2010 Car Comparison: Jeep Grand Cherokee v Nissan Pathfinder v Toyota 4Runner

Last Updated: Apr 5, 2010

The 2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee, 2010 Nissan Pathfinder, and 2010 Toyota 4Runner are survivors of the first SUV boom. Throughout the 1990s, these four-door wagons enticed growing numbers of buyers with a winning combination of rugged demeanor and family friendly accommodations. Each could blaze an off-road trail on the weekend, tow a small boat or trailer to the campsite, and double as a carpooler or commuter vehicle Monday through Friday.

But Americans have grown soft -- or they’ve come to grips with the reality that a scant few SUV owners ever actually go off-road or tow or even camp. Sales of the Grand Cherokee, Pathfinder, 4Runner and their ilk are tumbling. Buyers now embrace lighter-duty crossovers, which provide elevated ride height, wagonlike versatility, and SUV image. Indeed, crossovers posted a 31.5 percent sales increase in December 2009 while demand for midsize SUVs as a whole fell 14 percent. Crossovers can furnish good all-weather traction, and they ride better and burn less gas than old-school SUVs, many of which used heavy, truck-type frames.

There is some good news for buyers with a bona fide need for traditional SUVs like the Jeep, Nissan, and Toyota that are subjects of this comparison: depressed demand means generous manufacturers’ cash rebates and deep dealer discounts abound.

The three subjects of this review helped launch the SUV craze. The original Toyota 4Runner debuted for model-year 1984 as little more than a Toyota pickup truck with an enclosed cargo bed that covered a second row of seats. The pickup- based Pathfinder nameplate dates to 1986 and follows the same formula. Both originally were offered exclusively two-door models. Each became increasingly sophisticated over the years, evolving with four-door bodies but retaining their truck-based engineering.

The current-generation Pathfinder debuted for the 2005 model year and received a 2008 mid-cycle makeover. The Toyota 4Runner received a major redesign for 2010 and is longer, taller, and wider than the version it replaced. It also has a new V-6 engine and added off-road technology.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee was introduced for model-year 1993 as upscale big-brother to the smaller Jeep Cherokee. Built on a reinforced unibody platform, the Grand Cherokee combines good road manners with Jeep’s legendary off-road prowess. Today’s Grand Cherokee was last redesigned for 2005 and an all-new 2011 model waits in the wings.