It seems that over the past few years, the bigger-is-better aesthetic that has dominated the US automotive market for decades has infiltrated British cities as well, with many an SUV spotted in an urban setting. But while there are a wide variety of larger vehicles available out there, many of them are 4×4 in name alone, not capable of getting beyond two-wheel drive and struggling with anything more challenging than a raised curb.
That’s not to say that the off-road 4×4 is dead, though. Two stalwarts of the field, Jeep and Land Rover, have remained true to their all-terrain roots, delivering stylish and capable models in the form of the Cherokee and the Discovery Sport, respectively. By comparing these two vehicles from the giants of their industry, we can see who is really king off the road in 2016.
First thing’s first – the price tag. The Jeep comes in considerably cheaper than the Land Rover, with prices ranging from £25,495 to £35,695 compared to £32,395 to £42,995 for the Rover. Both brands offer 2.0 and 2.2 litre varieties, although the larger engine is actually being phased altogether out by Land Rover, leaving the more desirable 2.0 litre variety with 148hbp or 178hbp options. Comparing similar sizes from both companies results in similar outcomes – the smaller diesel engines from both fall into VED band E and deliver comparable emissions, leaving little to choose between them on that front.
Both vehicles come with a six-speed manual transmission as standard, with the option to upgrade to a nine-speed automatic gearbox – this comes highly recommended and is worth the extra outlay, especially on the Jeep model. The transmission here is smoother and cleaner than the Land Rover’s performance, contributing to a purported 16% improvement in efficiency upon the last Cherokee model.
In terms of drive, however, the Land Rover is a more fun vehicle to get behind the wheel of. In their desperation to get away from the agricultural image they have been tarred with, Jeep have focused too much on producing a smooth ride and have sacrificed driver interaction and enjoyment in the process. The suspension on the Land Rover makes it a joy to drive, while the sharp steering system makes taking corners a doddle.
With its sophisticated Terrain Response system, the Discovery Sport is head and shoulders above all of its rivals when it comes to off-road driving, including the Cherokee. Drivers simply have to select from an array of surfaces, including normal, rocks, sand, mud and snow, and the car will automatically choose the appropriate settings to achieve the best performance possible. Furthermore, there is also the option to choose distinctive gradient descent settings and achieve a wading capability of up to 60cm. Not to be sniffed at!
As with its performance on tarmac, the Jeep is competent yet underwhelming, while its suspension is nowhere near as capable with dealing with potholes, rocks or other obstructions as the Land Rover.
The Jeep has clearly been designed with comfort in mind – its seats are easily the most inviting of any car in its class. Unfortunately, that focus has been compromised by reduced performance in other areas, most notably the suspension mentioned above. You might feel a little like the princess and the pea – sensitive to even minor protrusions in the road despite the eight mattresses that purport to make the Jeep’s seats comfortable.
The Land Rover’s smooth performance is complemented by an abundance of head- and legroom, apart from in the additional two seats which are really only suitable for small children on short journeys. Again, the Jeep’s interior feels much more cramped than its imposing outward image would lead you to believe.
Perhaps one of the biggest draws of the Land Rover is its ability to switch from a five-seater to a seven-seater car – an alternative not available on the Jeep. Though two of these seats are not ideal, they can provide a valuable option for larger families. Furthermore, the seats can be stowed away, offering considerably more boot space.
In fact, dispensing with the rear seats entirely frees up a whopping 1,698 litres of space in the back, rivalling a small van. The Jeep simply can’t match such quantities, providing only 1,267 litres with the seats folded down. Leaving the seats up affords the Jeep 591 litres of space, a figure which is again dwarfed by the Land Rover’s 981 litre boot space. In terms of size and space, there really is no contest.
Both cars come equipped with respectable technology settings, although those in the Jeep can be a little clumsy to use at times, due to the climate control and infotainment buttons being separated from the rest of the functions on the touchscreen. Having said that, the touchscreen is responsive and easy enough to use, as are the controls found on the Land Rover.
What really sets the two apart in terms of technology is the aforementioned Terrain Response system, which makes navigating uneven surfaces a walk in the park. In all other technological categories, there is little to choose between the two.
Though the Land Rover comes at an inflated price compared to the Jeep, the considerably higher bang for your buck makes it an obvious choice for those who can afford the outlay. It not only looks and feels better, but handles off-road terrain with more assured ability and breeds confidence into the driver with all of its various bells and whistles.