The Jeep Cherokee is a case study in how long a solid design can remain viable, even when some of its elements have become dated. When it was introduced back in 1984, the four-door Cherokee was tres chic, scooping up all kinds of "of-the-year" awards and helping to launch America on its amazing romance with sport-utility vehicles. Cherokees began sprouting in suburban driveways like mushrooms, and for awhile the Cherokee Limited--black with gold pin-striping--was the height of automotive fashion. But today the Cherokee seems a little old and blocky, an impression that's mitigated by a modest interior update for 1997. For all that, we're still inclined to think of the Cherokee as one of the better SUV buys going, particularly with the 190-horsepower six-cylinder engine. It's brisk on the street--with a five-speed manual transmission, it's one of the very few sport-utilities capable of reaching 60 mph in less than eight seconds--and it's thoroughly capable when the pavement ends. No surprise there. It is, after all, a Jeep. However, a look at the window sticker for our tester, a '97 Cherokee Sport four-door, made us realize that the value factor erodes quickly if you're not cautious when you start checking the option boxes. Our Cherokee Sport tester weighed in at $27,000-plus, which is a little more than we had in mind.