The D family just returned from ten days in the Southwestern States, and amongst all the other great scenery, I really enjoyed looking at all the CC Jeep Cherokees.
I really admire the old AMC-designed XJ Cherokees, the 1986 – 2001 classics that more or less kicked off the whole SUV craze. Unfortunately, being from the Toronto area I have pretty much missed the boat on owning one for a daily driver. Around here, serviceable Cherokees are few and far between, as they tended to rust out at the rocker panels and then the suspension mounting points. The few that remain seem to all get lifted, hacked and mudded, so it was a real pleasure to see all kinds of stock XJ’s still doing their jobs twenty or so years after they left the factory, and long past the demise of AMC.
Here’s a typical example that shared our parking lot in Flagstaff, AZ. No special care, no obvious major repairs, no goofy mods, just someone’s driver with a couple of bicycles hanging off the back. The underside of this XJ was so clean you could eat off it; not a speck of corrosion.
It brought tears to my eyes as I beckoned to my family, “Look at this, just look…” Mrs DougD actually did get down and look; she admitted that, “yes it was very nice, but no, I couldn’t take it home.” Besides, the actual owner was obviously still using it and it was an automatic. I’d much rather have the 5-speed transmission.
For comparison, our rental car for this trip was a Jeep Compass. It did hold four people and their luggage (piled to the ceiling), and the somewhat thrashy four cylinder engine returned amazing mileage across those wide open spaces. We liked the simple layout of the controls and the low rental rate; for the most part it’s a pretty reasonable small vehicle. However I can’t imagine buying one because the outward visibility is horrible. I sort of got used to it after a week, and if you were driving alone on an interstate across the desert it was OK, but in town it was a menace. Turning corners had me bobbing my head from side to side, making sure that light posts, pedestrians and whole cars weren’t hiding behind the thick A-pillars. Shoulder checks only confirmed the continued existence of B-pillars and headrests.
So my Jeep verdict is, I’d rather be upside down in the Compass, but the XJ Cherokee is still preferred for right side up use.
I had a 96 Cherokee 5 speed for 10 years and 110k miles. It was a good vehicle and actually pretty fun to drive. Loads of torque so having the manual in traffic wasn’t an issue. Easy to work on too, though it didn’t need much other than a couple O2 sensors, a water pump, and a steering damper. (Boy was it scary when that started to wear out!) Sold it to get better rear-seat safety for the kids of C and various Boy Scouts, and because the rear diff was starting to howl. (My fault for not maintaining it.)
Good luck finding a 5 speed Cherokee. They are out there, but they were never common to begin with. My sister owned one – a 1993 Sport, and drove it for quite awhile. I am still mad at her for not telling me that she wanted to get rid of it.
The Jeep Compass and Jeep Patriot were actually the Jeep Division’s heavily reworked Dodge Caliber. All 3 vehicles were based from the Mitsubishi Outlander/Lancer Platforms which also underpins the larger Dodge Journey, Dodge Avenger and Chrysler Sebring/200 as well along with their Lancia Flavia stablemate.
Most new cars have terrible visibility. And for what? Justifying thousands of dollars worth of collision avoidance systems?
I hate thick a pillars. Worst I’ve drive is a dodge ram.
Would that be the 94-01 model, or a later one? I remember when our farm truck went from a ’79 F-250 to a ’96 Ram 2500, pretty big change in terms of visibility (also one of the vehicles I learned to drive in).
A friend of mine has a newer ’03 model, the few times I’ve ridden in it I’ve felt like the visibility was somewhat better, but still not as good as the old blue pickup…
I’ve owned two Cherokee’s – so far. A ’00 Sport, bought new, and traded in a few years later for an E36 M3. Which my late wife proceeded to put into the body shop three times in one year. Hating to beat a car like that, I traded it in for a another (used, this time) ’00 Sport. Which I had until the wife totaled it into a tree.
Given this past (current?) winter, and the driveway I’m blessed with (very steep climb straight up), I’m seriously considering picking another one up for light duty use and bad weather reserve. In the Richmond Craigslist, I’m finding a half dozen or so Cherokee’s in seemingly nice condition, unmodified, with 120-190k on the clock in the $2-3000.00 price range.
This is one of very few vehicles where I actually preferred the automatic transmission. I had both, and though there was nothing at all wrong with the 5-speed, the automatic seemed like a better fit. For any vehicle that gets used off road, even the fairly lightweight stuff I did (mine were all stock), it’s very easy to break driveline components while working a clutch in and out. Letting a torque converter handle that job is nearly idiot-proof, and I don’t care how good anyone thinks they are, no one is as gentle as an automatic in that setting. Normally, that kind of driving is a problem for automatics because it generates so much heat, but the Cherokee’s Aisin-built unit is capable of taking a ridiculous amount of punishment. Plus, you get the added torque multiplication in the converter – might not seem like much, but I always noticed that the XJs equipped that way had a much easier time getting up hills. On paved surfaces it shifts smooth, quick and exactly when you want it to, and the straight six has so much power everywhere that I never noticed any serious tradeoffs in performance or fuel economy.
But I did like having the 5-speed, too, and would gladly own another one, especially since they’re now something of a novelty. Mine had the Peugeot 5-speed (the same transmission behind the PRV V6 in 505s), which is generally considered to be a total piece of crap in the Jeep. I must have gotten lucky because I never had a single problem with it, and it had already done nearly 200k miles (many of which were spent towing a boat) before I got it.
Cherokees are still very common here, but never as clean as this one! Almost all are still chugging along on the daily grind – I see very few (in person) with lifted suspensions and huge tires. Personally, I always thought that kinda ruined the whole experience. They’re very capable both on and off road out of the box, so why mess that up by screwing with the suspension?
The post-facelift Compass was a huge improvement over the original, but having driven a Dodge Caliber I know how thrashy that engine is, and not really the best match for a CVT because of it. IMO, the best take on this platform was the Patriot. I liked the looks a lot and it gained some pretty cool features when ordered with the Freedom Drive II option. In some ways, I think those FDII Patriots were very similar, in spirit, to the original intention of the XJ.
It seems as if both the Compass and Patriot will be no more come next year, replaced by the Renegade – Jeep’s version of the Fiat 500X. I think it looks awesome and since Fiat has been building cool little 4x4s for a long time now (Panda), it’ll probably work just as good as it looks. What does CC think?
Mr. Cor-nay-lis, I think that Renegade will become a global success.
My first UniJeep was an ’87 Commanche – long bed, 4×4, 4.0 5sp. I really enjoyed running that one – NEVER failed to start, and wasn’t ever difficult – or expensive – to fix. My second was an early 90’s Cherokee, a four-door 4.0 automatic – and again, here was a reliable, rugged go-anywhere appliance that wasn’t hard to maintain – and the junkyards are still full of them, for the long-term owners among us. @Sean: I’ve been looking at the Renegade online now for a handful of weeks – the word that comes immediately to mind is “Micromachine” – as if the vehicle in the image is actual size. Still and all, I’m looking forward to seeing one face-to-face when they appear, and I do think that this thing will make friends fast.
That certainly is one clean undercarriage. The frame, floorpan and rocker panels still look like new.
I have a friend that was still driving a Cherokee like this until a couple years ago. He had another one parked off the side of his driveway as a parts donor. He finally got rid of the Cherokee because it was rotted out in the back and exhaust fumes were coming into the cab. He looked unsuccessfully for another Cherokee for about a year, but ultimately replaced it with an AWD V6 Dodge Magnum.
Call me old-school, but I’ve always preferred the XJ Cherokee over the new Cherokee. I’m just disappointed that the turbo diesel wasn’t on the market for very long. I believe that anything between 2.5 litres and 3.0 litres would be perfect size engines. Is diesel for everyone? No, not really. But I believe that if an engine is allowed to be on the market for several years, enough people will be able to decide whether it’s for them, or not. 🙂
Daughters Aunt n Uncle got an upgrade on a recent trip to LA they ended up with a Jeep worst car he’d ever driven was the comment, never again. I see quite a few about locally so those sentiments cannot be universal but ours arent built in the US so who knows.
I have a 99 XJ as my daily driver; A bit on the thirsty side and the seat gets a touch uncomfortable on longer trips but I still love it.Dead nuts reliable, I can’t think of any other 15yr old car I’d trust as my daily driver. There are plenty of these still running around the Reno/Tahoe area. The older 1st Gen Grand Cherokees are also popular and quite common.
I’d buy one if one were available for sale.
Lots of Cherokee daily drivers in NM. Most of them look quite weathered, but there also quite a few that look just fine.
I bought a 98 Cherokee w/ 5-spd back in 2010. I had looked for a clean specimen for a few months and ironically I found it at a local used car dealer just down the road from me. It had virtually no rust, at the time, but WI winters have been a bit harsh to it and the rockers are showing their age even with taking it to the car wash every couple weeks.
It’s been a very reliable vehicle, currently sits at about 196,000 miles. In the 4 years I’ve had it all that’s been replaced under the hood is the water pump and a couple sensors.
I think it could be argued that this vehicle saved AMC to be absorbed instead of liquidated. When I saw the 4.0 after my sister bought one and lifted the hood it was like seeing an old friend post-cosmetic surgery. I recognized the basic 232 immediately. Fuel injection and a nice valve cover were just window dressing. She got 100k without drama, but complained about mileage all the time. There truly is beauty in simplicity.
I was thinking it’d be a story about some old flat fender Jeeps or Willys Wagons…..
Silly me .