First thing that comes to mind is four-wheel drive, especially now thatit`s getting to be the season for the Snow Belt to earn its reputation.

Then comes those four doors that allow easy entry and exit for the family that switched from a station wagon. Four doors set the Cherokee apart fromFord and Chevy utility vehicles that offer only two doors.

Don`t forget four-wheel antilock brakes, too. The Cherokee offers thecomputer-controlled antilock braking system as an option to bring the driver to a sure, true, safe stop regardless of road conditions.

When it comes to the Jeep Cherokee, lots of good things come to mind.

Unfortunately, once you get through the lofty reasons for justifying thepurchase, you`re faced with the price. For those of you who remember Jeep as awar machine, take a good look at the sticker. You could finance a war, albeit a small one, for what just one Cherokee costs.

The pricey Jeep Cherokee is being called the successor to the BMW as thenation`s yuppiemobile.

We test drove the Cherokee Limited, the top-of-the-line, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink model. Base price is $25,675, and with just a handful ofoptions, the bottom line sticker read: $28,082. There obviously isjustification for calling the Cherokee the Cadillac of utility vehicles.

Chrysler Corp.`s Jeep division is highly profitable. In the recentlyconcluded 1989 model year, Jeep sales totaled a record 262,434 units, up from the record 245,095 sold in the `88 model year. It was the seventh consecutive sales record for Jeep.

Based on high demand, Chrysler was able to charge what the market willbear-and get it.

You want an inexpensive Cherokee? The lowest-priced model starts at$13,220, which isn`t too bad until you realize that`s a two-door, two-wheel-drive model. A Jeep without four-wheel-drive? Why do it?

Competition is coming soon. Chevy soon brings out a four-door S-10 Blazer and Ford the four-door Bronco II under the new name of Explorer next spring.It would be nice if Chrysler is forced to bring stickers more in line withconsumer expectations once the competition enters the market. However, theChevy two-door S-10 Blazer and the two-door Ford Bronco II on sale haven`tbeen priced at bargain basement levels. So don`t expect a big plunge inutility vehicle prices once the four-doors are added.

While the BMW became hot because it was fashionable, the Jeep is popularbecause it`s so functional. Those four doors are a key element. Getting back- seat passengers in or out of a two-door coupe can be a pain. Getting themin and out of a two-door utility vehicle that sits higher off the ground iseven trickier.

The Cherokee Limited comes with Selec-Trac full-time/part-time four-wheel drive. You move a lever to choose the two-wheel or four-wheel-drive mode. It`sa shift on the fly system, which means you can make the switch while thevehicle is moving and not have to s top to fiddle with the transfer case orlock the wheel hubs.

The Cherokee Limited is powered by a 4-liter, in-line 6 that develops 177 horsepower and is teamed with a four-speed automatic with overdrive. It was a quiet and peppy combination. In some unexpected hill climbing while trying to find a restaurant in Fox Lake, however, the 4-liter started acting as if itwas in about the 25th mile of a marathon.

To inject some life into the 4-liter, a button on the instrument paneloffers power or comfort transmission gear-shift settings. Hit the power buttonand the transmission shifts quicker to give you the acceleration needed tomake it up those hills.

A higher horsepower V-6 would have eliminated the need for playing withthe settings, but Jeep officials said there are no such immediate plans. Sincethe Cherokee`s mileage rating is only 16 miles per gallon city and 20 m.p.g.highway with the 4-liter in-line six, it`s understandable that Chrysler hasn`tmade 0-to-6 0-mile-an-hour performance a priority in the Cherokee.

The Cherokee has lots of room, lots of comfort and a smooth ride equal to that of any mini-van. You can haul the family and their luggage-regardless of the weather.

The price is steep, the mileage is low, but obviously there are at least260,000 people out there willing to pay the price for the insurance of four-wheel drive in the Snow Belt and the convenience of four-doors year-round.

Standard equipment in the Cherokee Limited includes power brakes andsteering, air conditioning, power seats/windows/door locks/mirrors, cruisecontrol, tilt wheel, AM/FM stereo with cassette, leather reclining wing-backedseats (best appreciated by those who nature has dubbed svelte), folding rearseat, front-door vent windows, inside hood release, rear-window wiper/washer/ defroster, halogen fog lamps, intermittent wipers, roof rack with tiedowns, tinted glass with deep tinted sides (the side tint will test your nightvision, especially in the rain), leather wrapped steering wheel, 20-gallonfuel tank and stabilizer bars front and rear.

Options on the test vehicle included skid plate for $145, trailer towingpackage with such items as heavy-duty radiator and auxiliary automatictransmission oil cooler for $362 and antilock brakes for $998. The destinationcharge was $450.

The Jeep line gets a minor styling overhaul in 1991 and then a new ZJmodel is added in the 1992 model year. The Jeep JJ, a mini roughly the size ofthe Suzuki Samurai, will be added in the 1993 model year.