Chase had a ‘99 Jeep Cherokee, that was stolen recently. Now he needs to find a solid 4x4 that can tow a boat and has a bit of refinement, all with a modest budget. What car should he buy?
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Here is the scenario:
My 1999 Jeep Cherokee was stolen last night and I doubt I’ll ever see it again. I’m looking for something similarly capable off road, as I do enjoy getting out into the woods, but I could use something a little more refined. I would like something in the $7,500 range, something easy to work on with 4WD and a decent towing capacity, because I do have a boat I need to tow. It will be a daily driver but gas mileage is not an issue, because as you can imagine the Jeep was not just a social drinker.
Budget: Up to $7500
Daily Driver: Yes
Location: Asheville, NC
Wants: 4x4, towing capacity, more refinement than the ‘99 Cherokee
Doesn’t want: His car to get stolen again
Chase, we are very sorry to hear about your Jeep. Car theft hits close to home on this website so we do what we can to help make things right. Now, cheap 4x4s are not really my forte’, but I did come across something that I thought looked pretty darn awesome.
Someone is selling a 2000-ish Isuzu Trooper with some tasteful custom upgrades and what appears to be a lot of investment into other parts.
Granted this ad has the classic Craigslist vibe of “I know what I got, no low-ballers” but maybe $5,500 doesn’t seem all that unreasonable considering the amount of work that was done and the fact that it’s a somewhat unique off-roader.
A trooper is a great truck, and a perfect Craigslist find, but if you want comfort and power, I would shoot straight for the late, great Trailblazer SS. A Corvette engine sits ahead of you, leather surrounds you.
Oh shit, people at least $10,000 for a Trailblazer SS. Hm. if only there was a vehicle just like the Trailblazer SS, but more obscure so people didn’t want one. Wait! I knew it.
It’s something that could only have made sense in the wonderful world of Old GM: the Saab 9-7X Aero. It’s the Trailblazer platform, with the Trailblazer SS LS2 engine, but even nicer inside and out. The only thing about it is, well, yeah, it’s a Saab.
The vehicles were basically the same thing, which was a bummer to Saab fans at the time, but makes for an even cooler oddball vehicle now. This one is a mere $4,000-$7,000 depending on how much you want to bargain, looks like it has been recently serviced, and is only a day’s long drive away in PA.
There is a vehicle that was originally marketed to be exactly what you want—a slightly more comfortable XJ Cherokee. That vehicle was the Jeep Grand Cherokee “ZJ,” which shares the XJ’s unibody construction and solid-axle setup, but replaces the rear leaf springs with coils and adds more interior creature comforts.
But, since my Jeep ban has been reinstated by our current editor-in-chief, I cannot recommend you that vehicle, even though it’s perfect for you (But if I were to theoretically recommend the ZJ, I’d suggest only buying a 1993 model with the AW4 automatic or a 1993 or 1994 manual “Holy Grail,” though they’re really rare).
So instead, I’ll recommend the beautiful 2005 Chevy Blazer ZR2 shown above. It’s for sale on Facebook Marketplace right there in Asheville for $6,200, and though that’s pretty high for one of these, the SUV at least appears to be in really nice shape. No, it’s not likely to be quite as good as the XJ off-road, but it’ll be solid. And while it does have leaf springs like the Jeep, and it doesn’t enjoy the XJ’s unibody setup, the independent suspension, more aerodynamic shape, and more spacious interior will likely make it more comfortable than your tragically stolen AMC-designed masterpiece.
The real answer, here, is a Toyota 4Runner, but that’s boring and predictable. So go buy that Blazer ZR2. The Vortec 4.3-liter V6 will not let you down.
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