Are Jeep Grand Cherokee's Good For Off-Road

If you are looking to buy an SUV that is practical both on and off the road, then you’ve probably come across Jeep’s Grand Cherokee line.

Well, are Grand Cherokees any good? And what kind of a driver would a Grand Cherokee SUV be the best for?

Find the answers to these and a few other questions below!

Is Jeep Grand Cherokee Good for Off-Road?

A quick answer to this question is yes, Jeep Grand Cherokee is indeed good for off-road travel. In fact, it would be an understatement to just say that Grand Cherokee is good for off-road – it’s excellent for off-road!

And this isn’t something unexpected – Jeep Grand Cherokee has long been an example of a premium SUV, and it’s the most-awarded SUV ever. 

With that said, Jeep Grand Cherokee isn’t the very best off-road vehicle you can find. Jeep actually has a better off-road vehicle, which is the Wrangler.

However, Grand Cherokee is a more balanced option if you aren’t just looking for a vehicle that’s good off the road. Jeep Grand Cherokee actually isn’t merely great off-road – it’s an excellent vehicle on the highway as well. It’s much more comfortable on the road than Jeep Wrangler, in fact.

When it comes to making a choice, we’d say that Jeep Grand Cherokee is a great option if you want an SUV that’s comfortable both on and off the road. Vehicles like Jeep Wrangler, on the other hand, will be a better choice if off-road performance is more important for you. Jeep Wrangler is by no means a bad vehicle on the street, but it isn’t as good as Grand Cherokees.

What Makes Jeep Grand Cherokee a Great Off-Road Vehicle

So what exactly makes Jeep Grand Cherokee a great off-road vehicle? Well, it’s the plentitude of off-road features available in it. Wranglers have more bells & whistles, but Grand Cherokees have enough to become an excellent SUV for a variety of needs.

With that said, let’s overview those features below.

Keep in mind that the Grand Cherokee line consists of several models, each with a varying set of features. The cheaper models may lack a thing or two, but you will see all of the features mentioned below in the more expensive variants, e.g. the Trailhawk.

Besides, be mindful that the list below is based on the 2020 Grand Cherokee line.

Powerful Engine

First comes the powerful engine selection available in the Grand Cherokee line. Jeep offers the following engine options for 2020 Grand Cherokees:

  • 3.6L Pentastar V6 engine with 295 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque.
  • 5.7L V8 engine with 360 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque.
  • 6.4L V8 engine with 475 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque.
  • Supercharged 6.2L V8 engine with 707 horsepower and 645 pound-feet of torque.

As you can see, the Grand Cherokee line packs quite the punch. To be fair, horsepower isn’t as important for off-road travel as torque, but the increased torque delivered with the more powerful engine options will sure come in handy.

Remarkably, the 2020 Wrangler line’s engines are just around 270 hp/295 lb-ft. However, the lower torque doesn’t mean that Wranglers are worse off the road – there is another thing that makes them better.

Crawl Ratio of 44.1:1

The 2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee line has a crawl ratio of 44.1:1. To be fair, we aren’t sure whether all the models in the line have this crawl ratio or if it’s the max crawl rating available in the series. However, this number still allows us to compare Grand Cherokees to Wranglers.

If you didn’t know, the crawl ratio is the ratio of torque at the wheels against torque at the engine’s flywheel. A crawl ratio of 44.1:1 means that torque at the wheel is 44.1 times the torque at the engine’s flywheel. 

The crawl ratio alone doesn’t tell us much though, even though 44.1:1 is a very solid number. To make comparisons, we need to find out torque at the wheels as well. And calculating it is simple – we just need to multiply the engine’s torque by the crawl ratio.

Thus, assuming that all Grand Cherokee models have the same crawl ratio, we get from 11,466 pounds-feet of torque (weakest engine) to 28,444.5 pounds-feet of torque (most powerful engine).

Is this a good number? Absolutely! However, how does it compare with what Jeep Wranglers are capable of?

Well, considering that Jeep Wrangler Rubicon (the top model in the line) can supply an 84:1 crawl ratio, the torque at the wheels is 24,780 pounds-feet. Well, this certainly is a lot, but it’s still less than what the 707-hp Grand Cherokee engine is capable of.

This still doesn’t mean that Grand Cherokee SUVs are better than Wrangle SUVs. And the reason for this is simple – Wrangler Rubicon comes with chunkier off-road tires that allow for better power transfer, whereas Grand Cherokee jeeps come with all-terrain & all-season tires. Moreover, there are no off-road tire options available for Grand Cherokee models.

This isn’t the only thing that makes the Wrangler line and particularly Rubicon noticeably better than the Grand Cherokee off the road, but it’s one of those basics that impact other features significantly.

Selec-Terrain Traction Management System

Selec-Terrain is a system that has found its way onto the Grand Cherokee line relatively recently – in 2011, to be precise. With its five modes, this system controls how power is distributed between the wheels based on the road conditions.

The five Selec-Terrain modes are as follows:

  • Auto: In this mode, the vehicle automatically decides the best way to apply torque to the tires. This is probably the mode you’ll be driving the vehicle in most of the time. On some models, the suspension is adjusted on the fly as well.
  • Sport: In the sport mode, you can get the most out of your Grand Cherokee’s engine, especially if you’ve got one of those more powerful options. The Sport mode ensures smooth handling during high-speed travel.
  • Snow: In the snow mode, the torque is distributed between the wheels so that you can get the best grip on the road. Suspension settings may also be adjusted.
  • Sand/Mud: This mode is designed to deliver torque and maximize the traction while off-road. Not only that, but the vehicle goes into its 4×4 Low setting to ensure that it doesn’t get stuck in deep sand, mud, or on top of some rocks.
  • Rock: This mode is available on the more off-road-oriented configurations like the Trailhawk. In this mode, you are getting even power & torque distribution along with locking axles and Hill Descent Control.

Quadra-Lift Air Suspension System

The Quadra-Lift Air Suspension System allows you to adjust the height of your Grand Cherokee’s suspension on the fly. In the 2020 Grand Cherokee line, this system elevates the suspension by 10.8 inches and lowers by 1.6 inches from the normal ride height. 

Aside from that, the Air Suspension System allows for 20 inches of water fording, while the sealed bottom of the vehicle is there to protect its insides from water damage.

The Quadra-Lift Air Suspension system also adds Hill Ascent Control to the standard Hill Descent. The former is designed to provide stable low-range controls when going up the hill, while the latter uses the engine and brakes to aid the vehicle when descending.

Quadra-Drive II System

The purpose of the Quadra-Drive II system is to assist the driver with covering land when the wheels have insufficient traction with the ground. In particular, this system can send up to 100% of the available torque to the wheel that has the most traction. 

The Quadra-Drive II system can also send torque from side to side and front to back. 

An interesting feature in the Quadra-Drive II system is the rear electronic limited-slip differential. A limited-slip differential allows two output shafts to rotate at different speeds but at the same time limits the difference between them. You could say that a slip-limited differential is somewhere in the middle of an open and locked differential.

When one wheel spins due to a loss of traction, a limited-slip differential automatically provides that wheel with more torque. While this system does work well with daily driving and in a variety of off-road conditions, a limited-slip system isn’t the best option in all conditions since it does slip occasionally.

For some perspective, the 2020 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon has rear AND front locking differentials, which is another major reason why it’s going to be much better than any Grand Cherokee model off the road. With that said, the Rubicon is the only Wrangler that has front & rear locking differentials, so the statement above only applies to the Rubicon.

One thing to mention here is that the Quadra-Lift Air Suspension system is part of the Quadra-Drive II system. We’ve described it separately though since it’s a big enough feature to be known on its own. The same applies to the Selec-Terrain Traction Management System.

Quadra-Trac II System

Some Grand Cherokees have the Quadra-Trac II system, which appears to be a bit more limited variant of the Quadra-Drive II. The Quadra-Trac II system includes the familiar Selec-Terrain system, but it appears not to include the Air Suspension feature. Maybe it does, but Jeep’s feature page wasn’t too descriptive in this regard.

The Quadra-Trac II system features a brake lock differential (which all Jeep vehicles appear to have) that applies brake pressure when needed to adjust the amount of torque delivered to the wheels.

Finally, this system also includes a two-speed transfer case (while Quadra-Drive II includes an electronic transfer case).

Some Grand Cherokees may also come with the simpler Quadra-Trac I system. This system features a single-speed transfer case, a brake lock differential, and automatic traction control. As you can see, it doesn’t have features such as the Selec-Terrain system.

Quadra-Trac SRT System

The Quadra-Trac SRT system again is a variation of the Quadra-Drive II that comes in some Grand Cherokee variants. This system features a single-speed transfer case (like the Quadra-Trac I), a brake lock differential, limited-slip differential, and the Selec-Track system.

The Selec-Track system isn’t the same as the Selec-Terrain system. They have the same purpose, but the Selec-Track has an additional Custom mode that allows you to adjust some aspects of the vehicle’s performance.

Skid Plates

Some Grand Cherokee variants – for example, the Trailhawk – have underbelly skid plates made from steel. These plates are designed to protect the bottom of the vehicle from boulders and rocks. Needless to say, a Grand Cherokee with skid plates can be operated off the road more safely and confidently than others.

Wheel Articulation

Wheel articulation is a feature quite common in SUVs, and as you’d expect, Grand Cherokee SUVs also have it.

Wheel articulation in Grand Cherokees does allow you to overcome obstacles quite confidently. The wheels aren’t going to lose contact with the ground in most conditions, allowing you to get more out of a Grand Cherokee vehicle.

With that said, Wrangler jeeps have better wheel articulation than Grand Cherokees. In areas where Grand Cherokees may have one of their wheels hanging in the air, Wranglers’ improved wheel articulation will make you more comfortable while off the road.

Grand Cherokee’s wheel articulation is by no means bad, but it pales in comparison with what Wranglers can do.

Real-Time Performance Info

Finally, the Off-Road Pages feature allows you to get real-time diagnostics and statistics on the vehicle’s touchscreen. Among the stats you are provided with are transmission temperature, drive modes, pitch & roll, suspension height, and wheel articulation. In other words, Off-Road Pages provide you with additional information when your eyes and sense of balance become insufficient.

Who Are Grand Cherokees For?

In the end, who are Grand Cherokee SUVs good for? 

Well, we’ve touched upon this question earlier. Grand Cherokees are great off-road vehicles, and they can satisfy the needs of many drivers. But Wranglers are just a tad better when it comes to off-road performance.

Where Wranglers can’t match Grand Cherokees though is on-road performance. While Wranglers are decent, they aren’t as street-oriented as Grand Cherokees. 

All in all, if you are looking for a vehicle that is great at everything, then a Grand Cherokee SUV may be the right option for you. Otherwise, you may want to look for something more specific, like a Wrangler.

You can view more off-road articles here.