The oldest SUV on the market refuses to die. The current Cherokee dates to the 1984 model year, when it was downsized and introduced as the first modern compact sport utility vehicle.
A new model that eventually will replace the Cherokee will arrive next spring, but Jeep confirms it will produce the Cherokee through the 2001 model year. After that, the company will only say that there is capacity to continue building it until mid-2002, but no decision has been made as to when production will end.
Cherokee continues in two- and four-door styling, and the latter is far more popular. The two-door comes in a Sport price level, and the four-door comes in Sport and Limited price levels. Both body styles are 167 inches long, 14 inches shorter than the Grand Cherokee.
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 storage space. An outside tire carrier is available from Jeep dealers.
Under the Hood
The 2.5-liter four-cylinder that had been the base engine is gone. A 4.0-liter inline-six-cylinder with 190 horsepower is now the only choice. Cherokee comes with two-wheel drive, part-time four-wheel drive (for slippery surfaces only) or full-time 4WD that can be used on smooth, dry pavement.
Cherokee received major interior and mechanical refinements for 1997, but there is no hiding the age of this venerable SUV. The interior is cramped compared to newer rivals, and the ride quality and noise levels are behind the times. Nevertheless, it serves well as a basic, reasonably priced SUV with convenient 4WD systems and enough utility for a small family.