The Jeep Cherokee is an SUV manufactured from 1974, named after a North American Indian tribe. It changed its class and powertrain layout through the five generations, with four-wheel drive being ever-present. Grand Cherokee, Jeep's most successful vehicle was initially intended as a part of the Cherokee’s lineup.
First Generation (1974-1983)
Codenamed SJ, the first Cherokee was a full-size SUV based on the Wagoneer and had an option of four-wheel-drive or rear-wheel-drive, and two-door or four-door wagon version. Jeep used the Sports Utility Vehicle description for the first time with Cherokee, marketing it as a sporty two-door version of their station wagon.
From 1981, Jeep had assembly done in Brisbane, Australia, with earlier versions arriving in LHD layout, requiring reassembly. There were problems with quality control, spare parts, lack of dealer support, and the limited production capacity of only 60 vehicles per month. The Australian 4x4 classification classed the Cherokee as a car, resulting in far steeper import quantity restrictions and higher taxes. The first-generation Cherokee assembly in Australia ceased in 1985, three years into production of the second generation in the United States.
Second Generation (1984-2001)
Now a compact sport utility vehicle, the XJ Cherokee was available in three or five-door variant, front-engine, rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, unibody layout, and seating for five. It was a revolutionary model that changed consumer’s perspective on the class, now seen more as a limousine than a truck. Roughly three million units were produced in factories in Ohio, China, Argentina, Egypt, and Venezuela.
Cherokee was especially popular with United States police, rangers, government as well as postal service. Jeep made a special version of Cherokee SE for police and fleet, with no interior rear door handles, and a revised 4.0L inline-six engine with a power output of 190hp. Postal service received their right-hand-drive version, which was later used as a basis to enter right-hand drive markets.
Trim levels include: Base, Chief, Pioneer, Pioneer Olympic Edition, Wagoneer, Laredo, Limited, Sport, Briarwood, Country, Classic, Orvis, Freedom, 60th Anniversary
Powertrain options: 2.1L Renault, 2.5L AMC and VM Motori inline-four turbocharged diesel engines, 2.8L GM V6, 4.0L AMC inline-six petrol engines, paired with 4-speed or 5-speed manual gearbox, as well as 3-speed and 4-speed automatic transmission
Third Generation (2002-2007)
Codenamed KJ, the new model entered the US market as the Jeep Liberty, while other markets kept the Cherokee name. It had a front-engine, rear-wheel or four-wheel-drive layout with a unibody design. The total sales in the United States amounted to 890,500 units.
Like the previous model, it was used by the police and rental agencies, despite the lack of a special edition. They came equipped with a 3.7L 'Power-tech' V6 engine with a power output of 210 horsepower, paired with a 4-speed automatic transmission.
Initially, three trim levels were available: Limited, Renegade and Sport, all in 2WD or 4WD variants.
- Sport, base model - offered standard equipment: 2.4L Inline-Four petrol engine, a five-speed manual gearbox, 16-inch steel wheels, stereo with cassette player, six-speakers, cloth trim, bucket seats in the front, full instrumentation, and power windows and door locks from the 2005 model year
- Renegade, off-road-oriented model - based on the Sport trim, with additional equipment: 3.7L 'Power-Tech' V6 engine, power door locks and windows, keyless entry, ABS, fog lights, stereo with CD player
- Limited, top-end model - all the features of Renegade plus: 3.7L V6 engine, four-speed automatic transmission, aluminium wheels, front and rear bumpers in the colour of the body, chrome accents, security system, power driver's seat, air conditioning, Electronic Vehicle Information Center
Fourth Generation (2007-2012)
Codenamed KK, the new Cherokee (Liberty in the United States) debuted at the 2007 New York International Auto Show, with a complete redesign into a boxier look. As the smaller Patriot and Compass were now available with smaller, more economical engines, Cherokee dropped the four-cylinder options.
Serious safety concerns with rusting and failing rear control arms resulted in a recall of 347,000 units. The total sales in the United States amounted to 400,351 units.
The fourth-generation Cherokee was available in Sport and Limited trim levels, with Renegade, Arctic Edition, Latitude, 70th Anniversary Edition and Jet Edition as the select edition models.
- Sport, base model – standard features: 3.7L Powertech engine with a power output of 210hp, a 6-speed manual gearbox, air conditioning, stereo with CD player, 3.5mm aux-in, alloy wheels, power windows and doors, keyless entry, cloth trim
- Limited, higher-range model - additional: automatic transmission, UConnect, satellite radio, leather steering wheel, power driver's seat, security system, dual-zone climate controls
Fifth Generation (2013-present)
Codenamed KL, the new Cherokee had its debut at the 2013 New York International Auto Show and saw a return to the original name. It is the first Jeep to use the Fiat Compact/Compact Wide platform, a joint work of Chrysler and Fiat. It features three variants of four-wheel-drive systems: Active Drive I, Active Drive II, and Active Drive Lock, paired with Selec-Terrain traction control and rear-axle disconnect feature.
On the Euro NCAP crash test, the Cherokee scored an overall five-star rating and 83%, along with 'Best in Class' in the 'Small Off-Road 4x4' category. Standard and optional safety features include electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, seven airbags, forward-collision warning-plus, blind-spot warning, lane-departure warning, and rear cross-path detection.
The basic equipment includes 3x3 point rear seatbelts, anti-lock brakes, alarm, alloy wheels, audio remote, body-coloured bumpers, CD, cruise control, driver's and passenger's airbag, folding rear seats, front electric windows, front fog lights, height-adjustable seat (driver), Isofix child seat anchor points, PAS, rear electric windows, remote locking, side airbags, steering wheel rake adjustment, steering wheel reach adjustment, and traction control.
- Sport trim level adds: 17-inch steel wheels, Uconnect 5.0 touch screen radio, six speakers, cloth trim
- Latitude trim level adds: alloy wheels, body-coloured door handles, body-coloured side-view mirrors
- Trailhawk trim level adds: leather seat trim, parking sensors, roof rails, heated seats, electric driver’s seat, Uconnect 8.4A touch screen radio
- The Limited trim level adds: power driver's seat, electric mirrors, headlight washers, heated seats, leather seat trim, lumbar support, parking sensors, roof rails, Sat Nav, alloy wheels
- Altitude trim level adds: gloss black alloy wheels, black lower front fascia accent, gloss black grille surrounds, roof rails and exterior badges, black window surround model, and all-black leather interior
- Overland trim level adds: electric driver's seat, electric mirrors, electric passenger's seat, electric sunroof, headlight washers, heated seats, leather seat trim, lumbar support, parking sensors, roof rails, Sat Nav
Jeep Cherokee was not without its issues, mainly with transmission and software safety.
The ZF's 9-speed automatic transaxle was made to reduce weight and improve fuel economy. However, it resulted in an intricate design prone to failure, a problem addressed by Jeep with a recall affecting 505,000 vehicles, as well as firing FCA's chief quality control officer.
Software hack was even more serious, with hackers being capable of accessing vehicle's radio, A/C, windshield wipers, and most importantly, steering, brakes, and transmission. Chrysler issued a patch that could be easily installed either by user or dealership. It affected a vast range of Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep vehicles, with the issue stemming from the UConnect 8.4A infotainment system with UConnect ACCESS wireless connection ability.
The facelifted version premiered at the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit for the year 2019. The exterior featured a repositioned front grille, larger headlamps with integrated turn signals, redesigned wheels, and a restyled rear, while the interior received new seat fabrics, upgraded infotainment system, better materials, and other minor changes.
Available powertrain options in Australia include:
- 2.4L Tigershark inline-four petrol engine, producing 138kW (184hp) and 232Nm of torque, paired with a 9-speed automatic transmission
- 3.2L Pentastar V6 petrol engine, producing 202kW (271hp) and 324Nm of torque, paired with a 9-speed automatic transmission
- 2.0L inline-four diesel engine, producing 125kW (168hp) and 350Nm of torque, paired with a 9-speed automatic transmission
Cherokee is a very popular SUV available in many markets, including Australia. If you’re looking for one, have a look at the Carpart marketplace! You can find listings from owners across Australia, or post your car, parts, and accessories. Have a look today!
Author: Luka Kusic