Pros: Fun to drive, four wheel drive.
Cons: Read for details.
In December of 2002, I came to the realization that my old faithful Dodge RAM 100 pickup truck was in dire need of more repair than I was willing to put into it. So, I started looking for a good used vehicle to replace it but I wanted something that would be more suitable for a family vehicle as well as having enough cargo room to transport my musical equipment. I looked at some mini-vans with little to no interest at all and then found a white Jeep Cherokee Sport in good condition at a small dealership in Manassas, Virginia.
The Jeep Cherokee Sport
I have never owned a Jeep before this one so I dont know what the difference is between the Sport, the Laredo and the Limited, so I will just tell you about the one I bought.
It is a white, four door 1994 Jeep Cherokee Sport with black trim around the bottom and thin red decorative stripes running front to back on both sides. It came with tilt steering, air conditioning (which had to be converted to the new coolant), four wheel drive, velour seats and AM/FM cassette. There was really nothing remarkable about it but it was in good shape and both my wife and I liked it after test driving it. There were a few problems that we knew we would have to fix but we were on a budget so we bought it.
We paid $3,000 for it and spent about $500 fixing the problems it had. After that it was a really good vehicle for about a year and a half.
Our Cherokee had the in-line 6 cylinder engine and manual transmission so it got good gas mileage. We were getting 23-24mpg on the highway and roughly 18mpg around town. We live in a rural area so most of the miles we put on it were highway miles since you have to take major routes to get just about anywhere.
I did find that putting premium gas in the tank made absolutely no difference in performance or gas mileage, it just cost me a lot more. I put two tanks of premium gas in the Jeep in February of 2003 and decided to stop wasting my money since it didnt make any difference.
Four wheel drive
The four wheel drive was a nice feature that I was to use sooner than I thought. In January of 2003, the Washington, DC area was blanketed in about 20 inches of snow with drifts over three feet and I was smack in the middle of it.
I will tell you this from experience. It doesnt matter if you have four wheel drive, if the snow is more than 6 inches over your wheels you aint goin anywhere.
A friend and I left my house to test out my four wheel drive when the snow reached 6 inches and had decided to visit some friends in Falls Church, Virginia. It was only about 15 miles from where I lived and I figured it would be fun to finally put the Jeep in FWD.
We left about 5PM and it took us about 45 minutes with traffic lights and slow moving plows to get to our destination. We stayed for a few hours and played cards till about midnight and then decided to leave. We had not been watching the weather reports and since we were in the basement we had no clue how deep the snow had gotten.
When we got outside the snow was over 14 inches and drifts down the hill were well over three feet. My Jeep was covered to the door handles. We dug it out and warmed it up then started out home. We got about 30 yards and had to dig some more. We finally made it to the main road about two hours later. Luckily the main road had been plowed and we made it home with only a few more digging incidents.
Four wheel drive is great but in snow over 12 inches, you really need chains even with four wheel drive or you are going to do a lot of digging (at least if you are driving a Cherokee).
The four wheel drive system on the 㤂 Cherokee Sport operates in two modes. Four wheel Part Time, which is used for light snow, shallow mud or shallow water crossing and Four Wheel Low. For Wheel Low is used for heavy snow, deep mud and extremely rough terrain. You should never drive the vehicle more than 10mph when using four wheel low.
Other than the deep snow, I never had a situation where I got stuck and I did take it off road quite a few times. My wife and I drove it into the middle of a creek off of the James River and parked it right there in the middle so we could collect some smooth stones for our rock garden. It performed very well in mud, water and snow under 12 inches.
The rear cargo space is big enough to hold about 15 bags of groceries or three guitars, amp head and speaker cabinet. You can fold down the back seats to get more room (about 8 more bags of groceries). It also has a luggage rack on the top where you can tie down a carrier for even more space. Mine also had a tow package on it for pulling a trailer up to 2500 lbs. Thats about enough for a small boat or another small car.
I am a very large person so I am very particular about small interiors. This Jeep had enough room for me but I had to raise the tilt steering to get into the vehicle, then I would lower it again once inside it. We looked at a 1996 Cherokee the same day we bought this one but it didnt have the tilt steering and I literally could not get into the drivers seat. So if you are very tall or overweight this may be an issue.
The seats are velour and very comfortable, however they do not take very much pressure to break. The drivers seat in ours was broken when we bought it and my weight didnt help it much as it got worse over time. We finally had to have the metal brace in the back welded back together. After that it was stronger than new and I never had another problem with it.
The factory stereo was an AM/FM cassette deck which I promptly replaced with a JVC CD player. The original speakers were blown also, so I had them replaced as well so I cant really tell you much about the original stereo.
Engine and reliability
The Jeep never stranded me anywhere. Even when I got stuck in the snow, I could dig a little and get free. The engine ran very well but there was a problem with it that eventually became the reason I traded it in.
If I let the vehicle idle for 5 to 10 minutes, it would start sputtering and then would try to stall when you give it gas. After 10 minutes or so the problem would vanish like it never happened and it would run fine until the next time it idled too long. This problem even happened a few times while sitting at stoplights. I had the Jeep in the shop four times for this problem and the last time it was taken to the dealership.
None of the shops could find a problem with it. The dealership said they tested the computer and it was working properly. Nothing unusual in the gas tank and the valves were clean as a whistle. I took it home and not 24 hours later it happened again. That was when I decided to trade it in. I took it back to the dealership and told them since they had just checked it out and said it was in good working condition, I would expect a decent trade-in value for it (and I got a good trade in too).
So, I traded my 1994 Jeep Cherokee Sport for a 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee which I absolutely love and will review in a few days after I get back from my road trip :-).
Driving the Jeep Cherokee Sport was nice. It ran well and really was fun to drive. It had decent turning radius (I could turn 360 in two points on a two lane road). It didnt have ABS but it stopped well and I never did have to lock-up the wheels even when stopping abruptly.
It had great pickup as far as speed off the line but that also depends on how well you drive a manual. It shifted gears smoothly and one of the things that I liked was that even on steep hills it was not hard to get going in first gear. It wasnt very heavy so it never tried to roll back when starting on a hill, but again that may have to do with how well you drive a stick.
If I hadnt absolutely fallen in love with the Grand Cherokee, I may have bought another Cherokee. I was actually looking at three other Cherokee Sports when I saw the Grand Cherokee and that was it for that. I liked my Cherokee and enjoyed driving it but I got tired of spending money and nobody knew how to fix it or even what was wrong with it. Other than the problem with the engine trying to stall, I never had any mechanical problems with the vehicle.
I would recommend it for people on a budget who love to go trail riding or camping in remote places. It is after all a Jeep and will go some places other vehicles may not.
If you do go trail riding it is probably best to go in a group of three or more vehicles. If you break down or damage your Jeep, at least you wont be stuck in the wilderness alone with no help. There are Jeep clubs in most major counties that you can join and they go out several times a year to drive nature trails that many other vehicles wont be able to drive. A lot of the members have modified their Jeeps to be able to drive over boulders and large tree trunks. These modifications include larger wheels, higher suspension and rock guard rails to keep large rocks from damaging the body when driving over them.
Just dont try to do some of things the modified Jeeps do or you may wind up getting towed home with a busted axle or worse.