Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

The 2020 Jeep lineup that can be found at a Jeep dealer near me, is parked on a rocky beach shore with islands.

Which Jeep is Right For You?

Jeep is one of the most iconic American automobile brands. Dating back to the rugged military Jeeps of the Second World War that gave the company its name (it was originally called Willys-Overland), Jeep has specialized in building high-performance off-road vehicles. However, unlike many manufacturers, which only offer a single vehicle in each segment, Jeep’s models have significant overlap and come in a bewildering variety of trims. So before looking for a “Jeep dealer near me,” take a minute to become acquainted with Jeep’s current line up.

Today, Jeep offers six models. If you are looking for a traditional off-road Jeep, then your best bet is either the iconic Jeep Wrangler or the new Jeep Gladiator pickup truck. These vehicles have the boxy, utilitarian look that most associate with the Jeep brand and are designed from the ground up for top of the line performance in the worst terrain. With removable tops and doors, as well as an array of engine and drivetrain options they make for some of the best utility vehicles on the market. But they also offer enough modern features to be comfortable daily drivers as well.

However, if you spend most of your time on paved roads, then you may want to look at Jeep’s SUV selection. For midsize vehicles, Jeep has the Jeep Renegade, Jeep Compass, and Jeep Cherokee. All three of these are close in size and offer similar performance, but each one also has its own features that make it stand out from the other two. And while they may not be quite as at home off-road as the Jeep Wrangler and Jeep Gladiator, all three of them can make for highly capable vehicles with the right packages. Finally, at the top of the lineup, there is the Jeep Grand Cherokee. This vehicle offers an unmatched blend of on and off-road performance with traditional rear-wheel drive and a selection of powerful engines.

The Jeep Wrangler and Jeep Gladiator

A red 2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited is parked next to a silver 2020 Jeep Gladiator on dirt in front of a mountain.

The Jeep Wrangler is the heart of the Jeep brand, and you will find one parked out front at any Jeep dealer. The current iteration of the Jeep Wrangler is the fourth generation of the vehicle and was introduced for the 2018 model year. This makes for a vehicle that is an excellent combination of modern features and Jeep tradition. While deciding which Jeep Wrangler is right for you may appear somewhat overwhelming given the sheer number of available variants and options, there are only a handful of key features to look at. The first decision is, of course, whether you want a more nimble two-door vehicle or a more utilitarian four-door vehicle. Both versions will also come with either a hardtop with a power-retractable roof, a removable hardtop, or a soft-top. And while the lowest trims of the Jeep Wrangler has a fairly basic interior, higher trims and packages can be had with the full selection of modern infotainment, advanced safety equipment, and other comforts.

When it comes to performance, the engine options for the Jeep Wrangler are a 285 horsepower V6, a 270 horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder, or a 260 horsepower turbo-diesel. Unlike with most cars, all three are good choices and can be had with either a six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic transmission, leaving it up to you to select the engine type that you prefer. But the key performance choice is which of the three drive systems you want. The Selec-Trac system is fully automatic, and switches between 2×4 and 4×4 as conditions require, while the Command-Trac system is a more traditional manual 4×4 system for optimum performance. Finally, the top Rock-Trac system builds on Command-Trac, adding a 4:1 low range and locking differentials to make the ultimate off-road vehicle.

The Jeep Gladiator is closely related to the Jeep Wrangler, but it has fewer options to choose from. While the Jeep Gladiator offers the same choices of a removable hardtop or a soft-top, the only body style is a four-door. The available interior features are also similar to those of the Jeep Wrangler, ranging from a fairly bare-bones vehicle up to a comfortable modern ride depending on how it is optioned. However, performance options are limited as the only engine currently offered for the Jeep Gladiator is the 285 horsepower V6, and only the more capable Command-Trac and Rock-Trac 4×4 systems are available.

Jeep’s Renegade, Compass, and Cherokee

Unlike the one of a kind Jeep Wrangler and Jeep Gladiator, the Jeep Renegade, Jeep Compass, and Jeep Cherokee are more mainstream compact SUVs. And while they may not have quite the off-road capabilities of their more rugged siblings, they offer a better and more efficient ride on the blacktop. However, choosing between these three is actually somewhat difficult as they are all fairly close in size, price, and features.

When it comes to engines, all three vehicles share the same 180 horsepower four-cylinder base engine. But they all have a unique option that sets them apart. The selling point for the Jeep Renegade is its available turbocharged engine. While this powerplant is actually a bit less powerful at 177 horsepower, it offers significantly more torque for off-road performance as well as slightly better fuel economy. For the Jeep Cherokee, you can upgrade to a powerful 271 horsepower V6 engine that truly brings the car to life and gives it one of the best tow ratings in its class. And for the Jeep Compass, the difference is not with the engine, but it has an available six-speed manual transmission.

A blue 2020 Jeep Cherokee is driving in the sand at a beach.

For off-road performance, all three vehicles are nearly identical. In their front-wheel drive variants, none of them will be particularly perfect for going off-road, but in their 4×4 variants, they will do better than most of their competitors. However, if you are interested in maximizing their off-road performance, then look for one of the Trailhawk variants. This specialized off-road trim adds important features such as skid plates, tow hooks, and even an additional transmission mode.

Other features that set the three vehicles apart are mostly cosmetic. However, a particularly unique feature of the Jeep Renegade is its optional “MySky” removable glass roof. If selected, this option will give you perhaps the most “Jeep-like” experience between these three SUVs. However, while it is not removable, the Jeep Compass also offers a large glass roof. In general, all three of these closely-related vehicles will be a good choice for anyone searching for a rugged midsize SUV. And given their similarities, the only way to really find out which one of the three is the best choice for you is to look for a Jeep dealer near you and test drive them.

The Grand Cherokee

The final member of the Jeep family is the Jeep Grand Cherokee. While it is still a five-seat SUV, it is significantly larger than the other Jeep SUVs and makes for a generally more comfortable ride. Its larger size also means that it has much more cargo room than the others. However, the stand-out features of the Jeep Grand Cherokee are its traditional rear-wheel drive powertrain and a large selection of no less than four different engines. These consist of a 295 horsepower V6, a 360 horsepower V8, an even more powerful 475 horsepower V8, and finally a monstrous 707 horsepower supercharged V8. These engine options allow the Jeep Grand Cherokee to outdo most trucks when it comes to raw power and towing performance, and when combined with the available 4×4 system and off-road packages creates a nearly unstoppable off-road machine. You can’t go wrong with any member of the Jeep family.