What to Buy: 1984-2001 Jeep Cherokee

What to Buy: 1984-2001 Jeep Cherokee

From the December 2023 issue of Car and driver.

For many of us, we watch Mama Fratelli outwit the cops in the opening scene of a movie Fools The origin of our lust was for the Jeep Cherokee. There may have been some poetic license there—in 1984, the year the movie was made, the Cherokee’s power reached 110 horsepower—but in the end, the straight-ahead Jeep got an engine worthy of an epic beach escape. The 4.0-liter six-cylinder arrived in 1987 with 173 horsepower, and propelled the Cherokee to its current lofty status as a rare, highly popular classic. With a unibody structure like a modern crossover but with solid axles in the Jeep tradition, the XJ Cherokee spanned the ages and embodied the rugged but attainable American SUV for a generation.

“The Cherokee’s sharp, clean lines are reminiscent of a Range Rover in the way it blends style with utility, with each theme complementing the other.” -Michael Jordan, grandfatherSeptember 1983


The 4.0-liter engine is so integral to the XJ’s appeal that we’d advise you to pretend pre-1987 models don’t exist. Before the introduction of the 4.0, Cherokees were saddled with either AMC’s 2.5-liter four-cylinder, GM’s 2.8-liter V6, or Renault’s 2.1-liter turbodiesel. Besides raw power—the high-output version of the 4.0 debuted in 1991 with 190 horsepower—the 4.0-liter is torquey and nearly indestructible.

In a 1990 comparison test, a 177-hp four-door automatic Cherokee managed to smoke all the competition with a quick 10.5-second dash to 60 mph. Even after the Cherokee went out of production, the 4.0 engine remained in the TJ Wrangler until 2006, and when it was replaced (with a 3.8-liter V-6), Jeep fans mourned its death.

Problem areas

A vacuum-operated front axle engagement in part-time 4WD can go south, and you won’t know it until you execute a flawless triple axle in a snow bank. The 4.0L rear main seal can leak, and before 1997, the rear hatch was made of fiberglass and could crack. But the Cherokee were really very powerful. The biggest problems are usually associated with ill-advised modifications, so be careful of Cherokees with larger suspension jacks and tires – even a 3-inch lift can skew the rear driveshaft angle enough to shear U-joints, and the light-duty Cherokee was not intended to The axles spin huge tires.

Jeep Cherokee 2000

John Rowe|Car and driver


Cherokee values ​​are all over the place, from $1,000 for stripped-down rigs with 300,000 miles to over $30,000 for low-mileage, unmodified examples. Most Cherokees for sale are far from pristine, and the prices reflect that — $5,000 should buy a good one. We were looking at a 1997-2001 model, which got a tidy exterior update and a more modern interior. If you can find a 4.0-liter two-door and a five-speed manual transmission, it’s a fun package.

Recent sales

1999 2-door sports car 4×4 (July 2023)
Price: $27,000 Mileage: 44,000 miles
1998 Limited 4×4 (Aug 2023)
Price: $6,200 Mileage: 134,000 miles
1990 Pioneer 4×4 (Aug 2023)
Price: $9,800 Mileage: 70,000 miles
(Listings from Bring a Trailer)

2001 Jeep Cherokee Sport
190-hp 4.0-liter I-6, 3,607 lbs
Test results
60 mph: 8.4 seconds
1/4 mile: 16.5 seconds at 83 mph
100 mph: 30.3 seconds
Top speed: 108 mph
Braking, 0-70 mph: 190 ft
From C/D, March 2001. Acceleration times adhere to our old 3 mph subtraction rule.

Snapshot of Ezra Dyer

Ezra Dyer A Car and driver Senior editor and columnist. He now resides in North Carolina but still remembers how to turn right. He owns a 2009 GEM e4 and once drove it at 206 mph. These facts are mutually exclusive.

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