The vehicle that most in the auto industry credit with starting the stampede to SUVs gains a handful of styling tweaks for the top-of-the line model. The design for the Cherokee dates to 1984, when it was downsized and introduced as the first modern compact sport utility. Cherokee received a major update in 1997, but the basic design remained intact.
Production of the current Cherokee was scheduled to end in November 2000 to make way for a new 2001 model, but strong sales in 1999 earned the current model a new lease on life. Jeep will continue building the current Cherokee for the 2001 model year, and it will be sold alongside the new model for an unspecified period.
Cherokee holds five people, though the rear seat is cramped compared to some rivals' and the narrow rear doors can be tight for adults to negotiate. The spare tire is mounted upright in the cargo area, eating up some luggage space. An outside tire carrier is available from Jeep dealers, but then there is the theft potential.
Cherokee comes in two- and four-door styling, with the latter far more popular. The top-line Limited model gets chrome grille and headlamp accents, new side trim and bright silver 16-inch wheels.
Under the Hood
An inline 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 125 horsepower remains the base engine, and an inline 4.0-liter six-cylinder with 190 horsepower is optional. Cherokee comes with 2WD, part-time 4WD (slippery surfaces only) or full-time 4WD (can be used on smooth, dry pavement).