Used 1996 Jeep Cherokee Review

Edmunds expert review

What's new for 1996

Cherokee rolls into 1996 with improved engines, new colors, upgraded Selec-Trac four-wheel-drive system, more standard equipment and the same sheet metal that it wore on introduction day in 1983.

Vehicle overview

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. A driver's airbag became standard last year, contributing to the Cherokee's good showing in government crash testing.

Utilitarian and upright it is, but with a compelling personality that even the able Grand Cherokee lacks. Even the dashboard is flat and fully vertical, with full gauges and a high--if modestly sized--glovebox. Four fit in reasonable comfort, with fine head room, but occupants feel a lot snugger inside than in a Grand Cherokee. Rear leg room is lacking, in a very short seat, and entry to the rear is constricted by a narrow door.

Relatively refined on the road, the compact Cherokee is capable of strutting its stuff when the going gets rough. Acceleration is brisk with the "Power Tech" 4.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine, courtesy of 190 horsepower, and we highly recommend this upgrade if you select the SE model. Revisions to the six cylinder result in a Cherokee that is quieter and more responsive than last year. Peak torque and horsepower are made at lower revs as well, contributing to a more brisk feel around town. 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. Select-Trac is Jeep's full-time four-wheel drive system, and it benefits from upgrades this year. 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, speed control, air conditioning, and leather seats. New this year are standard heavy-duty battery and alternator, and intermittent wipers. Five new colors are available.

Archaic? Of course, but 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?

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.