Few names in Jeep® history are more iconic or evoke more emotion than Cherokee. It’s a name thatrepresents 44 years of history and almost four million units sold worldwide.
The charming Sicilian scenery, which is currently playing host to the international media launch of the new Jeep®Cherokee, is the ideal location to display the history of this model.
Like all vehicles in the Jeep family, Cherokee was born out of the core values of the brand – passion, authenticity, adventure and freedom. But since the very beginning it has also shown a character of its own and a unique spirit of innovation. This helped the model pioneer the mid-size SUV segment and make it the largest in the world, with more than 12 million sales per year.
Here is the story of its legendary evolution that makes Jeep fans dream in every corner of the world.
First generation (1974 – 1983)
When the first generation of Jeep Cherokee (SJ) was introduced in 1974, its target market was young 4×4 enthusiasts who had grown out of the smaller and less practical CJ-series. Enthusiasts who perhaps had a family, but still wanted to enjoy the outdoors. Jeep designers and engineers created a vehicle for the CJ driver who wanted a larger, enclosed vehicle to take their families on an adventure or just drive to the store. The 1974 Cherokee was based on the Wagoneer, but initially offered only a two-door model.
This two-door sport utility featured the revolutionary Quadra-Trac four-wheel drive system that automatically provided traction by using a unique, controlled-slip third differential that constantly monitors traction to all four wheels.
New for the Cherokee range was the addition in 1977 of a four-door model, which was able to take both the daily commute or a family outing off the beaten track in its stride. Available in base, wide-body, ‘S’ and Chief configurations, there was a Cherokee for everyone who wanted adventure with comfort and style, including a stylish 1978 ‘Levi Edition’ package that allowed buyers to have cloth seats patterned after the world famous Levi-Strauss denim blue jeans.
By 1980, the Cherokee had forged its reputation as one of the most versatile SUVs on the market. The rugged construction and ample room and comfort for six passengers made it the ideal choice for people making cross-country or cross-town trips in all kinds of weather and road conditions. Some of the standard features included a close ratio fully synchronised four-speed transmission, free-wheeling front hubs and a front anti-roll bar. The Cherokee SJ was produced until 1983 and was replaced by the Cherokee XJ.
Second generation (1984 – 2001)
When first introduced in 1984 the second generation Cherokee, or XJ series, significantly revolutionised the SUV market. A major feature of the XJ was its hybrid of frame and uni-body construction that gave the vehicle superior rigidity and helped to reduce weight and fuel consumption. There was also a new Quadra-Link front suspension to retain the durability of a solid front axle while improving handling and ride, and robotic assembly to improve fit and finish. Half a ton lighter than the old Cherokee, 10 cm lower, 15.2 cm narrower and incredible 53.3 cm shorter, the XJ series had 90% of the old Cherokee’s capacity. The Cherokee created the mid-size SUV market segment and was a consistent sales leader in the compact SUV market for 17 years.
With 29.7 cm of ground clearance, a 28.4-degree approach and 31.2-degree departure angle, a choice of two 2WD/4WD drive systems- SelecTrac and shift-on-the-fly CommandTrac – and four doors – Cherokee dominated its market segment for years.
Europe began to receive the XJ Cherokee at the beginning of 1985 – while the right-hand-drive model was introduced into the UK in 1993.
Third generation (2002 – 2007) and fourth generation (2008 – 2013)
The third generation (KJ) replaced the XJ series before itself being superseded by the fourth generation (KK) model. Both generations were sold as the Liberty in North America and the Cherokee in Europe.
The KJ series was available from 2002 to 2007 and was the first Jeep vehicle to use an independent front suspension since the Wagoneer in the 1960s. It was offered in the Limited, Renegade and Sport packages and featured the part-time Select-Trac or full-time Command-Trac four-wheel-drive systems.
Available from 2008 to 2013, the fourth generation Cherokee (KK) was introduced in 2008. During its run, the Cherokee was available in two basic trim levels – Sport and Limited – but to satisfy customer demand there were several different special editions including the Renegade, Latitude, Arctic and 70th Anniversary.
Fifth generation Jeep Cherokee (2014 – today)
The fifth generation Cherokee went on sale in Europe in 2014. The Cherokee KL, as it is known, was the first Jeep vehicle to use the Compact U.S. Wide (CUS-wide) platform, co-developed by Chrysler and Fiat. Available in four trim levels (Sport, Longitude, Limited and the all-new in the Jeep range off-road specialist Trailhawk) the 2014 Cherokee was the first 4×4 vehicle to offer rear-axle disconnect when all-wheel drive is not necessary, the first mid-size SUV to adopt a 9-speed automatic transmission, and the first to feature multiple four-wheel-drive systems, including Active Drive I, Active Drive II and Active Drive Lock for benchmark off-road capability.
The new, refreshed Jeep Cherokee that is now being introduced in Europe, is the most capable vehicle in its category – one that is born to ‘Go anywhere’ and ‘Do anything’, offering the highest standards of safety, practicality and capability. It’s just as at home with the demands of modern city living as it is with adventures off the beaten track thanks to its functionality and unparalleled 4×4 capability complemented by the latest technology in terms of road handling, comfort, entertainment, safety, convenience and protection.
The new Cherokee boasts a refreshed design that projects the premium personality of the brand yet stays true to iconic Jeep styling. It features a new fascia with LED lights, signature ‘waterfall’ hood with a new lightweight aluminum structure and a new tailgate for a contemporary and distinctive look.
Inside, there’s an array of user-friendly technologies for more comfort, connectivity and occupant protection while superior quality materials and craftsmanship show a real attention to detail.
Turin, 12 September, 2018