When we're all old and gray they're still going to be selling these things. Jeep Cherokee is a case study in how long a solid design can remain viable, even when some of its elements have become dated. The introduction of the Cherokee in 1984 helped launch America into its amazing romance with four-door sport-utility vehicles. Cherokees sprouted in suburban driveways like mushrooms. The Cherokee Limited - black with gold pin striping - represented the height of automotive fashion.
Today the Cherokee seems old and blocky, yet its popularity continues to soar. Jeep sold more than 165,000 Cherokees in 1999 - more than what it sold the year before. The reason: It's tough as nails and starts at less than $17,000. That figure can quickly rise when you add the six-cylinder engine, four-wheel drive and comfort and convenience items, however.
For 2000, a redesigned 4.0-liter six-cylinder heads up the engine line. The Cherokee has been a quick SUV when equipped with the straight-six; this new engine offers reduced emissions. Ordering four-wheel drive makes the Cherokee thoroughly capable when the pavement ends.
With its classic Jeep styling, the Cherokee is a familiar face. The Jeep designers added bright work to the front end for the 2000 model year, but you'll have no trouble recognizing it. Aside from the revised grille, this is very much the same Cherokee hundreds of thousands of buyers have come to know and respect in the U.S. and in international markets, as well. Square, tough and durable.
The Cherokee was the first unitbody sport-utility vehicle, as distinct from the traditional body-on-frame approach. The advantages are much higher rigidity and much lower weight, which contribute to the Cherokee's hot rod performance and good handling.
Although the basic Cherokee is available with rear-drive only, it wouldn't really be a Jeep without four-wheel drive. There are two levels of 4WD available for the Cherokee, part-time Command-Trac and full-time Selec-Trac.
Cherokee's interior shows its age and comes up a little short in the comfort department. When the Cherokee was introduced, it was hailed as an SUV that combined mid-size handiness with the convenience of four doors. It was hard to perceive its interior as cramped or awkward, because by the standards of the day they weren't. Times have changed, however. SUVs have become luxurious station wagons. Without a major redesign, the Cherokee hasn't kept up with that trend. Newer entries place a high priority on comfort. Compared to them, the Cherokee measures up as pretty snug, particularly in the rear seat.
It's also uncomfortable for the driver. Adjust as we might we were never quite able to achieve an ideal driving position. Cherokee's limited front seat travel left us sitting closer than we wanted to be, and reaching up for the wheel rim. There's also no place for the driver to rest his or her left foot, a small convenience that you miss when it's not there.
Though rectilinear and blocky, the dashboard has lost the cheap appearance of earlier Cherokees. The primary instruments are a bit small, but the secondary array is a little more comprehensive than average, including an ammeter and oil pressure gauge.
It's possible to load the Cherokee with comfort and convenience features, including a good sound system with cassette and CD players, air conditioning, power driver's seat, an overhead digital info center and two digital clocks. All of this stuff makes the going more pleasant, but we'd trade most of it for better seats. Our Cherokee's sport buckets felt snug, with better-than-average side support, but after a couple of hours snug gives way to confined, and the length of the bottom cushion measures up as too short.
Thanks to interior comfort issues and freeway ride quality, the Cherokee doesn't feel like the right rig for long cruises. In fact, we suspect some people would dismiss the Cherokee as choppy on this score, and mark it down to a relatively short wheelbase. That would be true -- as far as it goes. However, this is not an Explorer, a sport-utility vehicle designed for people who see this breed as trendy station wagons. This is a Jeep, which means an implicit promise of off-road superiority versus competing vehicles.
This Cherokee was equipped with the stiffer Up-Country suspension package ($725) and four-wheel drive, making it even firmer than two-wheel drive versions.
The Cherokee will pogo a bit on uneven pavement -- certain stretches of I-80 in Pennsylvania, for example, stretches that cause big rig drivers to cruise in the left lane for slightly smoother going.
On rutty dirt roads in the Pennsylvania outback, the Cherokee showed its true colors. The combination of good ground clearance, short wheelbase and a favorable power-to-weight ratio make this boxy little veteran a tiger in the woods. The Selec-Trac four-wheel drive system, which can be used full-time, came in handy during a mini-blizzard that choked part of central Pennsylvania during this particular excursion.
Thanks to its relatively low curb weight, the Cherokee is something of an athlete among its peers. The Cherokee will smoke almost any other compact sport-utility on a slalom course, and it's handier than most when it's time to dodge traffic and potholes. Its on-center steering feel leaves much to be desired, however.
Cherokee's optional four-speed automatic is a smooth operator, and there's enough torque in the venerable inline six-cylinder engine to generate excellent stoplight getaway, automatic or not. As always, we'd prefer a manual transmission.
Power notwithstanding, the Cherokee's optional six-cylinder engine feels a little primitive compared to most of the V6 engines offered by Jeep's competitors. An inline-6 is supposed to be an ideal design for smooth operation, but Jeep's version generates noticeable vibration through most of its operating range. On the other hand, it's a far better choice than the Cherokee's basic 2.5-liter four-cylinder, which is distinctly short on power.
The Jeep Cherokee continues to fall behind its competitors in terms of comfort and convenience. But if you value sporty performance, the Cherokee still delivers. It's agile. It's also surprisingly quick with the six-cylinder engine.
Lack of caution in the option shopping process can escalate its price beyond reason; $27,000 seems like a lot to spend on one of these. You should be able to drive home in a reasonably well-equipped six-cylinder Cherokee with four-wheel drive for less than $22,000. And at that price, even with its limitations, the Jeep Cherokee still stacks up as a good buy.
Build and price your dream Jeep Grand Cherokee in just a few easy steps.
|Build & Price|
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee$29,900 | 28,831 mi
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee$35,990 | 29,136 mi
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee$37,942 | 21,366 mi
2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee$23,995 | 15,734 mi
2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee$27,490 | 35,346 mi
2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee$29,845 | 15,000 mi
2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee$34,750 | 17,911 mi
2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee$34,986 | 15,850 mi
2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee$35,999 | 27,733 mi
2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee$21,988 | 49,372 mi
2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee$24,016 | 40,759 mi
2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee$28,986 | 11,489 mi
2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee$28,995 | 45,122 mi
2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee$33,991 | 50,070 mi
2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee$34,988 | 30,377 mi
2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee$24,987 | 61,040 mi
2009 Jeep Grand Cherokee$17,588 | 73,685 mi
2009 Jeep Grand Cherokee$35,922 | 29,305 mi
2007 JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE$13,977 | 71,190 mi
2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee$15,995 | 108,964 mi
2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee$10,999 | 106,333 mi
2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee$11,987 | 89,400 mi
2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee$12,988 | 106,542 mi
2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee$7,995 | 140,890 mi
2002 Jeep Grand Cherokee$5,999 | 139,306 mi
1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee$3,988 | 155,945 mi
1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee$7,990 | 126,623 mi
1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee$2,999 | 136,546 mi