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1998 Jeep Cherokee

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1998 Jeep Cherokee
Available in 12 styles:  Cherokee 4dr Classic shown
Asking Price Range
Estimated MPG

16–21 city / 20–25 hwy

Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 1 of 2
1998 Jeep Cherokee 4.5 13
$ 351-9,759
January 26, 1998
A no-frills, four-cylinder Jeep Cherokee SE has all the appeal of a well-worn pair of hiking boots: Fancy it isn't, but when you hit the trail there's nothing else like it. Plus, it won't wreck your wallet.

It's somewhat ironic that the original Cherokee, which bowed in 1984, has been engulfed by the sport-utility vehicle (SUV) boom it helped create. Today's SUVs are bigger, softer, more civilized; as cozy as a campfire and as comfy as your favorite chair. Most live in suburbia where they serve as family transport, and few turn a wheel off-road. The Cherokee, while updated last year with a new dash and other refinements, remains true to its roots as a rugged, functional vehicle that puts utility ahead of fashion, and that is clearly evident in the basic model I drove. Purists will prefer it for its simplicity.

It was refreshing to slide behind the wheel of a four-wheel-drive SUV that costs less than $20,000, has room for four people and gets reasonable gas mileage. It's true that crank windows aren't that handy, and manual door locks make it easy to leave a door unlocked by accident, but value-conscious customers will appreciate what they get for their dollar.

The 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine is adequate for chugging around town or puttering off-road. It only makes 125 horsepower, and if you want to do some towing it isn't big enough, but it has a city rating of 18 mpg. You can keep up with traffic as long as you make good use of the manual gearbox, which is not the easiest to shift. The engine is fairly noisy and the transmission whines considerably, reminding the driver that this vehicle is much closer to a truck than a car.

That can be felt easiest on the highway, where the noise level rises in proportion to your speed. At 70 mph it lets you know that you are going fast enough.

While the optional three-speed automatic transmission would be quieter, it can only be ordered on four-cylinders with two-wheel drive.

Using four-wheel drive is simple: Yank the floor-mounted lever into four-wheel high or four-wheel low gear.

Last year the Cherokee's interior was revamped to accomodate dual airbags, which means it got a new dash. The instruments in our test vehicle were as basic as the rest of it. There were only two dials, a speedometer and fuel gauge, and both were about the same size. Everything else is handled with a warning light, which makes it hard to know when the water is warm enough to turn the heater on. With the transmission in fifth gear the shift lever blocks the heater's temperature control knob.

The front seats offer moderate support. They are separated by a console with dual cupholders and an ashtray. Room in front is not generous, but adequate.

In back, things are a bit tighter. Passengers have to wriggle through narrow doors and over the back wheels to get in. Once seated, legroom is limited because of the 101.4-inch wheelbase. The short wheelbase, on the other hand, enhances off-road mobility, so the trade-off is yours to make.

Of course, the back seat folds down, but the full-size spare intrudes on cargo space.

If a flat black grille, steel wheels and manual window cranks means less to you than a sub-$20,000 price (with air conditioning and AM/FM cassette), and if you want an SUV that has genuine off-road capability, then Jeep's Cherokee SE deserves a look. It may be an old shoe, but it has a lot of trails left in it.


The base price of our test vehicle was $17,990. Options included air conditioning, power mirrors, rear washer/wiper, roof rack, rear defroster, AM/FM cassette, limited-slip differential and skid plate group.

The sticker price was $19,625.


The standard warranty is for three years or 36,000 miles.

Vehicles for The Star's week-long test drives are supplied by the auto manufacturers.

Point: The Cherokee SE is plain, simple and effective It holds four people, can travel off-road and is priced at less than $20,000.

Counterpoint: The manual gearbox and small four-cylinder engine are fairly noisy and the back seat is snug.


ENGINE: 2.5-liter, 4-cyl.


WHEELBASE: 101.4 inches

CURB WEIGHT: 3,181 lbs.

BASE PRICE: $17,990


MPG RATING: 18 city, 20 hwy.

    Expert Reviews 1 of 2

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