Car enthusiasts love the Jeep Cherokee XJ for roughly the same reason rebel armies love the AK-47: It's reliable, cheap, effective, and absolutely classic. Therefore, the reveal of the crossovery 2014 Jeep Cherokee led many Jeep faithful to reach for their nearest available rifle and point it directly at their computer or themselves. They were wrong. The new Cherokee is an improvement in many ways.
I love an XJ just like everyone else. It's the Miata of offroaders. Or maybe the E30 of offroaders. It's the only car you'd ever need or ever want. Go to a forum and ask people what you should buy and they'll tell you an XJ (even if your parameters are: convertible, V8, sports car).
It's styling is classic, which is to say minimalist, which is to say simple, which is to say unrecreatable for the modern world. The hatred of certain Jeep fans towards the new Juke-fighting nose is strong, but those people are probably wrong. I haven't driven the new Jeep, so it's possible it's actually terrible, but there are some simple reasons why this new Cherokee is better.
1. The Original XJ Wasn't A Truck
You know that ladder-and-frame XJ you miss? It doesn't exist. When AMC owned Jeep they invested $250 million Reagan-bucks into the XJ and its shorter, narrower, and lower unibody platform. That sound familiar? I'm sure if the Internet existed then everyone would be hearing about how the XJ was going to ruin everything pure about the SJ.
2. It's More Powerful
The best version of the XJ was the 4.0-liter inline-six. That's a bulletproof engine. Yet, at best, it produced 190 horsepower and 225 lb-ft of torque. Now you're getting 271 horsepower and 239 lb-ft of torque out of the six-cylinder engine. Want the smaller version? You're still getting 184 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque.
3. It's Dimensionally Better
Comparing a stock XJ to a stock 2014 Cherokee on off-road ability will be fun. Someone will do it. Maybe it will be us. The approach angle, departure angle, and break-over angle are going to be an important part of that.
Here's how they stack up:
- Approach Angle: 38º (XJ) versus 29.8º (2014)
- Departure Angle: 31º (XJ) versus 32.1º (2014)
- Breakover Angle: 21º (XJ) versus 23.2º (2014)
That's fairly similar and, approach angle aside (welcome to the cruel modern world) it's better.
4. It's Taller
The stock ground clearance on an XJ was 7.3 inches for a stock Cherokee and 8.3 inches for the Upcountry versions. The running ground clearance of the new Trailhawk Cherokee? 8.7 inches. Booyah.
5. Its Crawl Ratio Is Nearly Double
The crawl ratio is a measure of the lowest gear a vehicle is capable of getting into, which is important if you're going to try and crawl over something (thus the name). The stock crawl ratio in the Trailhawk is 56:1, nearly double that of the XJ.
6. It's More Fuel Efficient
The best mileage any Jeep XJ with AWD could produce was 20 mpg. The best the Jeep can produce is 31 MPG. We'll see what the Trailhawk ultimately gets, but a disconnectable rear-locker plus the nine-speed transmission means it'll almost certainly be a massive improvement. The big drawback, of course, is no manual transmission. Sad.