Jeep Cherokee (XJ)

For other vehicles using this name see Jeep Cherokee
Jeep Cherokee (XJ)

1984– 1996 Jeep Cherokee 2-door
Manufacturer Jeep (American Motors Corporation, later Chrysler)
Also called
  • Jeep Wagoneer (1984-1990)
  • Beijing-Jeep BJ 2021 (4WD)[1]
  • Beijing-Jeep BJ 7250 (2WD)[1]
  • 1984–2001 (USA)
  • 1984–2009 (China)
  • 1987–2001 (Venezuela)
  • 1996–2000 (Argentina)
  • 1992–2001 (Egypt)
  • 1992-2000 (Southeast Asia)
Body and chassis
Class Compact SUV
Body style
Layout Front-engine, rear-wheel drive / Four-wheel drive
Wheelbase 101.4 in (2,576 mm)
  • 1987-1990: 165.3 in (4,199 mm)
  • 1991-93: 168.8 in (4,288 mm)
  • 1994-96: 166.9 in (4,239 mm)
  • 1997-2001: 167.5 in (4,254 mm)
  • 1987-1993: 70.5 in (1,791 mm)
  • 1994-96: 67.7 in (1,720 mm)
  • 1997-99: 67.9 in (1,725 mm)
  • 2000-01: 69.4 in (1,763 mm)
  • 1987-88 2WD: 63.4 in (1,610 mm)
  • 1987–1993: 63.3 in (1,608 mm)
  • 1994–99 2WD: 63.9 in (1,623 mm)
  • 1994-2001 4WD: 64.0 in (1,626 mm)
  • 2000–01 2WD: 63.8 in (1,621 mm)
Curb weight 3,357 lb (1,523 kg) (approx.)
Predecessor Jeep Cherokee (SJ)
Successor Jeep Liberty (KJ)

The Jeep Cherokee (XJ) is a compact SUV that was manufactured and marketed by Jeep from 1984 to 2001. Sharing the name of the original full-size SJ model, but without a traditional body-on-frame chassis, the XJ instead featured a light-weight unibody design,[3] precursor to the modern sport utility vehicle (SUV).

The XJ spawned competitors as other automakers began to notice that this Jeep design began replacing regular cars.[4] It also began to supplant the role of the station wagon and "transformed from truck to limousine in the eyes of countless suburban owners."[5] The XJ is a "significant link in the evolution of the 4x4."[6]

Built in Toledo, Ohio; Beijing, China; Ferreyra, Argentina; Cairo, Egypt; and in Valencia, Venezuela, the XJ provided the mechanical basis for the MJ-series Jeep Comanche pickup truck.

Noted automotive journalist Robert Cumberford, writing for Automobile, called the Jeep XJ one of the 20 greatest cars of all time for its design, and "possibly the best SUV shape of all time, it is the paradigmatic model to which other designers have since aspired".[5] The XJ was also selected in 2011 as one of "10 cars that refuse to die" by Kiplinger.[7]


Designs of the compact-size XJ Cherokee date back to 1978 when a team of American Motors (AMC) and Renault engineers drew several sketches. Clay models were based on the then current full-size SJ Cherokee. Early sketches of the XJ Cherokee had a European influence, and most of the styling cues were done by AMC engineers under the direction of Richard A. Teague, vice president of design.

Noticing that General Motors was developing a new two-door S-10-based Blazer, AMC decided to develop an entirely new four-door model in addition to a two-door version. American Motors' vice president of engineering, Roy Lunn, designed what is known as the "Quadra-Link" suspension, that limited rollovers.[8] Renault's François Castaing developed the drivetrain using a much smaller engine than normally found in 4WD vehicles and reduced the weight of the new model.[9] It "is noteworthy as the first nonmilitary 4x4 with unibody construction."[6] The unconventional design enhanced XJ's durability and off-road capability that eventually won over most critics, even those models with the early underpowered GM engines.[6] The XJ is described "as the first small crossover SUV in the U.S.," with "plenty of the Jeep toughness (and a straight-six engine) built in."[7] The design and market positioning of the XJ, along with the AMC Eagle essentially "foreshadowed the car-based crossover utility-vehicle fad."[6]

Although the XJ models had just been introduced, AMC quickly began development of its successor. To compete against its much larger rivals, the smallest U.S. automaker created a business process that is now known as "product lifecycle management" (PLM) to speed up its product development process.[10][11] By 1985, development and engineering was based on computer-aided design (CAD) software systems while new systems stored all drawings and documents in a central database.[10] The pioneering PLM was so effective that after Chrysler purchased AMC in 1987, it expanded the system throughout its own enterprise.[10]

British TV presenter and motoring expert Quentin Willson described the XJ Jeep as "a real 4x4 icon" and one of the "few truly great cars... which, despite being left behind by newer models, still offer fresh and urgent possibilities. Cars which become more relevant the older they get."[12]


1986–1990 Jeep Wagoneer (XJ)
1994–1997 Jeep Cherokee (XJ) Sport (Australia)
1993–1996 Jeep Cherokee XJ (Japan)
1993-1996 Jeep Cherokee Country XJ (USA)
1998–2001Jeep Cherokee (XJ) Limited

The XJ Cherokee introduced for the 1984 model year was the first Jeep with a ladder-boxed chassis integrated into a single monocoque unit rather than the traditional separate body-on-frame construction. The design was rigid and sturdy, "yet wonderfully lightweight, [the] Uniframe permitted outstanding performance even with AMC's new 2.5-liter/150-cubic-inch four-cylinder engine."[13]

Both two- and four-door versions of the XJ Cherokee were offered throughout its lifetime, each having exactly the same track and wheelbase measurements. Two-door models, however, received longer doors and front seats that could fold forward to assist in rear passenger entry and exit. This was in addition to extended-length rear windows that did not open, although an optional rear vent window was available on some models.

A variation on the Cherokee from 1984 to 1990 was the Jeep Wagoneer. These were unrelated to the similarly named full-sized Grand Wagoneer models that had carried the Wagoneer name before this point. The compact XJ Wagoneer was available in two trim levels: the "Wagoneer" and the "Wagoneer Limited". Both Wagoneers were distinguished from the Cherokee models in 1984 and 1985 by a slightly different grille and a smaller "Jeep" emblem offset to the driver's side. Starting in 1986, they changed to two vertically stacked low and high beam headights (a.k.a. "spider eyes") with front turn signals moved behind the grille. The Wagoneer Limited came with vinyl wood trim on the sides and leather seats embossed with "Limited".

This version was the first to be sold in Europe; it was launched in 1992 in some markets, 1993 for the United Kingdom. Early versions had the 4.0-liter/242-cubic-inch inline six-cylinder engine only; the 2.5-liter (150 CID) engine did not arrive in Europe until 1995. The XJ firewall was notched to accommodate the longer 4.0 L engine.

In mid-1985, a two-wheel-drive version of the Cherokee was added to the lineup. This marked the first time any Jeep product was offered with two-wheel drive since 1967, and was done in the hopes of attracting a few more buyers who did not need (or want to pay for) four-wheel drive. When the XJ Cherokee-based Comanche (MJ) truck was introduced, it was also available in two- and four-wheel drive. The new two-wheel-drive models shared the front suspension (from the track bar, control arms, ball joints) with four-wheel-drive models. Jeep simply used a single axle tube from hub to hub with no differential between, resulting in an inexpensive front suspension.

For 1996, partially to comply with new U.S. OBD-II exhaust and evaporative emissions regulations, the engine management system was upgraded to Chrysler's then-new "JTEC" PCM. This added the side benefits of improving reliability and easing diagnostics.

American Motors's compact XJ Cherokee was to be replaced by a new and larger model known as the ZJ (later named the Jeep Grand Cherokee when introduced in 1993) that was under development by AMC.[14] However, the smaller model's continuing popularity caused Chrysler executives to rethink this decision, and while the ZJ models were introduced in 1993, the XJ models were retained until 2001. The Jeep XJ has remained a popular choice by off-roading enthusiasts due to its potent off-roading capability in stock form. Its popularity has resulted in strong ongoing aftermarket support in the form of a wide variety of products.[15]

Fleet markets

In the early- to mid-1990s, the Jeep Cherokee started becoming popular for government and police use. The Cherokee AHB police package was introduced during the 1992 model year. In response, for 1996, Jeep released a special version of the XJ Cherokee SE for police and fleet use. It featured no interior rear door handles and a revised 190 hp high output version of the 4.0 L "Power-Tech" inline six-cylinder engine. The new HO engine replaced the older 177 hp version of the 4.0 L engine in all installations.

The Cherokee was also made in right hand drive format initially for the United States Postal Service, the side effect of this was it allowed Jeep in later years to enter right hand drive markets — the Cherokee went on sale in both the United Kingdom and Ireland in 1993. It was also sold in Japan, and due to that country's strict shaken laws, many used Japanese-market Cherokees have found their way back to the United States for use by rural mail carriers.[16][17][18]


Name Displacement Layout Fuel Power Torque Notes Years
AMC 150
2464 cc (150 CID) I4, OHV Gasoline 105 hp (78 kW) @ 5000 rpm 132 lb·ft (179 N·m) @ 2800 rpm Single-barrel carburetor 1984–1985
117 hp (87 kW) @ 5000 rpm 135 lb·ft (183 N·m) @ 3500 rpm Renix TBI 1986
121 hp (90 kW) @ 5250 rpm 141 lb·ft (191 N·m) @ 3250 rpm Renix TBI 1987–1990
130 hp (97 kW) @ 5250 rpm 149 lb·ft (202 N·m) @ 3250 rpm Chrysler MPI 1991–1996
2.8L V6 2838 cc (173 CID) V6, OHV Gasoline 115 hp (86 kW) @ 4800 rpm 145 lb·ft (197 N·m) @ 2400 rpm Chevrolet LR2 1984–1986
2.1L TurboDiesel
Douvrin J8S
2068 cc (126 CID) I4, SOHC Diesel 85 hp (63 kW) @ 3750 rpm 132 lb·ft (179 N·m) @ 2750 rpm Renault J8S 1985–1994
(1985–1987 in North America)
AMC 242
3964 cc (242 CID) I6, OHV Gasoline 173 hp (129 kW) @ 4500 rpm 220 lb·ft (300 N·m) @ 2500 rpm Renix MPI 1987
177 hp (132 kW) @ 4500 rpm 224 lb·ft (304 N·m) @ 2500 rpm Renix MPI 1988–1990
190 hp (142 kW) @ 4750 rpm 225 lb·ft (305 N·m) @ 3950 rpm Chrysler MPI, high output 1991–2001
2.5L TurboDiesel
VM 425
2499 cc (153 CID) I4, OHV Diesel 114 hp (85 kW) @ 3900 rpm 221 lb·ft (300 N·m) @ 2000 rpm VM Motori 425 OHV 1994–2001


1997–2001 Cherokee Sport 4-door
1997–2001 Cherokee Sport 2-door (Germany)
A 1997 Cherokee XJ on a rally in Morocco

After 13 years of production, 1997 saw the Cherokee receive updated exterior and interior styling. Both the two- and four-door bodies remained in production, receiving a steel liftgate (replacing the fiberglass one used previously), restyled taillights, additional plastic molding along the doors, as well as a new front header panel that featured more aerodynamic styling. The spare tire was moved from a rear exterior bumper mount to an interior location due to de-contenting the rear bumper. A new, unique spare tire carrier was invented by Peter Gruich while working for Jeep Special Programs that utilized the trailer hitch bar and a unique pivot bracket and although it was the only external spare tire carrier to pass the full Jeep durability test, it was not offered for sale.

The interior was similarly updated with an all-new design and instrument panel featuring the first blow molded symmetrical instrument panel retainer structure. This instrument panel featured a unique cluster/airbag bracket invented by Peter Gruich that allowed the interchange of the two components in order for the vehicle to be sold in the right hand and left hand drive markets with both driver and passenger airbags. A stiffer unibody frame brought improvements to noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH) measurements. Also contributing to NVH improvements were new door seals that reduced wind noise at higher speeds.

In the middle of the 1999 model year, vehicles with the 4.0 L engine received a revised intake manifold. This was done to help counteract smaller exhaust porting on the latest casting of cylinder heads, which was done to meet more stringent emissions control laws. Both the four- and six-cylinder engines were offered through the 2000 model year, though only the straight-six was available in 2001. For the 2000 and 2001 model years, all six-cylinder XJs received a distributorless ignition system using coil-on-plug ignition replacing the "traditional" system previously used; coupled with better exhaust porting and the newer intake manifolds, this gave a minor increase in power over the previous models. Transmission, axle, and transfer case choices were carried over from the previous models.

However, major changes were underway with a new executive, Wolfgang Bernhard, who was known as a "cost-slasher" nicknamed "whirlwind", who came from Mercedes-Benz to turn around Chrysler.[19][20] "One of the first moves Bernhard made when he came to Chrysler in 2000 was to help kill the Jeep Cherokee, an aging, somewhat bland SUV."[21] Thus, the (XJ) Cherokee line was replaced in 2002 by the Jeep Liberty (KJ), although it retained the "Cherokee" nameplate in most foreign markets.

The Cherokee (XJ) remains a popular vehicle among off-roading enthusiasts.[15] Its design has been noted as one of the greatest of all time.[5] Popular Mechanics listed the XJ as one of "the 25 greatest boxy cars of all time".[22]

When (XJ) Cherokee production ended in May 2001, the portion of the Toledo South Assembly Plant devoted to its production was torn down.[23]

Fleet markets

1988 Jeep Cherokee XJ Pioneer Olympic Edition in municipal fleet service as of 2015

By 1997, the XJ Cherokee was still popular in police and government fleets. As expected, production of the Cherokee Special Service Package continued for the 1997 model year into the 2001 model year. It still had the same features as the 1996 Cherokee Special Service Package, but the engine now produced 195 hp (145 kW). In 2001, when the XJ Cherokee ceased production and was replaced by the Jeep Liberty, the Cherokee Special Service Package was discontinued. The Jeep Liberty never featured a special service package, however, police, and government agencies used the Liberty in their fleets.


Name Displacement Layout Fuel Power Torque Notes Years
AMC 150
2464 cc (150 CID) I4, OHV Gasoline 125 hp (93 kW) @ 5400 rpm 150 lb·ft (200 N·m) @ 3250 rpm Chrysler MPI 1997–2000
4.0 Litre
AMC 242
3964 cc (242 CID) I6, OHV Gasoline 190 hp (142 kW) @ 4600 rpm 225 lb·ft (305 N·m) @ 3000 rpm Chrysler MPI, high output 1991–1999
193 hp (144 kW) @ 4600 rpm 231 lb·ft (313 N·m) @ 3000 rpm Chrysler MPI, high output 2000–2001
TurboDiesel 2499 cc (153 CID) I4, OHV Diesel 114 hp (85 kW) @ 3900 rpm 221 lb·ft (300 N·m) @ 2000 rpm VM Motori 425 OHV 1997–2001

Trim levels

Overhead console 1990-1996 (Laredo, Limited, Country, Classic, Briarwood, Wagoneer) As shown in a 1994 Jeep Cherokee Country
1992 Jeep Cherokee Laredo interior with optional leather

Available driveline components

Manual transmissions

Automatic transmissions

Transfer cases

All the transfer cases used on the Cherokee were chain driven with aluminium housings. Command-Trac was standard on XJ models built with 4WD.

NP228/229 has a vacuum switch for 2WD-4WD selection on the fly and a separate manual lever for low range

NP231 has the following settings: 2HI, 4HI, N, 4LO

NP242 has the following settings: 2HI, 4 full-time, 4 part-time, N, 4LO


The Jeep XJ utilizes front and rear solid (live) axles as opposed to independent front and rear axles. This configuration allows the XJ to have superior off-road capability and performance at the expense of some on-road comfort and driveability. Mid-1985 and later two-wheel drive models used the same basic suspension with a single tube connecting axle ends with no differential.

Front axle

Rear axle

Axle gear ratios

Jeep XJs came in several standard gearing ratios:


The Jeep XJ utilizes a coil spring front suspension with a leaf spring rear suspension.

Front suspension

The Quadra-Link front suspension design locates the axle with four leading control arms to control longitudinal movement and rotation about the lateral axis (drive and braking reaction), two above the axle and two below it. A panhard rod, also referred to as a track bar, is used to locate the axle laterally. Two coil springs are seated on top of the axle housing as well as two gas-charged shock absorbers. The suspension used on vehicles with the optional UpCountry package provided one inch of lift over the standard suspension. A sway bar is utilized to reduce body roll in turns.

Rear suspension

The XJ uses a leaf spring rear suspension. Each leaf pack contains four leaf springs with a fixed eye at the front of the spring and a compression-style shackle at the rear of the spring. Two gas-charged shock absorbers are also used, along with a mild anti-sway/anti-roll bar. The suspension used on vehicles with the optional UpCountry package did not employ the rear anti-sway/anti-roll bar and provided one inch of lift over the standard suspension.

XJ in Europe

European passenger version Cherokee XJ

The XJ was introduced to left-hand drive European markets in 1985, one year after its American debut. However, right-hand drive European markets only began to officially receive them (in RHD form) in 1993. Models were offered in both markets until the XJ's discontinuation in 2001, at which point it was replaced by the Jeep Cherokee (KJ) which retained the Cherokee name for sale in Europe despite sharing little mechanical heritage with its predecessor.

A van version of the XJ was offered in addition to the standard passenger vehicles in some European markets. Available in both right- and left-hand-drive models, they were designed to comply with relaxed motor tax regulations in some EU member states governing vehicles intended for primarily commercial use. Both two- and four-door versions are known to have been sold, with the main differences from the standard models being metal panels in place of the rear side windows, no rear seats, and a completely flat cargo area. Two- and four-wheel-drive variants were available, powered by the VM Motori 2.5 L diesel engine mated to the Aisin AX-15 manual transmission. Photographs of this model can be found here.[25]

XJ in China

Chinese built Jeep 2500 version of the Jeep Cherokee XJ

American Motors established the first automobile manufacturing joint venture in the People's Republic of China to assemble the four-door Cherokee.[26] Production continued after Chrysler's buyout of AMC. Chrysler executives were concerned over licit and illicit technology transfers when knock-offs of the Cherokee began appearing in the Chinese market.[27] The Chinese market BJ 7250 and BJ 2021 (rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive respectively) had a raised roof in the rear, as they were often meant to be chauffeur driven.

Production under Mercedes-Benz continued in the partnership that was renamed Beijing-Benz DaimlerChrysler Automotive. The most recent model with an updated grille, headlights, and other upgrades was known as the Jeep 2500[28] and was produced until 2005.[29] It is notable that AMC's original Cherokee design continued to be built and sold after being virtually unchanged for over twenty years.

The design of the Chinese market Jeeps was similar to that of the U.S.-market Jeeps, with the exception of a new front grille and headlamps, as well as new tail lamps. The interior also got a new steering wheel and center console.

The four-cylinder model was named the BJ2500, signifying Beijing Jeep with the 2.5 L AMC straight-4 engine, while the six-cylinder model was named the BJ4000, signifying it had the 4.0 L AMC Straight-6 engine.

After 2009 Beijing Auto Works continued the production of the Chinese-market XJ Cherokee as the BAW Qishi. The Qishi uses a 122 hp 2.0L I4 or a 141 hp 2.4L I4, both old Nissan units, and a 5-slot grille, along with 6 lug wheels.

Cherokee name revival in the U.S.

See also Jeep Cherokee (KL)

On February 22, 2013, Chrysler released press photos of the new replacement for the Liberty, and also announced that the new model would bring back the Cherokee name. The new Cherokee is built on the compact U.S. wide platform, and features a nine-speed automatic, a choice of a 2.4 L Tigershark I4 with Fiat's electro-hydraulic MultiAir 2 variable valve timing and variable valve lift or a 3.2 L V6 based on the Pentastar 3.6 L V6, and front and four-wheel drive (the latter courtesy of Jeep's Selec-Terrain system).[30] The Jeep Liberty is sold outside of North America as the Jeep Cherokee (KK), allowing the new Cherokee to be easily marketed globally. Jeep also believes the Cherokee name will attract previous Jeep owners, because of the name's heritage. The new Cherokee is built in Toledo, Ohio.


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