Inspired by Jeep Wagoneer, Jeep Cherokee was first launched in the auto market in 1974 as a two-door SUV. Initially, Jeep Cherokee was launched as a mid-size SUV, however, 1984 onwards, it transformed into a compact SUV. Let’s go through the Jeep Cherokee history in detail.
Jeep Cherokee Generations
Jeep Cherokee, currently in its fifth generation, is known for offering off-road capabilities, towing capacity and road prowess throughout its tenure. Let’s go through the Jeep Cherokee generations in detail.
First Generation Cherokee (SJ) – 1974 to 1983
The first generation of Jeep Cherokee was inspired by the Wagoneer. It was a two-door SUV launched in 1974. What differentiated it from its predecessor was a new greenhouse that eliminated the C-pillar and replaced it with a wider D-pillar with fixed back, long rear side windows with the option of a flip-put section.
The innovative design of the Jeep Cherokee was made to appeal to a younger audience. At that time, the Cherokee was offered in ten trim levels: Base model plus the S (Sport), Chief, Golden Eagle, Golden Hawk, Limited Classic, Sport, Pioneer and Laredo. The entire first Jeep Cherokee generation was known as the SJ generation.
An interesting fact about Jeep Cherokee is that it has an important place in the history of body styles. Case in point: the term “sports utility vehicle” was first used in the Jeep Cherokee brochure in 1974.
Later on, in 1977, the company released a 4-door version.
Second Generation Cherokee (XJ) – 1984- 2001
There was an oil embargo in the 80s and auto manufacturers were looking for more fuel-efficient solutions to meet the federal government requirements. This is when the Jeep Cherokee transformed itself from a full-size SUV to a compact SUV.
The entire second generation of the Jeep Cherokee was called the XJ. In this generation, the body-on-frame chassis was switched to a lightweight unibody design to improve fuel economy and meet the government regulations.
Jeep Cherokee’s compact SUV was a trend setter that inspired other auto manufacturers to come up with crossovers. Jeep Cherokee garnered so much popularity in the second generation, it led to the creation of Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Third Generation Cherokee (KJ) – 2002 – 2013
The third generation (KJ) Cherokee was revealed for the 2002 production years. The Jeep Cherokee in this generation was rebranded as the Jeep Liberty to help differentiate it from Grand Cherokee in the USA. That said, internationally, the SUV held the same name.
The Cherokee used the same unibody design. Moreover, as Jeep Cherokee history has it, in the third generation, the SUV featured a rack and pinion steering for smooth driving. This was also the first time for Jeep to make use of the Powertech engines that were completely new at the time.
The first one was a 2.4-litre 4-cylinder engine that churned out 150-horsepower and the second one was a 3.7-liter V6 that pushed out a 210-horsepower.
The third (KJ) Cherokee generation was also the first one with an independent front suspension. For most of this generation, the Cherokee had a reputation as a small four-door Jeep SUV, but that changed with the arrival of Compass in 2007.
Fourth Generation Cherokee (KK) – 2008 – 2014
In the fourth generation, Jeep Cherokee was still marketed as Jeep Liberty in the USA. However, globally, the SUV was known as Jeep Cherokee. This generation received some major refreshments.
The Cherokee was pushed to a mid-size segment with the release of subcompact crossovers: The Compass and the Patriot. Therefore, Jeep eliminated the 4-cylinder engine option from Cherokee’s lineup, making a V6 engine standard.
Later on, the V6 engine option proved to be a good choice as it had a maximum towing capacity of 5,000 pounds. The fourth generation also gave drivers the option of choosing between a 6-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic transmission.
Major changes introduced in this generation included important safety features. These included side airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction control, brake assist, electronic stability control and roll mitigation. Enhancements were also made to the interior tech gadgets.
Other noticeable optional features included Bluetooth connectivity, an infotainment system with hard drive space, rain-sensing wipers, a navigation system, and satellite radio.
Fifth Generation Cherokee (KL) – 2014 – Present
In 2014, the Jeep Cherokee went back to its original name in the USA. The Jeep Cherokee of this generation was a mid-size SUV. What differentiated the fifth generation (KL) Cherokee was better fuel economy. In 2019, the Jeep Cherokee received a powerful new turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine generating a massive 270 hp and 295 lb-ft torque.
Other major changes introduced in this generation include an advanced AWD system, 17-inch wheels, Cherokee Trailhawk fitted with all-terrain tires, skid plates, a locking rear differential, and a suspension system tuned for enhanced off-roading.
The ground clearance for Jeep Cherokee KL was raised to help drive over rocks and rough terrain. Moreover, the old infotainment system was replaced by a new touchscreen interface. Depending on the trim level, the touchscreen system was offered in 5 or 8.4-inches.
That is all about the Jeep Cherokee history, stay tuned to the First Cars Blog for more on car history, car facts and more.