After we moved to West
Virginia, we soon realized that winters would be a little more complicated. Sure, it
doesn't snow much more than in Maryland, but there's this little thing about West
Virginia: The only flat spaces in the area we live are shopping mall parking lots
(carved out of the top of big hills) and pool tables in bars.
When it snowed the first
time, we made do because we didn't need to go anyplace and of course, we had the TJ.
But my wife doesn't drive the TJ and her car (a Volvo V90)
does not have 4WD. So the driveway and the big hill to climb at the bottom of the
driveway pose a real problem in the snow.
Maria wanted a 4WD vehicle.
We priced the Volvo XC-90 and decided that we didn't want another car payment that
much... Also the nearest Volvo dealer is almost two hours away so the practical
aspects of ownership would have been a bit protracted.
That left us with a bit of a
dilemma. Maria has grown accustomed to her station wagon with leather and every
imaginable power option. We weren't real fond of the Grand Cherokee, and I wouldn't
consider anything like an Explorer, Bronco, Blazer, etc. And the mass of AWD SUV's
just didn't seem like the way to go. That left me thinking that the Cherokee was
worth a look.
I did a little shopping and
turned up something that had everything Maria would like: All the features of her
Volvo V90 AND 4WD. The additional bonus was the fact that it was
considerably less expensive than a number of other options we considered.
a 1998 Cherokee Limited.
So I stopped and picked it
up and took it out for a test drive. I drove to the house and got Maria and the kids
and let her drive it back to the dealer. She was a little tentative in the snow and
needed some help the first time down the driveway but I think that will come with
experience. The rest of the way out of the neighborhood, she started showing us that
she was getting the hang of it, mainly relaxing and enjoying the added capability of a 4WD
vehicle in the snow.
So we took the plunge...
It needs an idler pulley (sound familiar?),
perhaps a battery, and the alternator is suspect. But with a 12 month guarantee, I
think we'll get that sorted.
I have always carried a map case in my
vehicle. Gradually my requirements for
evolved to a need for more detail. With my involvement in
excursions, this led to topographic maps and
compass. In addition, personal safety,
survival and vehicle maintenance information takes on greater importance. I wanted
to carry reference materials that covered these areas adequately so
that I would be prepared with a source of information that would help me deal well with
and compasses are great tools for
navigation. And generally they are adequate for most trips. Indeed, for many
years I was able to do quite well just using maps. But once I started pushing
deep into the woods, I realized that I needed to be
a lot better equipped. And since I like to return to places that I found enjoyable,
I wanted to have a precise way to record the route for future reference. Enter the
GPS and related
It's easy to forget about being safe when
we're having fun. We almost never think anything bad is going to happen. And
most of the time we're right. But when
goes wrong, it pays to be prepared. I have injured myself far from home, had my
vehicle break down or burn, and have several times found myself in a position of having to
choose between staying in my car all night or trying to walk out. All of these
experiences have convinced me to be as prepared as I can be for a wide variety of
encounters where the personal safety of me or my family is put at risk. A good
first aid kit,
extinguisher and other items can make a big difference when the unexpected happens.
There are four levels of communication
that I tried to address with the preparation of my Jeep:
It is important when striking out into
unknown territory to have the ability to communicate with your group and the outside
world. It is important to be able to get broadcast information from regular and
weather radio so that travel plans can take current
conditions into account. And even basic written communication with pen and paper
have great usefulness for note-taking and record-keeping.
4.0L(244.1cu.in.) I-6 OHV SMPI
12 valve engine Electronic ignition I-6 Unleaded 117 amp HD
alternator 500 CCA battery 4-speed electronic automatic transmission with
overdrive Transmission lock-up Part-time four-wheel drive with manual
transfer case shift, auto locking hubs 3.55 axle ratio Stainless steel
exhaust Federal emissions
Steering and Suspension
Hydraulic power-assist rack and
pinion steering Front disc/rear drum brakes with front vented discs Front
non-independent suspension Front anti-roll bar Front coil springs Rigid
rear axle Rear multi-link suspension Rear anti-roll bar Rear leaf
springs Front and rear 15.0" x 7.00" silver alloy wheels P225/75SR15.0 OWL
AT front and rear tires Inside mounted compact spare tire Steel spare
Seating and Interior
Capacity of 5 Bucket front
seats Adjustable front head restraints Center front armrest with storage
4-way adjustable driver seat with manual reclining, manual fore/aft 4-way
adjustable passenger seat with manual reclining, manual fore/aft Removeable
full folding rear bench seats Premium cloth faced front seats with vinyl side
and back Vinyl door trim insert Full cloth headliner Full carpet floor
covering Carpeted floor mats Deluxe sound insulation Simulated wood
Center high mounted stop light
4.0L(244.1cu.in.) I-6 OHV SMPI 12 valve
engine Electronic ignition I-6 Unleaded 117 amp HD alternator 500 CCA battery 4-speed electronic automatic transmission with overdrive Transmission lock-up Part-time four-wheel drive with manual transfer case shift, auto locking hubs 3.55 axle ratio Stainless steel exhaust Federal emissions
Steering and Suspension
Hydraulic power-assist rack and pinion
steering Front disc/rear drum brakes with front vented discs Front non-independent suspension Front anti-roll bar Front coil springs Rigid rear axle Rear multi-link suspension Rear anti-roll bar Rear leaf springs Front and rear 15.0" x 7.00" silver alloy wheels P225/75SR15.0 OWL AT front and rear tires Inside mounted compact spare tire Steel spare wheel
Seating and Interior
Capacity of 5 Bucket front seats Adjustable front head restraints Center front armrest with storage 4-way adjustable driver seat with manual reclining, manual fore/aft 4-way adjustable passenger seat with manual reclining, manual fore/aft Removeable full folding rear bench seats Premium cloth faced front seats with vinyl side and back Vinyl door trim insert Full cloth headliner Full carpet floor covering Carpeted floor mats Deluxe sound insulation Simulated wood dashboard insert
Center high mounted stop light Dual airbags
Dimensions and Capacities
Front Gross Axle
Rear Gross Axle
Max Trailer Weight
Front Shoulder Room
Rear Shoulder Room
Volume w/Seats Folded
Fully galvanized steel body material Body-colored bodyside insert Body-colored bodyside cladding Body-colored fender flares Black side window moldings Black front windshield molding Black rear window molding Black door handles Body-colored grille 4 doors Liftback rear cargo door Roof with roof rack Dual power remote black folding outside mirrors Regular style mirrors Front and rear body-colored bumpers Front body-colored bumper rub strip Rear step bumper Sealed beam halogen headlamps Monotone paint with body accent stripe
Bumper to Bumper
Subtle styling revisions for the 1997
version of the Cherokee wagon did not disturb the popular model's well-established
character. Though substantial, the design alterations enhanced but did not alter the
overall slab-sided look. Up front, the grille and front fascia were new, as was the
bumper. Bodyside moldings were revised, and wheel arches now flowed into the front and
rear bumpers. A new stamped-steel liftgate had hidden hinges, a new outside handle, and an
inside pull strap.
Inside, a revamped interior now included
a passenger airbag, as well as one for the driver. Sound insulation was increased. A new
central panel housed climate controls and the radio. New lighted power mirrors and
power-window switches were installed. A new overhead console contained a storage
compartment. Also new were a 5-function trip computer, and a center console with
The Cherokee was available in base SE
form with a 4-cylinder engine, as the midlevel Sport, or in top-of-the-line Country guise
(the latter offered only as a 4 door model). Powertrains were unchanged. The 4-cylinder
engine came only with manual shift. Standard in the Sport, the 4.0-liter inline six could
have either the standard 5-speed manual gearbox or a 4-speed automatic transmission.
Country wagon had the 4.0-liter engine and automatic only. Antilock braking was optional
with the 6-cylinder engine.
Cherokees came with rear-wheel drive or a
choice of 4-wheel-drive systems. Command-Trac was a part-time system for use only on
slippery surfaces. Available only with an automatic transmission, SelecTrac 4-wheel drive
was a full-time system that could also be used on dry pavements.
1998 Jeep Cherokee: A
new model and two new badges arrived for '98. Model choices now included the SE, Sport,
and a new Classic (positioned above the Sport in price and features). The Cherokee Limited
(replacing the Country) was now a Classic option group, not a separate model. Only the SE
and Sport came in 2-door form. The 4-cylinder engine could team with a 3-speed automatic
transmission. as an option instead of the usual manual gearbox. Engineering changes
included a quieter steering gear and aluminum radiator.
1999 Jeep Cherokee:
Minor appearance revisions to the Sport model were among the few changes for 1999. Sport
models got body-colored exterior trim (sand-colored models got matching alloy wheels). New
options included heated front seats for Classic models, and Chrysler's Sentry Key
theft-deterrent system for Sport and Classic.
2000 Jeep Cherokee: Now
considered a separate model rather than an option package, the Cherokee Limited got
fancier this season. Special features included a chrome grille and headlight surrounds,
and a chrome rear license-plate brow. The 6-cylinder engine was revised for quieter
running and reduced exhaust emissions, while the automatic transmission was modified to
yield smoother shifts. New standard features included brighter headlights (also said to be
longer-lasting), a cassette player, and rear child-seat anchors. Newly styled 16-inch
wheels went on the Classic and Limited. Now in its 17th year on the market, Cherokee would
see only one more season before giving way to a new Liberty model, arriving for 2002.
2001 Jeep Cherokee:
Cherokee dropped its 4-cylinder engine and base SE and uplevel Classic models for 2001.
Both remaining models gained rear child-seat anchors.
Chrysler Corporation (now
DaimlerChrysler) has done an admirable job of keeping a basically solid design fresh
enough for today's tougher market. Most models that date back to 1984, as the Cherokee
does, would have faded away long before.
Cherokee's 4-cylinder engine provides
only adequate acceleration with the 5-speed manual transmission, and is overmatched with
automatic in anything other than gentle cruising. Of course, most Cherokees on the market
are 6-cylinder. That engine is strong throughout the speed range, and delivers fuel
economy typical of a midsize SUV: about 15 mpg with automatic and 17 mpg with manual
Cherokee suffers powertrain and road
resonances that are absent in most competitive sport-utility vehicles. Wind noise at speed
is prominent, too.
Good balance and tidy dimensions make the
Cherokee quite maneuverable in most situations. The firm base suspension provides a solid
ride that absorbs all but the worst bumps, without jarring. An "Up Country"
option, if installed, makes for a rough ride. Optional antilock braking feels strong and
A Cherokee really shows its age in
interior accommodations. Less roomy than a Grand Cherokee or a Ford Explorer, it does
carry four adults in comfort. However, the low-roof passenger compartment has no surplus
of front shoulder room, a shortage of rear knee clearance, and fairly lofty step-in. Rear
entry/exit is tight, too, thanks to narrow lower doorways.
On the plus side, the dashboard is modern
and convenient. Outward vision is good, though larger door mirrors would help when lane
Mounting the spare tire inside eats up
cargo room, but there's still decent space with the rear seat in use, and a long load
floor with that seat folded. An outside spare was available at Jeep dealerships, so look
for one of that kind if cargo space is a major concern.
for the Money
Convenient 4-wheel-drive systems,
commendable off-road capability, and civilized on road manners--for less than a Grand
Cherokee or an Explorer--make the Cherokee an above average value. Despite an aging design
and strong competition, Cherokees sold well in the late '90s and are not too expensive
today unless you go for a fully equipped model. Still, Cherokee is behind the times in
room, ride, and refinement.
Each vehicle report contains one rating
table for a representative model. We rate in seven key areas: Performance, Fuel Economy,
Ride Comfort, Interior Noise, Passenger Room, Cargo Capacity, and Insurance Costs. These
ratings are given taking into account the "world" of vehicles, not a vehicle's
standing in a particular class. In the ratings table, "1" is the lowest rating
and "5" is the highest rating.
Consumer Guide Road Test Ratings
1999 Jeep Cherokee
Cherokee 4-door wagon
Overall Length, in.
Overall Width, in.
Overall Height, in.
Curb Weight, lbs.
Cargo Volume, cu. ft.
Standard Payload, lbs.
Fuel Capacity, gals.
Front Head Room, in.
Max. Front Leg Room, in.
Rear Head Room, in.
Min. Rear Leg Room, in.
Specifications Key: NA = not
available; "--" = measurement does not exist.
Crash Test Results
Cherokee 4-door wagon
The National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration (NHTSA) tests a vehicle's crashworthiness in front- and side-impact
collisions and rates its resistance to rollovers. Their test results suggest the chance of
serious injury, while rollover resistance ratings are based on how top heavy the vehicle
is and indicate the chance for rollover when the vehicle leaves the roadway. Front crash
test numbers indicate: 5 = 10% or less; 4 = 10-20%; 3 = 20-35%; 2 = 35-45%; 1 = More than
45%. Side impact numbers indicate: 5 = 5% or less; 4 = 6-10%; 3 = 11-20%; 2 = 21-25%; 1 =
More than 26%. Rollover resistance numbers indicate: 5 = Less than 10%; 4 = 10-20%; 3 =
20-30%; 2 = 30-40%; 1 = More than 40%.
Options and Availability
Two engines have been offered: a
2.5-liter 4-cylinder for the base SE, and a 4.0 liter inline 6-cylinder for other Cherokee
models. Initially, the 4-cylinder model came only with a 5-speed manual gearbox, but a
3-speed automatic transmission has been available since 1998. Six-cylinder models could
have a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission.
Consumer Guide Observed
2.5 / 150
5-speed manual: 21/25
3-speed automatic: 19/22
5-speed manual: --
3-speed automatic: --
4.0 / 242
5-speed manual: 18/22
4-speed automatic: 16/21
5-speed manual: 17
4-speed automatic: 15
Notes: Engine Key: ohv = overhead
valve; ohc = overhead camshaft; dohc = dual overhead camshaft; I = inline cylinders; V =
cylinders in a V configuration; H = horizontally opposed cylinders; CVT = continuously
variable (automatic) transmission; NA = not available; "--" = measurement does
Trouble Spots lists the many commonly
occurring problems for a particular vehicle. In some cases we also give possible
manufacturer-suggested solutions. In many instances these trouble spots are Technical
Service Bulletins posted by the manufacturer, however we have our own expert looking at
additional vehicle problems.
The air conditioner gradually stops blowing cool air because the evaporator ices up.
Replacing the low-pressure cycling switch usually fixes it. (1997-99)
Grinding and scraping noises under hard braking are caused by the driveshaft hitting the
floor pan and is fixed by replacing the front lower control arm. (1997)
brake friction material transfers to the rotors (especially in warm, moist climates)
causing brake-pedal pulsation when stopping. New pads should correct it. (1997-99)
Fuel gauge: The
fuel gauge may show 1/8 to 1/4 full but the vehicle will run out of gas because of a
defective sending unit that must be replaced. (1997)
Vibration at speeds over 60 mph may be due to a misaligned or defective driveshaft.
Because of a bad check valve, windshield washer fluid drips from the nozzle for the rear
window and can cause paint staining. (1997)
Average Replacement Cost
This table lists costs of likely repairs
for comparison with other vehicles. The dollar amount includes the cost of the part(s) and
labor (based on $50 per hour) for the typical repair without extras or add-ons. Like the
pricing information, replacement costs can vary widely depending on region. Expect charges
at a new-car dealership to be slightly higher.
Automatic Transmission or Transaxle
Clutch, Pressure Plate, Bearing
Shocks and/or Struts
Timing Chain or Belt
NHTSA Recall History
of fuel-tank-mounted fuel-level sending unit can degrade over time, indicating
significantly more fuel in reserve than is actually present.
Front-disc brake rotors can experience severe corrosion if operated for extensive period
in the "salt belt."
and/or road salt in proximity of airbag-control module could lead to corrosion and
possible inadvertent deployment.
1998: Due to
improperly hardened front-seatbelt shoulder turning-loop anchors, front-seat occupant
might not be properly restrained in a crash.
Power-brake booster-vacuum reservoir diaphragm can split or tear, causing increase in
engine-idle speed and loss of power assist during brake application.
can accumulate in the intake and exhaust manifolds, increasing the risk of fire.
2001: Some of
the owner's manuals for these vehicles are missing instructions for properly attaching a
child restraint system's tether strap to the tether anchorage.