Before the Jeep Cherokee and Jeep Grand Cherokee became the SUVs that we see and admire today, these vehicles enjoyed careers as SUVs that were introduced in a variety of ways to the industry. The Cherokee specifically is a vehicle that can be looked at as one that pioneered much of what we see on the road today when we think of what a crossover SUV is and how it’s built. Even though Jeep didn’t have a sedan in its lineup, the Cherokee stood out as something different and certainly has had an interesting history for us to admire.
First Unibody SUV – When the Jeep Cherokee first hit the market in 1984, it was something completely different from what Jeep and all other SUV manufacturers were offering on the road for the drive. This SUV showed off with an incredible unibody construction that set it apart from the rest of the market which was still using the body on frame platforms.
Performing the Right Way – While the Jeep Cherokee might have been smaller and built using a unibody construction, it offered the ability to tow up to 5,000 pounds and had an incredible 71 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats. This SUV showed off the capability needed to make it a model that took up less space and gave us the performance we desired on the roads and trails.
Practicality – At the time the original Jeep Cherokee was offered it was the first to offer a four-door option to make the drive the way we wanted. Other models on the market were stuck in the two-door class and didn’t give us the opportunity to have room for more people to sit in the rear seat with us as we drove on the road. This made the Cherokee a great choice for families to have the drive desired.
4WD and Ground Clearance – As the first unibody model, the Cherokee had to prove it was much more than just a jacked up station wagon and it certainly did that with ease. This impressive SUV gave us 8.3 inches of ground clearance and a pair of solid axles to give the 4WD capability needed to get out on the trails and have a great drive in this capable model.
Last AMC Engine – The engine used in the first Cherokee was a 4.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine that would be the final motor ever developed by AMC. This was an engine that offered 190 horsepower and 231 lb.-ft. of torque, which was impressive at the time and it, used a four-speed automatic transmission for the drive that was desired and enjoyed.
Engine Struggles – Moving forward with the Jeep Cherokee, AMC had a difficulty with finding the clear path forward for the engine area and offered items such as a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that had a hard time with only 105 horsepower and a 2.8-liter V6 that only offered 115 ponies from under the hood. This forced Jeep to make some changes regarding this area of the SUV.
Flooded the Market – The Jeep Cherokee became such a popular model on the roads between its first year in 1984 and 2001 that we saw nearly three million models sold and put out on the road. This made it easy to see that unibody SUV models were to be the future of the SUV market for the drive and what we wanted on the roads that we drive every day.
Wait, it Came Sooner – When you look back in the Jeep history, the Cherokee name was actually stated in 1974 with the SJ model, but this was a model that didn’t give us the unibody construction or the four-doors that made the Cherokee reach its popularity. This was sold as a smaller model of the Wagoneer for four years and then it added four-doors until the model change after 1983.
Revived but Maintained – The Cherokee name was revived in the US in 2014, but it lived outside the US for many years with several different builds. In North America, the model that we saw that were similar to the Cherokee was the Liberty which eventually left the market in favor of the return of the Cherokee name that we’ve known and loved.
Comparing Then to Now – The current version of the Cherokee is 5.1 inches longer than the original, but it offers 15 cubic feet less cargo room. The body has changed and the power is much different from what we saw in the original. Even so, the original model gave us the feeling and understanding that the Jeep Cherokee was the future for the SUV market.
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