Midsize SUV; Built in USA
  • 2-door wagon
  • 4-door wagon
  • longitudinal front-engine/rear- or 4-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,600 – $4,400*


1997 Jeep Cherokee


1998 Jeep Cherokee


1997 Jeep Cherokee interior


1998 Jeep Cherokee


1998 Jeep Cherokee


1997 Jeep Cherokee

Pros:
  • Acceleration (6-cylinder)
  • Optional antilock brakes
  • Cargo room
  • Passenger room
Cons:
  • Acceleration (4-cylinder)
  • Fuel economy

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.

Overview

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 cupholders.

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.

Yearly Updates

1998 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 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 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 Cherokee
Cherokee dropped its 4-cylinder engine and base SE and uplevel Classic models for 2001. Both remaining models gained rear child-seat anchors.

Engines

longitudinal front-engine/rear- or 4-wheel drive

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.

ohv I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.5/150
Engine HP 125
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 150
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
3-speed automatic
21/25
19/22
ohv I6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 4.0/242
Engine HP 190
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 225
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
18/22
16/21
17.0
15.0

Road Test

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 shift.

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 natural.

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 changing.

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.

Some Cherokees we tested when new had occasional interior rattles, as well as wider-than-usual panel gaps around the hood and tailgate.

Ratings

Model Tested: 1999 Jeep Cherokee Sport

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.

Performance

Acceleration - 4
40%
Fuel Economy - 3
30%
Ride Quality - 3
30%
Steering/Handling - 3
30%
Quietness - 3
30%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 3
30%
Room/Comfort Front - 3
30%
Room/Comfort Rear - 3
30%
Cargo Room - 7
70%

Other

Value - 6
60%

Total: 38

Specifications

2-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
101.4 167.5 69.4 63.9
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
69 20 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
37.8 38 41.4 35
4-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
101.4 167.5 69.4 64
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
69 20 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
37.8 38 41.4 35
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1999 Cherokee 4-door wagon

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 3
60%
Front Passenger Injury - 3
60%

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - 3
60%
Rear Passenger Injury - 5
100%

HLDI

(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision 97
Injury 78
Theft 136

Trouble Spots

Air conditioner
Description: The air conditioner gradually stops blowing cool air because the evaporator ices up. Replacing the low-pressure cycling switch usually fixes it. (1997-99)
Brake noise
Description: 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)
Brakes
Description: The 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
Description: 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)
Vehicle shake
Description: Vibration at speeds over 60 mph may be due to a misaligned or defective driveshaft. (1997-98)
Windshield washer
Description: Because of a bad check valve, windshield washer fluid drips from the nozzle for the rear window and can cause paint staining. (1997)

Recall History

1997
Description: Accuracy of fuel-tank-mounted fuel-level sending unit can degrade over time, indicating significantly more fuel in reserve than is actually present.
1997-99 sold or registered in 15 states or Washington, D.C.
Description: Front-disc brake rotors can experience severe corrosion if operated for extensive period in the “salt belt.”
1997-99
Description: Water and/or road salt in proximity of airbag-control module could lead to corrosion and possible inadvertent deployment.
1998
Description: Power-brake booster-vacuum reservoir diaphragm can split or tear, causing increase in engine-idle speed and loss of power assist during brake application.
1998
Description: Due to improperly hardened front-seatbelt shoulder turning-loop anchors, front-seat occupant might not be properly restrained in a crash.
2000 w/4.0-liter engine
Description: Debris can accumulate in the intake and exhaust manifolds, increasing the risk of fire.
2001
Description: 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.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.

Pricing

Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.