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Used Jeep Cherokee review: 1994-2001

The XJ Cherokee was welcomed with a wave of derision when it arrived here in 1994. It was an old design with shoddy American build quality cried its critics back then, but time has shown their criticisms to have been shortsighted.

With the earliest cars now on the road here for up to eight years the XJ Cherokee has won plenty of supporters for its ruggedness and reliability, attributes now increasingly attractive to used car buyers.

The Cherokee was first launched in America in 1984, and was one of the first off-roaders to feature unitary body construction which gave it tight car-like on-road manners while retaining much of the off-road capability of the more traditional rugged four wheel-drive wagons with the then more familiar construction of separate body on a ladder chassis.

It was an instant hit in its homeland and can claim much of the responsibility for kicking off the SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle) stampede that has seen thousands of buyers abandon cars for the perceived safety of the four-wheel drives.

The XJ was more than a decade old when it was launched here, which was why it was so widely derided by motoring writers who were eager to write it off as being a basic design and poorly built with a cramped interior and dated dash layout.

Despite its ageing design it quickly became a popular choice with Australians, particularly because it was very competitively priced.

Like Americans local buyers took to the compact Jeep as an alternative to regular sedans as a round town family vehicle rather than as an off-roader, so most of them have been used in supermarket service or delivering the kids to school and few of them have done any serious off-road work even though they are eminently qualified to survive in the bush.

Development of the ride-hand drive version of the XJ was done locally in 1987 well before the Cherokee was launched here through Astre Automotive, then the distributors for Jeep before Chrysler returned to Australia.

MODEL WATCH

Two models were available from launch. The basic Sport which came standard with cloth trim, central locking, power mirrors, power windows, power steering, air-conditioning and limited-slip diff.

The upmarket Limited model was a smarter vehicle with alloy wheels, power front seats, leather trim, tele-tilt steering column and ABS brakes.

Classic upgrade packs were available as a dealer-fit item at the beginning and these essentially consisted of a front nudge bar, colour-coded bumpers, grille and flares.

Power came from a fairly basic, but well proven 4.0-litre push-rod six-cylinder engine with fuel-injection and electronic ignition.

It was only available with a four-speed Aisan-Sieki automatic transmission, and had a viscous coupling and Trac-Lock four-wheel drive system.

While being of a basic design with little refinement and with cast iron block and cylinder head, the Jeep six was a tough torquey performer, which made it ideal in an off-road situation and perfect for towing. Power was 135 kW at 4700 rpm and torque was 299 Nm at 3200 rpm.

A year after the initial launch a 2.5-litre four cylinder intercooled turbo-diesel was added to the range, and this was available only with a five-speed manual gearbox. Power was 85 kW at 3900 rpm, torque 300 Nm at 2000 rpm, and it was a fuel miser.

Underneath it had solid axles at the front and rear, with coil springing at the front and leaf springs at the rear. The Sport had a heavier duty Upcountry suspension set-up as standard while the Limited came with a European Touring suspension, but each could also be had with the alternative.

An update in 1997 saw some revised cosmetics, the front vent widows deleted, and a new dash along with a stiffer body and a steel rear door in place of the composite door of the preceding vehicles.

IN THE SHOP

Despite the dire predictions of the motoring media the XJ Cherokee has stood up well to Australian conditions.

The interior plastics that were written off as cheap and nasty are holding up well. None of the cars checked showed signs of cracking in the dash or warping of other components exposed to the sun. Interior trim material, whether cloth or leather, is durable and wearing well.

Mechanically the engines aren’t showing any pattern of regular failure. The problems reported are the odd hose or water pump failure, but the reports are few and far between. Petrol engine will happily live on a diet of LPG without requiring any rework of the head or valves.

Drivelines likewise are essentially troublefree, but it’s important to check for a reliable service record to ensure that drive shaft joints have been regularly serviced. Inadequate servicing can result in seized or partly seized joints, which typically show up as a vibration at 80-90km/h.

There was an early recall when the bolts attaching the steering box to the chassis were coming loose and in some cases causing a hairline crack in the side rail, but all vehicles were checked and repaired at the time. Those vehicles that exhibited the problem were those used off-road, while those used mostly on road haven’t shown the problem to the same extent.

Signs of hard use, particularly off-road or heavy towing, are sagging rear suspension so check for a lower than usual ride height or rear leaf springs that have lost their original shape.

Bodies generally stand up well, with little looseness showing up even after the car reaches a relatively high mileage. Scratches in the paint along the sides of the body can be a give-away to regular off-road use.

LOOK FOR

• cramped interior with little room in the rear for adults

• old-fashioned dash design

• simple and reliable engine and driveline

• telltale signs of off-road use like scratches down sides of body and bumps and scrapes underneath

• seized driveshaft joints a sign of poor servicing

Pricing

Year Price From Price To
2001 $2,860 $6,380
2000 $2,860 $5,720
1999 $2,860 $5,720
1998 $2,860 $5,720
1997 $2,640 $5,720
1996 $2,640 $5,280
1995 $2,640 $5,500
1994 $2,640 $5,280

View all Jeep Cherokee pricing and specifications

Pricing Guides

$3,960
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$2,640
Highest Price
$5,280

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Limited (4x4) 4.0L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO 4X4 $3,410 – 5,280 1994 Jeep Cherokee 1994 Limited (4x4) Pricing and Specs
Sport (4x4) 4.0L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO 4X4 $2,640 – 4,070 1994 Jeep Cherokee 1994 Sport (4x4) Pricing and Specs
Graham Smith
Contributing Journalist

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