-sensing windshield wipers.
Acceleration Advantage: Tie
With 475 hp on tap with the available 6.4-liter V-8, the Grand Cherokee easily wins this category by hitting 60 mph in an as-tested 4.4 seconds. That’s extremely quick for an SUV, but that’s just the limited-production SRT trim. (Learn about the new 707-hp Grand Cherokee Trackhawk here.) When you compare the base and most popular engine choices of the two, the all-wheel-drive RX 350’s 3.5-liter V-6 propels the Lexus to 60 mph in a quick 6.8 seconds, and the heavier Jeep in four-wheel-drive form takes 7.7 seconds with its 3.6-liter V-6. However, if you opt for the thirsty 5.7-liter V-8 in the Grand Cherokee, hitting 60 mph will take 6.6 seconds, slightly quicker than the RX 350. The formerly available V-6 EcoDiesel engine in the Jeep and the RX 450h’s V-6 hybrid powertrain are the slowest engine choices of each respective SUV’s lineup, with the Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel hitting 60 mph in 7.8 seconds and the RX 450h reaching 60 mph in 7.0 seconds.
Cargo Space Advantage: Jeep Grand Cherokee
The Grand Cherokee’s 36.3 cubic feet of cargo capacity with the rear seats up and 68.3 cubic feet with the seats down easily trumps the RX 350’s 18.4 and 56.3 cubic feet, respectively (or 18.0 and 55.9 cubic feet for the RX 450h hybrid). Lexus offers power-folding rear seats on the RX, but for extra-long cargo the Grand Cherokee can be equipped with a front passenger seat that can fold flat.
Rear Seats Advantage: Tie
As big as the Grand Cherokee appears on the outside, rear seat room is almost identical to that of the RX. The Jeep’s 39.2 inches of headroom, 38.6 inches of legroom, 56.2 inches of hiproom, and 58.0 inches of shoulder room is almost identical to the Lexus’ 39.1 inches, 38.0 inches, 56.1 inches, and 57.6 inches, respectively. When properly equipped, both SUVs offer luxurious rear seats, thanks to features including available dual-screen rear entertainment systems, rear air vents, and heated second-row seats. Lexus uses semi-aniline perforated leather, and Jeep prefers to use Laguna perforated leather with partial quilting and seat piping.
Off-Road Capability and Towing Advantage: Jeep Grand Cherokee
The Jeep Grand Cherokee’s available V-8s easily make it the towing champ of these two SUVs. The Jeep (with rear-wheel drive) can tow up to 7,200 pounds (3,266 kg) with the 5.7-liter and 6.4-liter powertrains, and the 3.6-liter V-6 can tow up to 6,200 pounds (2,812 kg) in rear- and four-wheel drive. The Lexus has a maximum towing capacity of 3,500 pounds (1,588 kg) with either powertrain.
Of course, the Jeep is the off-roader of the two. It has up to 10.8 inches of ground clearance (Trailhawk model) when properly equipped and 8.6 inches on the standard Grand Cherokee (or 8.3 inches for the powerful SRT model). The Jeep offers a real four-wheel-drive system that uses an electronically controlled two-speed transfer case with multiple terrain modes, an electronic limited-slip differential, and air suspension to raise the ride height. The RX uses a less complex all-wheel-drive system with a ground clearance of 8.2 inches.
Looks Advantage: Jeep Grand Cherokee
Although many dislike the Lexus RX’s large, black spindle grille, some appreciate it for its stylishly futuristic and bold appeal. Personally, I am a fan of the Grand Cherokee’s muscular looks that keep the boxy Jeep appeal and pass on the highly raked rear window that some automakers have adopted for styling reasons. Lexus offers the F Sport package on both engines. It adds a sporty appeal, but the Grand Cherokee offers more models that come with unique styling tweaks.
Interior Layout Advantage: Lexus RX
With a full redesign on the way, the Grand Cherokee’s interior design is upscale (a suede headliner and leather-covered dashboard are available), but it’s tough to match the Lexus RX’s cabin. The RX’s interior is of better quality, with a large 12.3-inch screen perched up high on the dashboard, and the available F Sport instrument cluster features a sharp-looking digital tachometer and digital information screen. However, the joystick that controls Lexus’ infotainment system can be frustrating.
Phone-to-Car Technology Advantage: Lexus RX
The RX lineup features the automaker’s Enform app suite, which offers access to select apps on your smartphone from the available 12.3-inch high-resolution navigation display screen using the Remote Touch controller on the center console. Lexus Enform Service Connect gives you access to the vehicle’s fuel level, mileage, maintenance alerts, and vehicle health reports from your smartphone, and Lexus Enform Destinations offers 24-hour access to a live person to help you locate a specific address or place of interest. With another Enform feature, you can use your smartphone to start your engine, lock or unlock doors, check the status of doors and windows, and find your vehicle in a parking lot. If you lend your Lexus to someone else, Enform Remote will alert you if the driver exceeds the preset speed and mileage limits. Additional options include the available Siri Eyes Free for iPhone users, a full-color head-up display, HD Radio with iTunes tagging, and a 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system.
The Grand Cherokee Uconnect 8.4-inch navigation system includes a 3G Wi-Fi hot spot, Siri Eyes Free, remote services, and Yelp. The Uconnect Access app offers Uconnect 9-1-1 Call and Uconnect Roadside Assistance. It can lock/unlock the doors, and locate your Jeep in a parking lot, and it allows you to send addresses from your smartphone to the Uconnect screen. A 19-speaker Harman Kardon audio system with multichannel processing is the top-of-the-line system available on the Grand Cherokee.
Which one would you choose?
When SUVs surged in popularity in the 1990s, some consumers purchased them because of the extra cargo room, off-road capability, additional towing/hauling needs, or all three. The Jeep Grand Cherokee still offers all that but on some models now adds a more luxurious appeal, too. The Lexus RX offers bold and modern styling, efficient engine options, and plenty of technology without the pretense of off-road capability. So what kind of consumer are you? Are you in need of a vehicle that can tow a heavy load, easily go off-road, or simply want others to believe you do? I live in a dense urban environment with a wife and zero kids, so I’d pass on the handsome brute for the modernized and more efficient Lexus. If only they could tone down that huge grille.
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