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Cheap and loaded with rugged character, dual airbags, optional ABS, optional full-time 4WD, optional 4.0-liter six-cylinder engine
Rugged character result of ancient engineering, uncomfortable rear seat folds but doesn't split
Available Cherokee Models
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A new interior sporting modern instrumentation debuts. Front and rear styling is refined, and the rear liftgate is now stamped from steel. Multiplex wiring is designed to improve reliability of the electrical system, while a new paint process aims to polish the finish of all Cherokees.
Some things never change much, and the Jeep Cherokee is one of those mainstays. Unlike its posh--and bigger--Grand Cherokee brother, which keeps adding comforts and graceful touches, the ever-practical, affordable Cherokee simply keeps on rolling, looking little different now than it did a dozen years ago. This year, however, the Cherokee benefits from some overdue updates, including a new interior with dramatically improved instrumentation.
Utilitarian and upright it is, but with a compelling personality that even the Grand Cherokee lacks. Cherokee's squared-off edges are a bit rounder for 1997, with revised styling front and rear. Inside, the new interior includes dual airbags, new controls and displays, and a new climate control system that improves air flow and reduces interior noise. Fresh door trim panels, illuminated power mirror and power window switches, and a revised floor console round out the major interior changes. Four adults fit inside the Cherokee in reasonable comfort, with fine head room. Rear leg room is lacking, in a very short seat, and entry to the rear is constricted by a narrow door. Worth noting is the fact that the rear bench folds but doesn't offer a split, meaning you can't haul a toddler and a treadmill simultaneously.
Relatively refined on the road, the compact Cherokee is capable of strutting its stuff when the going gets rough. Acceleration is brisk with the 4.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine, courtesy of 190 horsepower, and we highly recommend this upgrade if you select the SE model. With the 4.0-liter engine, the Cherokee puts the "sport" into sport utility.
SE and Sport models can have two or four doors, while the step-up Country edition is four-door only. All are available with either two- or four-wheel drive. Command-Trac part-time four-wheel drive allows shift-on-the-fly operation. Selec-Trac is Jeep's full-time four-wheel drive system. Standard gear includes power steering, tinted glass, and power front disc brakes. Four-wheel anti-lock braking is optional (six-cylinder only), as are power windows and door locks, keyless entry system, cruise control, air conditioning, and leather seats.
Other refinements for 1997 include new wiring designed to reduce complexity and improve reliability. The rear liftgate is now stamped from steel and features hidden hinges. This new design is lighter and easier to operate, with a new exterior handle and interior pull-down strap. Bumper end caps and side moldings are better integrated into the Cherokee's design, and front windows are ventless for improved visibility. Larger exterior mirrors make it easier to see out of the Cherokee, while new door seals battle to keep dust and noise from filtering into the cabin. Finally, new robotic spray equipment at the factory makes metallic paint colors look better.
Despite its age, the original compact Jeep sport utility remains a sensible choice in its field, more capable than most of heading into the woods at a moment's notice. What more can anyone ask of a moderately-priced on/off-roader?
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