Sport utility vehicles have been around for a long time and they serve a number of different purposes. Some people drive an SUV because they need the stability and performance available during bad weather, others drive an SUV because of the added passenger and cargo room available, others utilize an SUV because their driving habits include going off road, and finally there are those that drive an SUV because of the status of having a more expensive car. One of the more popular sport utility vehicles for a number of years has been the Jeep Cherokee. It was one of the first successful SUVs and it made its name performing well in off road situations. The Jeep Cherokee has gone through a number of changes over the years and remains popular with outdoors enthusiasts as well as Jeep afficionados.
The Jeep Cherokee SJ series started production in 1974 and was manufactured by the Jeep brand of the American Motors Corporation (AMC) until 1983. The Cherokee was originally marketed as a more sporty version of the Jeep Wagoneer that had been manufactured since 1963. In fact, the early Jeep Cherokees shared a large number of features and parts with the older Jeep Wagoneer. One of the large attractions to the early Jeep Cherokees was the fact that if someone were to own one that had been assembled with the 6.6 liter V-8 engine, it was far faster than any other similar four wheel drive vehicle in the marketplace, it had no problem reaching highway speeds greater than 100mph. The SJ series of Jeep Cherokee was developed originally as a two door vehicle and a four door version was not added to the line until 1977.
The Jeep Cherokee SJ series ended production in 1983, and the XJ series started production the following year. The Cherokee XJ was popular and stayed in production from 1984 through the 2001 model year. The XJ was a more compact version of the original Jeep Cherokee SJ and many attribute it as the first of the modern SUVs based on it being used by many people in place of normal passenger cars. The Jeep Cherokee XJ was immitated by other automobile manufacturers and soon after its introduction the market was suddenly flooded with a great number of SUV options for buyers to consider purchasing. The Cherokee XJ was available thorugh its entire run in both two and four door versions.
The plan that Jeep, then under the ownership of Chrysler, had was to phase out the Jeep Cherokee XJ and phase in the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Due to its popularity though, it was decided to go ahead with the introduction of the Jeep Grand Cherokee even though they would continue production of the Cherokee XJ at the same time. The Jeep Grand Cherokee began production in 1993, it had been intended to hit the market in the late 1980′s but was moved to a non-priority project when Chrysler decided to focus on redesigning and marketing their mini vans. The Grand Cherokee was immensely popular upon its initial release and has remained so throughout its production run. In the first year of production, 1993, Jeep also made a luxury version of the Grand Cherokee that was sold as the Jeep Grand Wagoneer. In 1999, the Grand Cherokee was extensively redesigned including having the structure of it stiffened greatly using Porsche Engineering. The redesign of the Grand Cherokee in 2004 included many modern options like rear seat DVD players and an optional 5.7liter Hemi V-8. Only minor changes have been made to the Grand Cherokee since those last design changes.
The Jeep Cherokee KJ series was introduced in 2002, in North America the model was known as the Jeep Liberty and was seen as a replacement for the popular Jeep Cherokee XJ. The Jeep Liberty was available in either two wheel drive and four wheel drive versions, and with a great number of options and modern styling. The Liberty carries the spirit of the Cherokee which inspired it forward into the 21st century.
The Jeep Cherokee revolutionized the old sport utility vehicle market, and then it provided the impetus for the modern sport utility vehicle market too. The model won over many fans based both on its comfort and functionality in the city as well as its high level of performance when off road and putting its four wheel drive status to the test. The Jeep Liberty takes the torch from the Jeep Cherokee and appears to be well on its way to establishing itself as a worthy successor.