The first mainstream Jeep Cherokee SUV arrived in showrooms in 1984 and set the stage for its second generation of family-friendly SUVs. It's been updated through the years, had a break in time with the Cherokee name, but has remained timeless in the SUV class.
Second Generation (1984-2001)
The second generation changed little over the course of its long run. It is known as the first off-road focused American SUV with a unibody and ladder-box design. It was offered with rear-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive. Two- and four-door versions were offered, along with four- and six-cylinder powertrains, and manual automatic transmissions. Engine options included a 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder, a 2.8-liter V6, a 2.1-liter turbo diesel, a 2.5-liter turbo diesel, and a 4.0-liter inline-six. The 2.8-liter and 2.1 turbo diesel were both short-lived options, and the 2.5-liter four-cylinder was available until the Cherokee’s mid-cycle refresh in 1996. The Cherokee was available in three trim levels: Base, Pioneer and Chief
Cherokee received a refresh in 1996, with exterior updates that included adding smoother lines, revised tail lights, and replacing the fiberglass liftgate with a steel one.
Trims included the base model that was later changed to SE, the Sport, the Classic, the Laredo, the Limited, the Pioneer, and the Wagoneer. They were mostly distinguished by their interiors and material changes. The Pioneer, Laredo, and Limited included additional luxuries like air conditioning, keyless entry, and power seats. The Limited trims also included special badging, colors, and wheels.
In 2001 the Jeep Cherokee was discontinued after more than 20 years of production and replaced with the Jeep Liberty.
2002-2013 (Jeep Cherokee was not produced in this time period)
Third Generation (2014-Present)
Jeep brought back the Cherokee name for 2014, replacing the Liberty name. Styling changed with smoother lines, consistent with other modern SUVs, but Cherokee still featured off-road capabilities. A 2.4-liter four-cylinder or a 3.2-liter V6 engine was offered and paired with a 9-speed automatic transmission. Four-wheel drive or three 4X4 systems were available. The base model included a Uconnect touchscreen infotainment system, cloth seating for five, and an optional appearance package.
For 2015, automatic braking was available as well as fuel-saving stop-start technology. Front-wheel drive or choice of three 4X4 systems, as well as adaptive cruise control were available in 2016. Forward collision warning became available in 2017. Automatic emergency braking and a new Latitude Plus trim level was available in 2018.
For 2019, new front-end styling, and a new turbocharged 2.0-liter engine option and hands-free power liftgate became available. Cargo volume increased slightly as well as technology features. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto were now available and a 7- or 8.4-inch touchscreen. More safety and conveniences options were now added. There are five trim levels: Latitude, Latitude Plus, Limited, Overland, Trailhawk. The new Trailhawk off-road trim and either front- or four-wheel drive were available. Equipped with an advanced AWD system known as DriveTrain II, the Cherokee Trailhawk was fitted with all-terrain tires, 17-inch wheels, skid plates, a locking rear differential and a suspension system tuned for enhanced off-roading. The ground clearance was also raised to help with driving over rocks and rough terrain. When properly equipped, the Cherokee has a towing capacity of up to 4,500 pounds. Standard models can tow up to 2,000 pounds.
Several newly standard active safety features come with the 2021 model, including automated emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and lane-keeping assist. The Trailhawk adds a heated steering wheel and front seats as well as remote start. The Overland trim is discontinued and there are five trims and three additional sub trims available: The Latitude, Latitude Plus, Latitude Lux, Limited, and Trailhawk. Additional trims include Altitude, 80th Anniversary Edition, and High Altitude. Engine options include a naturally aspirated four-cylinder, a V6, and a turbocharged four-cylinder. Each is paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission. There are three available four-wheel-drive systems: Jeep Active Drive I, Jeep Active Drive II, and Jeep Active Drive Lock. Front-wheel drive is standard.
The Jeep Cherokee has gone through some changes through the years, adding and taking away trims and keeping up with its time. It will always be remembered as the first family SUV that is packaged with an off-road experience.