Hmm…would you take a Ford Explorer Timberline over a Jeep Grand Cherokee?
There’s a new generation of Ford’s long-running Explorer on the block, and it’s expanded the formula with a performance-oriented ST trim, and now this new, more rugged Timberline. The Blue Oval aims to capture some of the market that’s gravitated toward the likes of Subaru’s Wilderness lineup, as well as the “Adventures” and “TrailSports” of the world. Basically, we’re talking about your typical crossover with some extra cladding, off-road tires, some more skid plates and perhaps a bit more ground clearance. You do get all those things with the Timberline, ostensibly making it a better choice should you need an everyday SUV that can still get to your backcountry cabin.
That may well be enough for some, but Jeep would rather you reconsider.
At least, that’s the main interpretation you can draw with Head of Jeep Brand Jim Morrison, in his lines to Muscle Cars & Trucks. As the fine folks over there point out, it’s not the first time he’s taken a jab at Ford, nor are any of the Big Three really above ribbing their rivals when they feel it’s appropriate.
“I actually feel sorry (for Ford Explorer Timberline) customers that get tricked,” the report quotes. “You can paint a tow hook red. It doesn’t mean that behind the tow hook it would even hold up in the right moment that it needs to.” Morrison goes on to exalt Jeep’s own Grand Cherokee, of which we just saw the new model — with its new Trailhawk variant — emerge last week.
The interview didn’t stop there, either. He went further, saying that you don’t “just put stickers and paints” on things to make them more off-road capable. Jeep, of course, markets its own “Trail Rated” brand on everything from the Renegade through the Grand Cherokee, not to mention some past Jeep models — so take that for what you will.
To his point on the Grand Cherokee’s capability, the new Trailhawk does bring in a sway-bar disconnect, steel skid plates, enhanced clearance and water fording capability, as well as adjustable air suspension, among many other features. At max setting, you can get up to 11.3 inches of ground clearance, which far surpasses the Explorer Timberline’s 8.7 inches.
Still, some folks will want the Timberline.
On the other hand, whether you fully buy the jab at Ford likely depends on how you approach these sorts of vehicles. To my mind, the Ford Explorer Timberline falls more in line with Subaru and Toyota’s efforts to make more off-road capable crossovers. Many folks who buy those sorts of vehicles bring an outdoorsy lifestyle to their purchase, but aren’t necessarily hardcore off-roaders. Nor will some who buy off-road capable SUVs, including the Grand Cherokee, really ever take their cars off the beaten track.
One more point Morrison makes, as he notes a photo of the Grand Cherokee (above) climbing a steep grade: “The Timberline would have made it to about *there*. That’s a 65 degree incline, and it wouldn’t have made it by there.”
Whether or not that’s technically true, it’s the customer’s choice, and it’s their money. At least there’s more choice these days, so you can find a vehicle (current shortages notwithstanding) that actually fits your wants and needs.
We measure up both the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk (and the Grand Cherokee L) as well as the Ford Explorer Timberline using our ORI scale here.
This article is also posted to TFLoffroad.com.