New Car/Review

1998 JEEP CHEROKEE CLASSIC 4WD

by Matt/Bob Hagin

jeep

SEE ALSO: Jeep Buyer's Guide


SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 21,995
Price As Tested                                    $ 24,550
Engine Type                OHV 2-valve 4.0 Liter I6 w/SMFI*
Engine Size                                 242 cid/3958 cc
Horsepower                                   190 @ 4600 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               225 @ 3000 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  101.4"/69.4"/167.5"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     3379 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                    20 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     P225/75R15
Brakes (F/R)                                     Disc /drum
Drive Train                   Front-engine/four-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
Domestic Content                                 74 percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.51

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            17/21/18         
0-60 MPH                                         11 seconds
Payload                                         1150 pounds
Towing Capacity                                 5000 pounds
     * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

(Being of the "older generation," Bob Hagin likes things simple. Maybe that's why he likes the new Jeep Cherokee. His son Matt likes it too, but wishes it was easier to climb inside.)

BOB - Of all the sport/utility vehicles on the market, I think that the Jeep Cherokee sticks to the original formula the best. It stepped away from its civilian-Jeep ancestors in 1974 and practically originated the market for a comfortable all-terrain vehicle. It could cruise the boulevard or crawl through rock-strewn streams in the outback. It was fairly nimble, thanks to unit construction and relatively light weight. And the Cherokee body shape has pretty much remained true to that original concept with an honest, squared-off body design.

MATT - At the time of its inception it was considered a small machine, Dad. But with the appearance of the plush mini-rough riders that are on the market now, the Cherokee is, in reality, a mid-sized vehicle. There are four different trim and performance levels available: the entry-level SE, then the Sport, Classic and onto the posh Limited version. It comes in two or four-wheel-drive and if the 4X4 option is taken, a buyer has yet another couple of choices. There's a part-time four-by-four version where the driver engages 4WD with a lever, or the full-time Selec-Trac system that is engaged at all times, rain or shine. This is the system I like best.

BOB - There's a couple of engine options, too, and they're in the "classic' tradition," which basically means that they're old technology. Cherokees come with a 125-horse 2.5 liter four-banger that sports 150 pound/feet of torque, or a much more desirable 4.0 liter six cylinder version with 190 horses and 225 pound/feet of torque. They both use cast iron heads and blocks with two pushrod-operated valves per cylinder. I believe that the 2.5 liter engine is more or less the 4.0 liter six with a shorter stroke and two less cylinders because they share a common bore size. This would be typical of the Jeep mind-set that says it's best to keep things relatively simple and the recent owner reports I've seen on Cherokee reliability seem to be echoing this sentiment.

MATT - The Cherokee is pretty popular around the world - it can be delivered overseas with right-hand drive and a 2.5 liter diesel engine. The standard transmission in all but the Limited version is a five-speed manual, but there's a couple of automatics available for everything in the line as well. Another Jeep throw-back to the old days is the suspension. The four-wheel drive system uses a solid "live" axle on both ends, just like the original Jeep of your Army experiences, Dad. This obviously makes it exceptionally rugged in the rough stuff. To transform a Cherokee into the cheaper two-wheel-drive version, Jeep uses the same front suspension and steering system as the 4X4, only the drive mechanism to the front wheels is eliminated and a hollow tube is put in place of the differential housing. It's delightfully simple.

BOB - Simple. That's the way I like things, Matt. Both the two-door and four-door Cherokees have good load-carrying capacities at 1150 pounds and their towing capability is 5000 pounds. The steering on the Cherokee felt a bit loose last year, but that's been tightened up for '98. The Classic model we tried came with Jeep's "Up Country" Suspension Group that includes three skid-plates to protect the undercarriage, as well as a limited-slip rear differential. A heavy-duty cooling system and an extra transmission fluid cooler for the four-speed automatic is also part of the package. It had a full-size spare tire bolted to the interior in back, but now Jeep has an optional rear-door mount available, which frees up quite a bit more space. The brakes are still discs up front and drums in back, and an anti-skid system is an optional extra on Cherokees with the six-cylinder engine. Our car didn't have ABS, and I'd like to try one with the system.

MATT - Dad, if the Army had Jeeps like the Cherokee in use when you were drafted, it might have made being a soldier more agreeable.

BOB - Matt, the Army could have hired a chauffeur for me and I'd have still wanted to get out.

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