SEE ALSO: Jeep Buyer's Guide
SPECIFICATIONS Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $ 23,040 Price As Tested $ 27,505 Engine Type OHV 12-valve 4.0 Liter I6 w/SMFI* Engine Size 242 cid/3956 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 20.0 gallons Tires (F/R) P225/70R16 all season Brakes (F/R) Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS) Drive Train Front-engine/four-wheel-drive Vehicle Type Five-passenger/five-door Domestic Content 74 percent Coefficient of Drag (Cd.) 0.51 PERFORMANCE EPA Economy, miles per gallon city/highway/average 16/20/17 0-60 MPH 10.0 seconds Payload 1150 pounds Towing capacity 5000 pounds * Sequential multi-point fuel injection
The Jeep Cherokee, now an American icon, is 16 years old this year. It's the vehicle that introduced America to the four-door compact SUV and has been sailing along relatively unchanged ever since. It's available in either two-or-four-wheel drive, in SE, Sport, top-line Limited or as our tester, the Cherokee Classic.
OUTSIDE - The Cherokee is built using the classic square-shouldered, two-box design; one small box for the front end and a larger box for the cabin. When the company introduced the Grand Cherokee in 1993, it was supposed to replace the regular version. But as it happens sometimes with car makers, to ease the transition between the two vehicles, the company decided to sell them side-by-side. It must have been a surprise when both versions sold very well and now, seven years later, the standard Cherokee is still alive and selling well. Appearance-wise, the difference between the two is that the old Cherokee uses sharp corners, edges and body-line creases as opposed to the Grand Cherokee's smooth, round and softened corners. The company has upscaled the Cherokee Classic with body-color bumpers, side moldings and fender flares, along with fancy alloy wheels. Its tailgate is of the one-piece variety hinged at the top and there is a grab handle provided with which to pull the door back down without touching the often-dirty outside of the door.
INSIDE - The interior of the regular Cherokee is functional and familiar, since minimal fanciness is its forte. Cherokee Classic models such as our tester have comfortable, low-back front bucket seats with adjustable headrests. Its twin-pod instrument panel boasts up-to-date instruments that are easy to read and reach. There is a full-length center console with a padded armrest that houses the T-bar shifter, a pair of cupholders and a storage compartment. Its fold-and-tumble rear seat allows 71 cubic feet of cargo to be stored. Standard Classic features include an AM/FM/cassette stereo, leather-wrapped steering wheel, auxiliary power outlet and a rear window defroster.
ON THE ROAD - You won't find many Cherokees on dealer showrooms outfitted with the standard 2.5 liter four-cylinder engine. Its 125 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque isn't enough for this over-3000-pound SUV. And if it is mated to its optional three-speed automatic transmission, the only self-shifter available with the four cylinder model, it is particularly anemic. The four cylinder/five-speed standard setup is the most logical for Cherokee buyers on a budget. The best engine choice, however, is the redesigned 4.0 liter inline six cylinder engine that produces a healthy 190 horsepower and 225 pound-feet of torque. This powerplant pulls Cherokee quickly to speed, and all that torque gives it the ability to tow up to 5000 pounds if the Cherokee is properly equipped. Mated to this is a smooth-shifting four-speed automatic or a five-speed manual transmission.
BEHIND THE WHEEL - Cherokee is built tough, but it's not built like a truck. It rides atop a unitized platform, which is what almost all modern cars (and lots of SUVs) use. This gives it a low step-in height, but lots of ground clearance for excellent off-road ability. Both front and rear axles are solid, though front coil springs and a pair of anti-sway bars keep its on-road ride fairly smooth. It can be equipped with either the company's Command-Trac part-time 4WD system or an optional Selec-Trac full-time system. Both can be shifted on-the-fly, which really helps on slippery roads. Its steering system is nicely weighted and communicative, while its front disc and rear drum brakes can be fitted with an optional anti-lock braking system (ABS).
SAFETY - Dual airbags are standard; ABS is optional.
OPTIONS - Classic Value Group (A/C, power windows and door locks, keyless remote, tilt steering), $1,825; Up Country Suspension (HD engine cooling, locking rear differential, skid plates, tow hooks, HD shocks, transmission cooler, full-sized spare tire), $725; tow package, $245; ABS, $600; cargo cover, $75, overhead console, $235; Selec-Trac, $395; deep-tint windows, $270; theft deterrent system, $75; power driver's seat, $300; cruise control, $250; uplevel stereo, $760.