What's New for 2001
With the redesigned Jeep Cherokee's debut pushed back until the summer of 2001 as a 2002 model, the current model will remain in place for the 2001 model year with minor changes. The 4.0-liter PowerTech inline-six engine is standard equipment in all 2001 Cherokees, with the 2.5-liter inline four, along with the SE trim, dropped. The previous Limited trim is also dropped, with the former Classic trim now labeled Limited. All 2001 Cherokees offer child seat tethers as standard equipment.
Unlike its posh and bigger Grand Cherokee sibling, which keeps adding comfort features and graceful touches, the ever-practical Cherokee simply keeps trudging forward, looking little different now from when it was first introduced in 1984. But that's all going to change with the 2002 model, which sees the first serious redesign of the venerable Jeep model.
This redesign was supposed to happen for the 2001 model year, but supplier problems forced Chrysler to delay the new Cherokee until summer 2001 as a 2002 model. The next Cherokee will completely break from the current model's boxy, but functional, styling. Watch for the hip-to-be-square Cherokee to go rounded and bear a striking resemblance to the current Grand Cherokee.
Despite the redesign delay, 2001 sees one fundamental improvement to this Jeep's pedigree. Because the SE has been cancelled, the Cherokee nabs the 4.0-liter PowerTech inline six-cylinder as standard equipment in all trim levels, giving the wimpier 2.5-liter inline four the boot. This 4.0-liter makes 190 horsepower at 4,600 rpm and 225 foot-pounds of torque at 3,000 rpm. It also complies with the U.S. low-emission vehicle (LEV) requirements. The PowerTech engine can be mated to a five-speed manual or an optional three-speed automatic transmission.
The Cherokee is one of the few SUVs that can actually balance on- and off-road duties. The coil-front/rear-leaf suspension continues to provide a smooth ride, while the Command-Trac (part-time) and Select-Trac (full-time) transfer cases are still around to help buyers escape far beyond the realms where more luxurious SUVs lame out. For buyers who like the Cherokee's style but tend to be city folk, two-wheel drive is still available for 2001.
While the Classic name is gone, that model effectively becomes the top-of-the-line Limited for 2001, meaning it was really the Limited that was dropped - got it? Anyway, Sport models come in either two- or four-door versions with standard dual front airbags, an AM/FM cassette player with four speakers, a tachometer, cloth high-back bucket seats, a folding rear seat, 225-series tires on 15-inch steel wheels, a spare tire cover, and a rear window defroster. Top-of-the-line Cherokee Limiteds are available only in four-door configurations and include all of the above, along with a carpeted cargo area, floor mats, power mirrors, a roof rack, a rear window wiper/washer, and 16-inch wheels and tires. Additionally, for 2001, child seat tethers are standard on all Cherokee models.
Competition in this segment has heated up in the last few years -- first from Toyota's RAV4 and Honda's CR-V, and more recently from the Nissan Xterra and Ford Escape. Even with its reputation as an off-road romper, the Cherokee is in need of a freshening. Next year, assuming Chrysler's suppliers get their act together, it will get one.