The Jeep Cherokee is an iconic SUV that has changed dramatically over the past 50 years. Historical models have retained a cult-like following, and the newest Cherokee models offer modern amenities and excellent off-road capability for consumers who want the best of both worlds.
Despite these numerous changes, the Cherokee's primary purpose has remained the same: To be one of the most capable and rugged SUVs available on the market.
2014 - Present Jeep Cherokee (KL 3rd Generation)
To replace the old Liberty, Jeep brought back the Cherokee name for 2014. The third-generation Cherokee was the most significant departure from traditional Cherokee styling ever. The compact SUV’s bodystyle featured smooth lines, consistent with other modern SUVs, and did not subtract from the Cherokee's off-road capabilities.
In other markets the Jeep Liberty was branded as the Jeep Cherokee, so you may see the KL generation referred to as the fifth-generation Cherokee, but for the North American market, it is the third generation of Jeep’s compact sport utility vehicle.
Three different four-wheel-drive systems were available depending on the trim level. A 2.4-liter four-cylinder or the 3.2-liter V6 were offered. Both were paired to a 9-speed automatic transmission.
Standard equipment with a base model included a Uconnect touchscreen infotainment system, cloth seating, and an optional appearance package. The Latitude trim offered a higher level of technology and luxury features such as a larger touchscreen and a premium sound system. It replaced the Sport model as the base trim in 2019.
The Trailhawk featured the most off-road-focused features of any other trim level and came with the most advanced four-wheel-drive systems.
Limited trims came with more luxury items such as heated front seats, remote start, and leather upholstery. An additional trim level, the Overland, was added in 2016 to slot above the Limited to add further standard features.
Jeep completed a mid-cycle refresh for 2019, altering the Cherokee's appearance mainly by changing the formerly controversial front fascia. Additional changes include an optional 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and the upgrading of the Cherokee's infotainment systems to provide Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a WiFi hotspot.
For the 2020 model year, The Jeep Cherokee had few changes. A new Advanced Safety Group package included lane departure warning, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, and blind-spot monitoring as optional safety features.
For 2021, many of these features were made standard. Jeep also made changes to standard features across trim levels. Automatic up and down driver and front passenger windows and heated mirrors were added to the base model.
Off-road-oriented Trailhawk models received a heated steering wheel, heated front seats, and a remote start feature. An 80th Anniversary model was also introduced for the year with features like leather seats, power front seats, a sunroof, and a standard 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system.
The 2022 Cherokee saw a reduction in the number of available trim levels, including one new trim level the Chrokee X. X models feature a one-inch lift for additional ground clearance, all-terrain tires, special badging and graphics, and the V6 engine as standard.
The 8.4-inch touchscreen became standard across the range, and Latitude Lux models were upgraded to include a digital gauge cluster, dual-zone climate control, and a 115-volt power outlet.
For 2023 the compact crossover received another reduction in available trim levels, down to two, as it prepared to end production.
The base model equipped with front-wheel drive was discontinued, which means all 2023 models offer all-wheel drive. Entry-level Altitude Lux trim Cherokees were powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with 180 horsepower.
Top-tier Cherokee Trailhawk trim featured a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder making 270 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque to replace the previous year’s V6 powertrain. The new powertrain was nearly equivalent in power figures and gained 2 MPG in fuel economy.
Max towing capacity is reduced to 4000 pounds for Trailhawk models optioned with the Trailer Two Group package, 500 pounds less than the previous year.
Jeep plans to discontinue the Cherokee nameplate, making the 2023 model year the final Cherokee.
1984 - 2001 Jeep Cherokee (XJ 2nd Generation)
The second-generation Cherokee “XJ“is perhaps the most widely-known and most famous Jeep model to date, aside from the Jeep Wrangler, as it was considered instrumental in the historical development of 4x4 SUV. They can still be easily found as used vehicles and are slowly increasing in value as their collectible status rises. Similarly to the first generation Cherokee, the second generation remained generally the same in terms of styling.
It is known as the first off-road-focused American SUV with a unibody, ladder-box design as well as Jeep's first all-new vehicle design since 1963. It was offered with rear-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive as well as two or four doors and an automatic or manual transmission.
Over the years, 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.
Although a mid-cycle refresh came in 1996, little changed. Exterior updates included adding slightly smoother lines to its still boxy appearance, revised taillights, and replacing the fiberglass liftgate with a steel one. Various trim levels were offered through the XJ's lifespan, with several special editions sneaking into the lineup.
The base model – later changed to SE – the Sport, the Classic, the Laredo, the Limited, the Pioneer, and the Wagoneer were the most longstanding trim levels, mostly distinguished by interior cosmetics and material changes. Some trims like the Pioneer, Laredo, and Limited included additional luxuries like air conditioning, keyless entry, and power seats. Most limited trims included special badging, colors, and wheels.
1974 - 1983 Jeep Cherokee (SJ 1st Generation)
The very first Jeep Cherokee was spun off from the Jeep Wagoneer to replace the Jeepster Commando. The Cherokee was mostly a Wagoneer that was changed from a four-door to a two-door by eliminating the C-pillar.
As the Wagoneer was more like a big, rugged station wagon, the Cherokee was designed to cater more to younger buyers who needed less space for a family. Because the Cherokee was simply a shorter Wagoneer, there were not many differences between the two models.
It came with a plethora of engine options, including the 401 AMC V8, which produced 215 horsepower and could out-perform nearly every other competitor. Other engine options included a 5.9-liter V8 with a two-barrel carburetor that produced 175 horsepower, a 4.2-liter inline-six that produced 110 horsepower, a four-barrel carbureted 360 V8 engine, and a turbo diesel.
A four-speed manual transmission came standard on all Cherokees, while a General Motors Turbo-Hydramatic automatic was optional until 1979 when it was replaced the Chrylser TorqueFlite automatic. Automatic Cherokees received a full-time four-wheel-drive system, and a transfer case with a low range was equipped as standard for manual transmission vehicles.
They were little changes through the first generation's life, with a few exceptions. The Cherokee Chief package was introduced in 1976 as an additional trim with extended fenders and a wider track for larger tires.
The base, sport, Laredo, Golden Hawk, and Golden Eagle trim – which was only offered for the 1979 year – were the only trims offered throughout the first generation and included little more than cosmetics and visual differences. A four-door model was introduced for 1977.