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Introduced for the 1984 model year, the Jeep Cherokee is considered by many to be the original modern-day SUV. Its unibody construction and compact size helped bring the vehicle class off the mountain and into suburban America. After nearly 20 years of production, the Cherokee was discontinued in the U.S. following the 2001 model year and replaced by the Jeep Liberty. As a compact SUV, the vehicle competed with such alternatives as the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Mazda Tribute.

Jeep Cherokee Styling

The Jeep Cherokee went through two generations of design. The newest Cherokee, which debuted for the 1997 model year, shared an almost identical exterior design as the iconic original. A smoother nose and corners accompanied new taillights as the only major modifications. Additional plastic door molding and a steel tailgate were also new additions to the new model. As with the previous body style, the 2nd-generation Jeep Cherokee was available in either a 2-door or 4-door configuration.

Inside, an updated cabin included a revised dashboard with an overhauled instrument panel. The use of a stiffer frame addressed previous complaints about vibration and road noise. Front bucket seats and a rear bench seat accommodated up to five passengers.

Jeep Cherokee Trim Levels

The 2nd-generation Jeep Cherokee originally came in three trim levels – SE, Sport and Country. The Country was dropped from the lineup following the 1997 model year. Two new trims – Classic and Limited – debuted for the 1998 model year. The SE and Classic were discontinued after the 2000 model year, leaving only the Sport and Limited models for the final year of production.

The 2001 Jeep Cherokee Sport came standard with power steering, stereo system with cassette player, folding rear seat, variable intermittent wipers, rear defogger and all-terrain tires. The Limited added a leather-wrapped steering wheel, power mirrors, rear wiper with washer, floormats and a roof rack. Available feature upgrades were abundant, and included air conditioning, automatic-off headlights, power accessories, keyless entry, leather upholstery, interior wood-grain trim, cruise control and CD player.

Jeep Cherokee Performance

The base engine for the 2nd-generation Jeep Cherokee was a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that delivered 125 horsepower and 150 lb-ft. of torque. All model trims besides the SE came standard with a 4.0-liter 6-cylinder engine that upped performance to 190 horsepower and 225 lb-ft. of torque. The 4-cylinder came mated with either a 5-speed manual transmission or 3-speed automatic. The 6-cylinder switched the 3-speed automatic for a 4-speed automatic.

All vehicle models were available in 2-wheel or 4-wheel drive. 4WD models also featured a 2-speed transfer case. An Up Country upgrade package was available that included a limited-slip differential, off-road suspension, improved engine cooling, tow hooks and skid plates.

Jeep Cherokee Safety

Dual front airbags were the only major standard safety features available on the Jeep Cherokee. Antilock brakes were available as an optional upgrade. In NHTSA crash tests performed on the 1999 Jeep Cherokee, the SUV scored a 3-star rating (out of five stars) in the categories of driver front impact and passenger front impact.