1995 Jeep Cherokee

By November 10, 1999
1995 Jeep Cherokee

How long does a good idea continue to be a good idea? Depends on the idea, right? Well how about the Jeep Cherokee? It was the good idea of ’84, a vehicle that helped launch America’s love affair with sport/utilities. Truckin’ became chic almost over night, and the end of the affair nowhere in sight.

Although many compact sport/utilities have come along since, the Cherokee continues to play an important role in this ongoing drama. True, it hasn’t kept pace with the advances made by its competitors. In fact, it hasn’t changed much at all.

The Cherokee is still a good idea but for different reasons. If trendy styling and gee-whiz gadgetry aren’t important to you, it may just be the best by in its class.


By current standards, the Cherokee’s square-edged lines could be considered dated. Then again, this is the look that seduced a great many drivers away from their station wagons so why mess with it?

The Jeep product planners couldn’t come up with answer for that one, and the Cherokee rolls into ’95 looking pretty much as it always has. The only appearance changes over the years have been minor exterior trim items.

Like last year, the Cherokee is offered in three trim levels: SE, the basic Cherokee; the mid-level Sport; and the more luxurious Country. It’s available in 2- and 4-door body styles with a choice of rear-drive or two different 4-wheel-drive systems: Jeep’s Command- Trac system, designed for situational use with shift-on-the-fly capability, or the full-time Selec- Trac.

The Cherokee’s base engine continues to be a somewhat wheezy 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, and a 5 speed manual transmission is standard for all models. Jeep plans to offer a 3-speed automatic transmission option for 4- cylinder Cherokees later in the model year. For now, this set-up has a severe case of the slows.

Jeep’s 4.0-liter in-line 6 cylinder, available in Sport and County editions, does a much better job of hauling and it can be ordered with a 4 speed automatic. This engine has plenty of development behind it, it’s commendably smooth and it has enough moxie to increase the Cherokee’s trailer-towing capacity to 5000 lb.

The Cherokee’s unit-body design was a departure form traditional when it was introduced and it’s still a distinction today, though the Jeep Grand Cherokee shares this approach. The other compact sport/utility leaders such as the Ford Explorer and the Chevy Blazer/GMC Jimmy us body-on-frame construction.

Body-on-frame is the way all vehicles were made at one time. The body is assembled as a separate unit then bolted to the chassis. The rationale for the body-on-frame construction is that it’s durable. But it’s also heavy.

In unit-body vehicles, the body and the chassis are assembled as one piece with the body shell doing double duty as a stressed member of the chassis.

This method, which is almost universal in passenger-car assembly today, saves a lot of weight. Our Cherokee Sport test vehicle, for example, weighed in at about 3100 lb., complete with 4WD and automatic transmission.

That’s about 1000 pounds less then, say, a comparable equipped 1995 Chevy Blazer, a weight-savings that pays dividends when you tramp in the gas pedal.

On the other hand, the unit-body Cherokee might not stand up the rigors of rough roads, or no roads, as well as some of its competitors. If your sport/utility driving menu includes lots of bumpy going, be prepared for squeaks and rattles from the Cherokee.

Interior Features

Like its exterior, the Cherokee’s inner region hasn’t had much updating over the years, and it shows. The instrument panel is a festival of boxy shapes that clearly belong to an earlier era in sport/utility evolution. The long steering column puts the wheel closer to the driver’s sternum than we’d like and the instrumentation looks a little cheap.

The Cherokee’s reclining front seats – high-back buckets in our Sport model – were adequate, but not on a par with newer compact sport/utes, particularly in terms of lateral support.

This is a smaller vehicle than the compacts from Ford and General Motors and it’s not as roomy. Front-seat legroom is fine, but it’s a little cramped in the rear and the rear door openings are a bit narrow.

The Cherokee’s rear seat dimensions aren’t the most confined in the segment – the Nissan Pathfinder and Toyota 4Runner, for example, are both tighter.

Our Cherokee Sport stacked up pretty well in terms of interior storage, with several bins and cubbies up front and map pockets molded into the door panels. The obligatory cupholders were mounted just to the right shifter, although this location makes a bit of a stretch for the driver.

There’s a fair-sized cargo compartment behind the rear seats, and like all compact sport/utilities the Cherokee’s rear seat folds flat to expand this volume considerably. No split-folding rear seatback option is offered, however.

The one new element in the Cherokee’s interior for 1995, a driver’s airbag, is a welcome one. Jeep enhanced the Cherokee’s crash-protection credential last year by adding side-impact door beams and the whole upper body structure has been reinforced for better performance in rollovers.

There’s no anti-lock brake (ABS) feature on the basic Cherokee SE, but 4-wheel ABS is available as a option on 6-cylinder models.

Driving Impressions

Although the Cherokee may lack the refinement of some of the new sport/utes, it can definitely hold its own in traffic. The line from Dave Dudley’s classic truckin’ song applies here: “Well, my rig’s a little old, but that don’t mean she’s slow.”

The combination of low weight and plentiful power gave our Cherokee exceptionally peppy acceleration. In fact, it’s livelier than just about any vehicle in its class with the exception of the V8-powered Grand Cherokee.

Handling is also lively, at least by sport/utility standards. The Cherokee changes direction with agility, exhibiting less body roll than most in the process.

Ride quality is another story, however, Our Cherokee Sport was a trifle harsh in this respect, with a stiff response to sharp bumps, potholes and broken pavement. Newer sport/utilities are substantially smoother in the ride department.


With more than a decade behind it, the Cherokee’s popularity doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. But it has evolved.

At one point it was a fashionable pacesetter, and certain editions – notably the old Cherokee Limited – commanded premium prices.

That role has been taken over by the Grand Cherokee. Today’s Cherokee figures at the bargain buy in the compact sport/utility realm, much as the boxy old Isuzu Trooper once did.

No one would call it refined anymore. But it does offer a full range of sport/utility capabilities, including creditable performance off-road with either of its two 4WD options.

With the 6-cylinder engine – the same engine that’s standard in the Grand Cherokee – the Cherokee’s all-around performance is very good. And its safety features are certainly mainstream for compact sport utilities.

We should also note that ordering a Cherokee doesn’t mean committing yourself to the automotive equivalent of a cheap motel. There’s a long, long list of available options to make the going more pleasant.

But the Cherokee’s basic story is competent affordability. And that’s what it delivers.