Jeep Cherokee XJ Specs and Review

Since its launch in the ’80s, the Jeep Cherokee XJ has captivated the riding community with its pragmatic features, powertrain options, and off-roading competencies. It was one of the first few vehicles to offer superb handling and a turbocharged engine. While its overall appeal may be ranked modest at best, this vehicle packs a punch with its functionality and resilience – and is not to be taken lightly.

The Jeep Cherokee XJ series spawned the sub-utility vehicle segment and was a precursor to the station wagons we know of today. Introduced in 1984, this 4×4 sported a unibody framework, powerful engine configurations, and long-travel suspension unheard of during its time.

New-age vehicle owners may not be familiar with the Cherokee. But for knowing enthusiasts, the worth of this 4×4 is definitely not a dime a dozen. After all, not too many vintage wheelers can boast capabilities that still prove to be a good match even for present-day SUVs and station wagons. Continue reading this guide and learn more about this iconic wheeler’s specs, features, and other notable attributes.

Red Jeep Cherokee Limited Off-Road

About the Jeep Cherokee XJ

Jeep Cherokee XJ (XJ meaning eXperimental Jeep) is part of Jeep’s line of SUVs that originally began as a Jeep Wagoneer (SJ) variant. Produced from 1984 to 2001 (up to 2005 in Beijing), this 2-door station-wagon precursor charmed enthusiasts with its serious off-roading capabilities and build potential. Unlike older Jeep vehicles with multi-leaf springs, this 4×4 boasted an all-new coil suspension but kept everything else, including its styling and overall design, in classic fashion.

As if praiseworthy qualities were not enough, the 5th-generation Cherokees (post-1999 iterations) offered the following trims – on top of several configurations (note that the list below is non-exhaustive):

  • Sport
  • Latitude
  • Latitude Plus/Lux
  • Altitude
  • High Altitude
  • Trailhawk
  • Limited
  • Limited X
  • Summit
  • Overland
  • 4xe

History’s Most Influential SUV

The Jeep Cherokee XJ was such a big shot that it was and still is deemed by the off-roading community as the trendsetter of the Sub-Utility Vehicle segment. But despite this prestige, the Cherokee remains affordable, especially in the used market. Its concept and design are so solid, it has inspired newer Jeep Grand Cherokee XJ versions – among them the 2016 Jeep Cherokee Sport and 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe (plug-in hybrid).

2000 Jeep Cherokee XJ Specs & Features

Engine

Whether it is petrol or diesel-fed, the Jeep Cherokee XJ comes equipped with either a 2.5-L 4-cylinder or a 4.0-L 6-cylinder engine. Respective bore-stroke ratios for each are 98.4 x 81.0 mm (3.88 x 3.19 inches) and 98.4 x 86.69 mm (3.88 x 3.413 inches). The compression ratio for the 150 cu-in power mill is 9.1:1, while the 242 cu-in one has 8.8:1. Both powerplants share a liquid-cooled (Forced circulation) cooling system and a pressure feed, full-flow filtration for their lubrication system. Overall, these engine configurations lend to a top-speed rating of 112-116 mph (180-187 km/h).

Fuel & Lubrication

OEM-specified fuel tank capacity is 76.4 L/20.2 US gallons of high-quality unleaded gasoline or diesel with a minimum PON 87 rating, containing < 15% MBTE or < 10% ethanol. Fuel variants containing methanol are discouraged due to their properties, potentially leading to drivability issues or fuel component damage.

Lubrication-wise, oil capacities with filter change are 3.8 L/4.01 US quarts (2.5-L/150 in3 Inline-4 engine) and 5.7 L/6.0 US quarts (4.0-L/242 in3 Straight-6 engine). Recommended engine oil is SAE 15W-40 or 10W-40 with an API grade of SJ+, meeting JASO T903 MA standards (or API Classification CD+ meeting CCML D4, D5, or MIL 2104C standards for diesel-fed Cherokees). Other viscosity grades – such as SAE 5W-40, 10W-30, or 8W-80 – are permitted following ambient temperature. Refer to the service manual for transmission, transfer case, and cooling system fluid capacities.

Powertrain

Standard models offer either a 5-speed manual transmission or a 3-/4-speed automatic transmission mated to an NV231 or NV242 transfer case and a one-way clutch assembly delivering power to the wheels. A rack-and-pinion steering system and cardan shaft handle wheelspin. The NV3550 manual transmission and 3-speed 30RH automatic transmission (with a lock-up clutch in the torque converter) go with the 2.5-L turbo diesel engine and NV231 transfer case offering 2WD, 4×4, and 4-Lo (2.72:1 reduction ratio) operating ranges.

The 30RH transmission, in particular, has a P-R-N-D-2-1 gearshift sequence and 2.74:1 (1st), 1.54:1 (2nd), and 1.00:1 (3rd) gear ratios. Meanwhile, the 5-speed AX5 manual and 4-speed AW-4 automatic trannies mate to a Selec-Trac NV242 transfer case providing full-time 2WD/4WD, part-time 4×4, and 4-Lo operation ranges. Specifically, the 4-speed AW-4 auto transmission has a 4th gear overdrive with a 0.75:1 ratio. These selectable driveline modes actuate via a flick of the dash switch.

Ignition

The ignition system of the Jeep Cherokee XJ consists of the ignition coil, secondary ignition cables, camshaft-driven mechanical distributor, MAP/CMP/TPS/IAC/ECT sensors, and spark plugs, and the PCM (Powertrain Control Module) controls it. The 2.5-L and 4.0-L engines have a 12V negative-ground electrical system and require an RC12ECC spark plug with a 0.9 mm (0.035 inches) gap. A belt-driven generator with an 81-124 SAE Amps rated output serves as the vehicle’s charging system.

Jeep Cherokee XJ Off-Road

Tires & Brakes

Stock tires for both front and back are P215/75 R15 Goodyear radials that mount on 15×7 rims – these can swap out for same-brand P225/75 R15, P225/70 R15, or P225/70 R16 tires if you prefer slightly larger knobbies. You may also need to upgrade to 16-inch rims if you go for the latter two (2) options. Anything larger than 16-inch wheels would warrant a Jeep Cherokee XJ lift kit.

Like other Jeep vehicles, the Cherokee comes with a Polyspare tire that can tolerate speeds no higher than 50 mph and only for short distances. Self-adjusting front discs with sliding brake calipers (view on Amazon) and rear drums with dual-diaphragm brake boosters complete the 4×4’s tire-and-wheel assembly.

Suspension

The XJ’s suspension system consists of lower/upper A-arms and bushings, coil springs, and torsion bars for stability. A 101-inch wheelbase (better than the Grand Wagoneer’s) makes for tight cornering angles and maneuverability. Because the vehicle offers a somewhat conservative 8.2-inch (unloaded) ground clearance, some owners opt to give it taller tires and a 3-inch suspension lift kit (view on Amazon) at least.

Some insane 12-inch lift kits are available online – although veterans strongly advise against this, as this mod could impact your Cherokee’s drivability. An aftermarket Jeep Cherokee XJ front bumper (view on Amazon), on the other hand, would be a great addition to your 4×4.

Dimensions & Capacities

Jeep Cherokee XJ dimensions are 4,255 x 1,725 x 1,625 mm (167.5 x 67.9 x 64 inches – L x W x H). The front legroom is quite spacious at 41 inches but may feel a bit restrictive at 35 inches at the back. Luggage capacity is 32.9 ft3, while maximum cargo capacity is 69 ft3. If you want to add an overhead carrier unit, you will need to opt for a 60-inch Jeep Cherokee XJ roof rack system, at least.

The SUV’s curb weight (unloaded) is 1.524 Kg (3,360 lbs.). Depending on your choice of towing package, its maximum loaded trailer weight can range between 1,328 – 1,536 Kg or 2,928 – 3,386 lbs. The Limited X trim can tow up to 2,268 Kg or 5,000 lbs. The Summit and Trailhawk trims can tow up to 3,266 Kg or 7,200 lbs. GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) is 2,223 Kg (4,900 lbs.) – inclusive of rider weight, cargo, and fuel.

Exterior

The Cherokee did not have any features that particularly stood out, such as the Wagoneer’s signature wood panels. But the series did offer several exterior color options throughout its production run. These body colors included Black, Desert Sand, Flame Red, Forest Green, Medium Fern Green, Patriot Blue, Sienna, and Silverstone Metallic – to name a few.

To keep your 4×4’s body paint in near-mint condition, make sure to wash it with cold, running water (not pressurized), wipe it dry with a chamois, and keep it away from direct sunlight. Jeep Cherokee XJ fender flares (view on Amazon) and steel wheels deserve the same treatment. If your wheeler is as adventurous as you, polish its exterior before going out in the wild to help mitigate the effects of extreme exposure to the elements.

Letdowns of a Grand Vehicle

Red Jeep Cherokee XJ Sport

While the Cherokee continues to be an SUV icon, it undeniably has its fair share of flaws that every prospective buyer should know. These include stuck gears, sub-par throttle responsiveness, rough coasting, miserly fuel economy, limited interior space, and unibody construction that proves to be a disadvantage.

Of course, these issues largely depend on the vehicle’s condition (usually brought about by the abuse or hard-driving it has been subjected to). With some tweaking and lots of TLC, a seasoned vehicle owner can get Jeep Cherokee XJ parts and the entire vehicle back to tip-top shape.

Value of a Jeep Cherokee XJ

Compared to its 1984 MSRP amounting to $10,600, secondhand Cherokee XJs now sell between $21,700 and $58,000 in the used market. For a 35-year-old classic wheeler, that’s not doing too bad in the price spectrum. Its average retail price is not far from the 1997 Jeep Cherokee XJ MSRP of $23,420. As for the outgoing 2001 Jeep Cherokee XJ, information about its list price is a bit scarce – I can only assume it did not increase that much compared to its ’97 version.

What Years Were the Best Jeep Cherokees Produced?

Online search results will give you different answers to this question. Some auto blogs and Cherokee-centric forums claim 1996 and 1999 models are the best Cherokees ever sold in the market. Meanwhile, other sources point to 2009-2011 and 2018-2019 being the best production years of the vehicle due to their added safety and performance-enhancing features. On the contrary, several Jeep savants warn against 2014-2016 Cherokee production models, as they seem to be the most problematic.

About Stellantis

Stellantis N.V. (formerly AMC, DaimlerChrysler, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V.) is the maker of the Jeep Cherokee (XJ) series. As one of the “Big Six” automobile manufacturers globally, the multinational firm is well-known for its big-name brands such as Peugeot, Maserati, and its fleet of Jeep vehicles – among others. Despite its tumultuous history, Stellantis was able to beat the odds and is now a luxury-brand powerhouse with a commanding market presence in over 130 countries and over 300,000 employees worldwide.

Conclusion – Jeep Cherokee (XJ) Review

It has been three decades since its inception, And yet, the Jeep Cherokee XJ continues to be well-loved by both Jeep enthusiasts and average consumers. While it laid the foundation for present-day SUVs and station wagons, older versions of this segment trailblazer are now considered an excellent all-rounder – efficiently serving their purpose as a weekend companion, a regular hauler, or trusted daily commuter. Whatever the role may be, the Cherokee continues to be coveted by common folk and adventurers searching for a simple, dependable, yet fun ride.

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