Review… 1998 Jeep Cherokee Sport 4-Wheel-Drive

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The 1998 Jeep Cherokee Sport is representative of the Cherokee XJ series built from 1997 through 2001.

Jeep Cherokee Sport

This review focuses on a 1998 Cherokee Sport and is based on my observations over the past three years and 50,000 miles. Many of these miles were under rugged 4WD conditions.

In 2004, I decided to purchase a used 4X4 pickup; unable to find a suitable 4WD pickup, I changed my focus to a 4-door Jeep Cherokee XJ with an automatic transmission and 4.0 liter engine. The Cherokee I ended up buying showed only 34,000 miles on the odometer and was in excellent condition.

First Driving Impressions
My first driving experience consisted of driving from Denver to my home in Minden, Nevada, a trip of over 900 highway miles. The first thing I noticed was how compact the Jeep Cherokee really is (in and out) and how maneuverable it was. Tight parking spaces and city driving were a piece of cake.

Performance
Out on the road, engine power was phenomenal, rapid acceleration from a complete stop onto the freeway was a breeze. I had plenty of power going over a 9,000 ft. pass and was pleased with the handling on crooked mountain roads. I would, however, prefer a 5-speed auto transmission over the stock 4-speed auto for mountain driving.

Comfort
Comfort isn’t a strong point of the compact Jeep Cherokee, but it’s tolerable even on long trips. Don’t plan on carrying more than 4 adults though. Driver visibility is excellent and the climate controls always keep the passenger compartment comfortable.

The cabin noise level is a little more than I would prefer, but it’s bearable and the instrument layout along with switches and controls are well thought out.

Jeep Cherokee Dash

Economy
Initially, my fuel consumption averaged around 17 MPG, about 2 MPG better than the advertised 15 MPG. After treating my engine with Microlon Engine Treatment in late 2004, my fuel economy rose to 20 MPG for mixed driving and 24 MPG on the highway. When 4-wheeling, expect to get 10 to 15 MPG.

Maintenance and Upkeep Costs
This was the main reason I bought the Jeep Cherokee in the first place. I had spoken with many Cherokee owners over the years and virtually all loved their little Jeep Cherokee for its low maintenance. I have not added a drop of oil between changes in 50,000 miles.

Everyone bragged about their Cherokee’s performance and reliability. I’d have to say they were right. I have not owned another vehicle that cost me less to maintain. Of course, I do perform all scheduled preventative maintenance including oil changes, tune-ups etc.

Cherokee Problem Areas...

The fuel gauge is inaccurate, my low fuel warning light goes on and the tank reads empty when I still have 6 gallons remaining. Other owners have the opposite problem, running out of gas with a quarter tank registering on the fuel gauge. Use the odometer instead.

The air conditioner evaporator ices up sometimes and stops blowing cool air. When the ice melts and drips on the ground, it creates the illusion of having a leak of some sort.

Shifting into gear produces a clunking sound and feel. The same thing happens when you first start out in drive or reverse. The Jeep dealer told me that it’s normal.

The brakes sometimes cause pulsation in the pedal and make squeaking noises. I fixed that in 2011 when I installed HD sloted rotors and ceramic pads

4-Wheel Drive Performance
4X4 performance is pretty good for a Compact SUV.

Jeep Cherokee on the trail

The stock Cherokees like mine have no undercarriage protection so be careful in the rocks. Some Cherokees come with beefed up suspensions, skid plates and locking differentials for enhanced performance. Some Cherokees have full-time 4WD, mine is part-time.

Traction and off road handling is very good, if you have decent tires and shocks. I added KUHMO all terrain tires and Bilstein shocks, which made a world of difference both for on and off road performance. Shifting into 4WD high is simple and can be done on the fly. You do have to stop and go into neutral, to shift in and out of 4WD low.

Cargo Capacity
Cargo capacity is great, though some Cherokee owners

Jeep Cherokee Cargo Area

complain about the spare tire being mounted inside the left rear cargo area. I don’t see where it really robs me of any useful cargo space, and besides you can purchase an outside spare tire mount if you wish.

The rear seat folds down to give you even more cargo space, or it can be used as a sleeping area. I'm 6'1" and I can sleep in the back fairly comfortably. The roof rack offers still more space to carry excess items.


Some Technical Stuff

Engine
4.0 liter in-line six cylinder 190 HP

Automatic transmission
Aisin AW-4, 4-speed automatic.

Transfer case
New Process NP231 "Command-Trac", part-time only, 2.72:1 ratio with low range.

Axles
The Jeep XJ utilizes front and rear solid (live), axles as opposed to modern independent front and/or rear axles. Good for off road, a little rougher on the highway.

Suspension
The Jeep XJ utilizes a coil sprung front suspension with a leaf sprung rear suspension.

Fuel Tank
The fuel tank holds 20 US gallons.

Wheel base
Length – 167.5 inches.Width – 69.4 inches.Height – 64 inches.

...UPDATE...
My Cherokee now has 124,000 miles on the odometer and it is still running strong. I've never added a drop of oil between changes and it has never let me down!

Conclusion...
I love my little Jeep Cherokee. It’s a great all around vehicle. I use it for 4-wheeling, towing an ATV trailer, transporting stuff, a family car, and it’s great to commute back and forth to work in. If you are looking for an inexpensive, reliable, fun compact 4X4 SUV, consider the popular Jeep Cherokee.

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