1994 Jeep Cherokee

By November 10, 1999
1994 Jeep Cherokee

When Chrysler Corporation introduced the Jeep Grand Cherokee in 1992, popular wisdom dictated it would simply replace the existing Cherokee and the lovable but boxy and long-in-the-tooth sport utility would disappear. Not so. The Grand Cherokee is grand, but for a price. Chrysler had the sense to realize a niche remained in the segment for the older, less expensive Cherokee. They were, and are, right. The older Cherokee continues to sell at a brisk, perhaps even surprising, rate. Enough so to keep the manufacturing plant in Toledo going strong.

The major reason for the continued success of the Jeep Cherokee Sport is price. The four-door model we tested, with Command-Trac shift-on-the-fly 4WD system, air conditioning, a four-speed automatic transmission and a reasonable amount of optional equipment, came to a manufacturer’s suggested retail price total of $20,768. This was the lowest of any midsize 4WD sport utility we tested. It impressed us-a lot.

You can do even better. Get a base model two-door with the 2.5-liter four and you can dial back to under $15,000. This puts you down in the company of the Geo Tracker and Suzuki Sidekick. Cherokee is available in three levels of trim and equipment-SE, Sport and Country. You also have two engine choices-the 2.5-liter, 130-horsepower four (standard on the SE) or the 4.0-liter 190-hp six (optional on SE and standard on Sport and Country). Command-Trac is a part-time 4WD system standard on all three models. The Select-Trac full-time 4WD system is optional on the Sport and Country models.


We sampled a bright red/black four-door Jeep Cherokee Sport. Despite the color and styled steel wheels, it carries its no-nonsense, squared-off military look proudly. It lacks the suburban chic of the Grand Cherokee or the subtle sophistication of the Ford Explorer, but if you like Swiss Army knives, you’ll like the Cherokee. The black trim, bumper, wheel lip moldings and lower body applique promise protection in gravel, rocks and brush. Along with these, our Cherokee Sport had brightly polished steel wheels and Goodyear Wrangler all-terrain tires. A dealer-installed tailgate mounted carrier is available.

Interior Features

The Jeep Cherokee is smaller than the Grand Cherokee, and it is a feeling carried overall. While the seating has been upgraded, it seems more Spartan than the segment-leading Ford Explorer. You sit more upright and the seats offer somewhat less support. Visibility is good, and look, there are those long-gone and often-missed triangular vent windows-great for fresh air without turning the interior into a wind tunnel. One problem, however, is that these windows obscure vision in the outside mirrors. Instrumentation comes via analog gauges and is about average. One annoyance is the location of the cruise control: It’s hidden behind a steering wheel spoke on the turn signal arm.

The rear seat folds flat to provide 71.8 cubic feet of cargo room. Two problems here, though. State of the art in the sport utility field dictates that you have a split rear seatback to allow for a passenger and long cargo such as skis. Also, the spare tire should not intrude in the cargo area, yet there it sat in our Jeep Cherokee. These are annoyances that would be easy and inexpensive to make right.

Entrance through the four doors, especially at the rear doors, is a little narrow.

Driving Impressions

The optional 4.0-liter six engine and the four-speed automatic transmission, coupled with nimble handling, made the Jeep Cherokee Sport a joy to drive. While you won’t set any speed records, you can chirp the tires accelerating from stops, and there is ample power for freeway passing and merging. The engine seemed to get a little noisy at speeds over 45 mph, but it quieted down at freeway cruising.

The suspension is what Jeep calls “Quadra-Link.” It includes a solid front axle, coil springs, track and stabilizer bars in the front and rear and gas-charged shock absorbers. Quadra-Link works well both on the street and off-road.

The standard brake system consists of front discs and rear drums. An anti-lock braking system is optional but requires the 4.0-liter engine. One serious omission is the lack of either a driver- or passenger-side air bag. Safety features include the usual passenger restraint systems and side door beams for crash protection.

We took our Jeep Cherokee Sport for a short cross-country jaunt, and although the standard Command-Trac part-time 4WD system was dated technology, it did work well and offered shift-on-the-fly capability. Our Jeep Cherokee Sport managed some hill climbing and rut slaloming with ease. We would choose the skid plates group option, which includes protection for the transfer case, fuel tank and front suspension. We are confident that we could take a Jeep Cherokee anywhere a 4WD vehicle can go.


Considering the content and the price, there’s much to recommend the Jeep Cherokee. The styling may be dated, but take a look at the Range Rover at about twice the cost. We found the negatives merely nuisances when you consider you’re getting a proven 4WD performer that defined this market segment for the lowest price going. Put the Cherokee up against another older platform-the Chevrolet four-door S-Blazer 4WD, for example-and you see many similarities. Styling and features are somewhat outdated, but there is good performance, ample power and a great price. Of course, Cherokee Sport beats S-Blazer by about $2,000.

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