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By Jeremy Cato
Well, the Jeep Cherokee has reached the end of the line.
After an 18-year run, DaimlerChrysler AG’s Jeep division retired the
Cherokee in June and replaced it with the 2002 Jeep Liberty sport-utility.
How the Liberty will fare in an increasingly crowded field of sport-utes is
yet to be learned, but if it proves as durable as the Cherokee…Wow!
Every automaker would love to produce such a stalwart entry in the fiercely
competitive sport-ute world. The Cherokee was launched in 1985, it was the
first sport-ute to offer a four-door body style (a two-door was also available)
and millions have been sold. For the used car buyers that, of course, means
there are plenty of older Cherokees out there. Affordable ones, especially
those sold from 1990-96.
So what do you need to know? Okay, the Cherokee rides on the shortest
wheelbase of all the four-door sport/utes sold during those years, so it’s
not surprising that it has the smallest overall interior in the class. Yet
the cabin feels surprisingly roomy inside, primarily because headroom is
generous both front and back.
The cabin is narrow, though, so large people might feel a bit cramped and
the back seat is really suitable only for two adults, though you can squeeze
in three if you must. The folding rear seatback adds versatility to the
cargo space and the loadfloor is flat — an important consideration for
carrying loads. The driver will notice a somewhat confusing dashboard layout
and there is a long steering column that puts the steering wheel
The Cherokee is an extremely serious off-roader so it’s no surprise it has
a relatively harsh ride. On really rough surfaces, the Cherokee’s tail end
tends to bounce around quite a bit. Blame there goes to the rear suspension
which is a leaf spring mounted above a solid axle arrangement. As for
highway cruising, the Cherokee is pleasant enough on smooth surfaces–for a
sport/ute. Also be aware that the Cherokee suffers from higher-than-average
wind, road and engine noise and at highway speeds it’s quite noticeable.
Many families have found this truck very agreeable as a family vehicle for
errands, shopping and vacations. Aside from its versatility, the Cherokee has some
safety appeal. This truck feels big and solid, despite its modest
dimensions. On the subject of safety, then, the Cherokee didn’t receive a
driver’s side airbag until 1995 and a passenger-side one didn’t arrive until
the Cherokee was modernized for 1997. Four-wheel anti-lock brakes were
optional on all Cherokee models during these years and it worked both in
two- and four-wheel-drive mode. For 1994, side door guard beams and a centre
high-mounted stoplamp arrived.
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The standard transmission on all Cherokees for these years was a five-speed
manual, while a four-speed automatic was optional. Notable also is that
Cherokees came standard as two-wheel-drive vehicles; four-wheel-drive was an
option. And, of course, there was a choice of optional four-wheel systems:
Command-Trac, Jeep’s two-speed part-time system and Selec-Trac, a full-time
During the 1990-96 years, Jeep made a few improvements to this
bread-and-butter model, but an important year was 1993, the same year the
new upscale Jeep Grand Cherokee arrived. That year Jeep repositioned the
Cherokee rather than phase it out — probably a move to embarrass members of
the press who predicted its demise with the arrival of the Grand Cherokee.
For instance, 1993 models got a stainless steel exhaust system, no small
matter in Canada where underbody rust is a way of life. There were also a
few styling tweaks on the outside and the cabin was dressed up with new
Engine? For these years there are two choices: a 2.5-litre four-cylinder
(121-130 hp) and a 4.0-litre inline six (177-190 hp). The four-banger is
adequate mated to a five-speed manual transmission, but with the three-speed
automatic, it is anaemic. The six was among the most powerful engines in
the sport-ute class during this period and it, indeed, is plenty robust. If
you plan to carry a heavy load or tow a big trailer, look for a Cherokee
with the six, but be prepared to spend some money on filling the fuel tank
The Cherokee from 1990-96 is not an overly refined vehicle, but it has
proved pretty durable. This model is definitely worth a look if you’re in
the market for an older sport-ute.
Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.