Pros: Beautiful lines, solid as a rock, great power & handling, bulletproof drivetrain, excellent crash protection.
Cons: Not the greatest gas mileage (16 town 23-25 hiway) but who cares.
I bought my '96 Sport (Classic pkg.) a year ago from an individual. It had 90000 miles, I've now added another 10000 and am more smitten with this marvelous little truck every day.
I'd like to put the previous owners in my will for the beautiful care they gave it. Though it's spent its 8 1/2 years in the rust belt, there is no mentionable rust thanks to regular winter underbody washes and heavy winter tray-type rubber floor mats. It looks new inside and out: gleaming paint, spotless interior. all hinges/gaskets/trim perfect thanks to good oiling/waxing/protectorants, nothing broken/loose/missing except the (lousy) orig. cup holder which I replaced w/one I found on eBay for under $20 incl. shipping: an excellent double one that screws into existing holes in the center console.
It has exactly the options I'd have custom-ordered: 4.0 Hi-Output engine, auto, cruise, AC,intermittent wipers/washers front & rear, rear defrost, tilt leather wheel, roof rack, driver's airbag, manual sunroof and--joy of joys to my mind--manual d/w/seats. The previous owner had just installed a new CD changer/radio & 4 top-quality & slightly oversized Michelin tires ( less than 5000 miles on them when I bought it). All belts & seals had just been checked or replaced & the AC serviced & recharged.
I've put almost $1000 in the car this year, but almost half of that was either the extensive 90000 mile scheduled maintenance or non-urgent preventive maintenance. I replaced a broken catalytic converter plus new O2 sensors at 98000 miles, replaced the orig. brake pads/rotors at 99000 miles, new thermostat, new oil-pressure sending unit. At my first oil change at 92000 miles I switched from dino oil to Castrol Syntec 5W 50 (with no resulting leaks) which will extend my oil-change interval to 5000 miles.
The only major problem I discovered was easily and cheaply resolved. The previous owner was (to say the least) a big guy, and the first longish trip I took (about 6 hours of driving) left me with a severe backache--something I'd never encountered in my old Isuzu Trooper even after 14 hours on the road.
I considered having the driver's seat rebuilt by an auto upholsterer and looked at websites offering pricey ($150-$200) lumbar supports, but decided first to try one of those hi-density foam Ortho-Wedge tailbone cushions that sell everywhere for $15-$20. I stood it thin-end-down behind my lower back (under my sheepskin seat cover which holds it in place) and the backaches are no more.
I'm nuts about this car. I love to look at it and I invent reasons to drive it. It's the best-handling vehicle I've ever owned--turns on a dime and its trim size and unimpeded visibility make for flawless maneuverability. It has the most responsive steering and acceleration I've ever experienced and there is not the faintest squeak or rattle after all these years and miles. It feels so stable on Maine's winter roads with its on-the-fly 4WD Hi, and the 4WD Lo will pull you out of any situation. (I added one of those 70 lb. sand tubes over my rear wheels and even in 2 WD I generally have no trouble getting up my very steep driveway in snow/ice/slush. )
The interior is neat, simple, & functional in every way. Interior lights go on w/a left click of the headlight knob instead of feeling around blindly overhead, the instrument arrangement is intuitive & the gauges easy to read, the left arm support is well-placed, the center console gives good storage and right arm support, the key/lights warning buzzer is inoffensive but effective, I love the lighted ring around the keyhole and the windshield defogger is virtually instant. (It utilizes the AC, which not only defogs faster than warm air but keeps the AC seals in good shape thru the winter.)
The back seat is not the world's biggest, but it's usually just the dog back there and three teenage grandchildren fit nicely when necessary. The rear cargo deck is spacious and easy to get things in and out of without stooping or having to open more than one latch.
The '96 model--last before the major makeover of '97--was the beneficiary of 13 years of incremental improvements to the same design; among the last were beefed-up side impact protection, a bit of engine-tweaking for more HP, the driver's airbag. The inline 6 engine with AW-4 transmission is arguably the most indestructible combination ever put in a car and the body style is timeless.
I plan to drive this car for AT LEAST another 150000 miles and if I don't die before it does I'll find another Cherokee. (Probably a '99--another great year, I gather.)
I wish everyone a car they enjoy as much as I do this one. That so perfect a vehicle was ever discontinued is the best proof I've seen that this is a fallen world.