1993-2002 Jeep


Jeep Grand Cherokee continued into 1993 as the only entry in its segment with an air bag. Two-wheel-drive models debuted in base and Laredo trim, and the four-speed automatic transmission gained electronic shift controls.

As promised, Cherokee dropped a clear tier below the Grand Cherokee but was functionally unchanged. Repackaged to appeal to a younger buyer, the lineup was trimmed to base, Sport, and the new Country models. Base price of the most expensive four-wheel-drive Cherokee was now around $19,500, some $200 below the least-expensive four-wheel-drive Grand Cherokee. The best deal was again the five-door four-wheel-drive Cherokee Sport, which started at about $16,800, roughly $1,900 less than a similar 1992 Sport.

Jeep Image Gallery

1993 Jeep Wrangler Sport
©Chrysler LLC
During the 1993 model year Jeep offered a Wrangler Sport designed to combat lower priced imports. It had a lower price than other Jeep Wranglers and a fixed number of available options. See more Jeep pictures.

Jeep Wrangler for 1993 became the first mini-4 x 4 to offer anti-lock brakes. The system was a $599 option, and was only available with the six-cylinder engine. It worked in both two- and four-wheel drive.

Helped by the available V-8 engine, Jeep Grand Cherokee sales soared to 217,232 for calendar 1993, surpassing the S10 Blazer and trailing only the Explorer, which had sales of 302,200. Jeep Wrangler jumped 25 percent for the period, to an all-time high of 65,648. Overall, Jeep sales leaped 51.9 percent. On top of the 1992 increase, Jeep sales had more than doubled in two years.

For 1994, Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited gained rear disc brakes, and all models got side door guard beams. The base model was renamed SE, Laredo continued as the most popular model, and the Limited was back. The Grand Wagoneer model, with its imitation bodyside wood paneling, was discontinued.

Jeep Cherokee returned for its 11th season with side door guard beams and a center high-mounted stop lamp -- both of which were now federally required on truck-based vehicles. Also an automatic transmission was offered for the first time with the four-cylinder engine.

Jeep Wrangler was back with an automatic transmission available for the four-cylinder engine. All models got a center high-mounted stop lamp affixed to a gooseneck bracket on the tailgate. And available for the first time was a new folding soft top with hardtop-style full metal doors instead of half-doors.

The entry-level Wrangler retained the S designation, but an SE took the place of the former "base" model. A new "junior Renegade" Sport option included body-colored fender flares and bodyside steps among its features.

Check out the next page to learn about the features of the 1995-1996 Jeep models.

For more information on Jeeps, see:

  • History of Jeep
  • Consumer Guide New Jeep Prices and Reviews
  • Consumer Guide Used Jeep Prices and Reviews

1995-1996 Jeep

Continued strong sales were evidence of the success of the 1995-1996 Chrysler-Jeep linkup. Jeep Wrangler was more popular than ever. And the Jeep Cherokee had found a second life as a "classic" sport-utility wagon.

But it was the Grand Cherokee -- the vehicle most affected by the Chrysler-Jeep marriage -- that now accounted for fully half of all Jeeps sold. Its blend of safety and power, refinement and ruggedness, continued to earn accolades from the public and press.

Car and Driver
tested six top compact sport-utilities for its March 1994 issue, on highways and the drag strip, in mud bogs and deep snow, and on rock-strewn trails. A V-8 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited emerged on the top. Reflecting the "gentrified" nature of these 4x4 wagons, sticker prices averaged $36,320. Finishing in order behind the Jeep (31,332 as tested) were the Toyota Land Cruiser, Range Rover Country, Mitsubishi Montero Sr, Isuzu Trooper LS, and Ford Explorer Limited.

1995 Jeep Wrangler Rio Grande Edition
©Jeep
A colorful Rio Grande Edition was offered on the 1995 Jeep Wrangler.

Despite intrusive engine noise and "occasionally wandery steering" C/D said Jeep Grand Cherokee "continues to be the only sportute that makes us forget we're driving a truck" and "it outperformed every other vehicle in the group by a comfortable margin." Off-road, Quadra-Trac's ability to keep the Jeep going was limited only by the capabilities of its all-season tires. "This sort of versatility is unexpected in a vehicle marketed as a kind of high performance station wagon," said the editors.

Here's how the field ranked in standing-start acceleration:

Vehicle 0-60 mph
(seconds)
Quarter-mile
(seconds @ mph)
Jeep 8.016.3 @ 84
Mitsubishi 9.7 17.5 @ 87
Range Rover 10.4 17.9 @ 77
Toyota 10.7 17.9 @ 76
Isuzu 10.0 18.1 @ 75
Ford 11.0 18.3 @ 75

In braking, Grand Cherokee's four-wheel ABS hauled it down from 70 mph in 180 feet -- shorter than all but the Land Cruiser's 178 feet. On the skidpad, the Jeep registered a lateral force of 0.75g, best in the field. It also ran quickest through the "emergency lane-change maneuver," whipping though cones at 58.7 mph.

A driver's air bag went into the 1995 Jeep Cherokee. For 1996 Jeep Cherokee, its four-cylinder engine lost five horsepower and could no longer team with an automatic transmission.

All Jeep Grand Cherokees got four-wheel disc brakes in 1995, but five-speed manual shift was dropped. New options included fold-out child safety seats and a flip-up lift-gate window. A new Orvis package had Moss Green paint with red and yellow accents.

A restyled grille on the 1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee dipped into the bumper, which could hold integrated fog lights. Dual air bags were newly standard, and the steering wheel held cruise-control switches. Command-Trac part-time four-wheel drive was dropped, and the Limited gained such equipment as memory seat/mirror/radio settings, variable-assist power steering, and optional heated front seats.

A Rio Grande Edition -- wearing Bright Mango paint -- debuted on the base Wrangler S for 1995. The Renegade package was dropped. Jeep Wrangler sat out the 1996 season, but engineers and stylists had been busy for several years whipping up a new version of Jeep's smallest sport-utility, ready to emerge as an early 1997 model.

Read the next page for a detailed look at the 1997 TJ Jeep Wrangler.

For more information on Jeeps, see:

  • History of Jeep
  • Consumer Guide New Jeep Prices and Reviews
  • Consumer Guide Used Jeep Prices and Reviews

1997 TJ Jeep Wrangler

In the auto industry, a decade is an awfully long time. Last redesigned for 1987, the smallest Jeep model was more than ready for a major makeover. While the last model-year 1995 Jeep Wranglers were reaching customers in 1996, a new 1997 TJ Jeep Wrangler was getting the final touches for its debut.

Engineers and stylists had been working diligently on an update of the Wrangler since the early Nineties. As early as 1992, in fact, the first prototypes were observed hammering away off-road -- on the fabled Rubicon Trail, of course.

1997 Jeep TJ Wrangler
©Chrysler LLC
The 1997 Jeep TJ Wrangler emerged in early 1996 in three trim levels.

Although devoted fans liked their Jeep Wranglers just as they were, a few grumbles about the YJ generation had been voiced. Some owners complained that off-road capabilities fell short of the old CJ models. Others never cottoned to the look of the 1987-1995 models. Jeep marketers weren't oblivious to the emergence of T-shirts that read: "Real Jeeps don't have square headlamps." What might seem a minor quibble to outsiders was a serious issue to Jeep Wrangler enthusiasts.

Jeep had a straightforward goal, according to platform general manager Craig Winn: "To make an acceptable road vehicle and an exceptional off-road vehicle." Following a theme of "merging history with the future," developers spent $260 million on the Jeep TJ Wrangler project producing what Chrysler Corporation described as a "subtle but nearly complete redesign of the classic Wrangler form."

When their work was done, 77 percent of the parts were new. Every body panel was new, except for the doors and tailgate. As before, Wranglers were built at Toledo, Ohio.

Launched in April 1996 as an early 1997 model, the new Jeep TJ Wrangler looked similar at a glance to its predecessor -- except for the retro-look round headlamps, that is. Not since the 1986 CJ had round units been installed on a Wrangler. Under that subtly modified skin, though, the Wrangler now had dual air bags as well as a batch of notable chassis, body, and interior upgrades.

Engineers finally did away with the Wrangler's primitive, trucklike leaf springs -- not only to soften the on-road ride but to provide more wheel travel during adventurous off-roading. Similar to the setup on the Jeep Grand Cherokee, the new Quadra-Coil suspension, with coil springs all around, provided seven more inches of articulation than its leaf-spring predecessor.

In addition to a smoother highway ride, this installation yielded improved ground clearance and approach/departure angles -- essential when the highway ends and the boulders begin. Solid axles remained at front and rear, and stabilizer bars were installed at both ends.

Although the new-generation Wrangler retained the basic, rugged, body-on-frame construction of its predecessors, the ladder frame was strengthened. Wheelbase was again 93.4 inches, and Wrangler measured a mere 151.8 inches long overall to the edge of its rear-mounted spare tire. Wheel-track width grew by an inch.

The new Wrangler's body was almost an inch wider, but exterior dimensions were otherwise little-changed. However, occupants gained some welcome space inside, including an extra 1.6 inches of front-seat travel. Front fenders were redesigned and front/rear wheel openings were higher to give more clearance for suspension articulation as well as bigger (30x9.5/15) optional tires.

Get more details on the 1997 Jeep Wrangler on the next page.

For more information on Jeeps, see:

  • History of Jeep
  • Consumer Guide New Jeep Prices and Reviews
  • Consumer Guide Used Jeep Prices and Reviews

1997 TJ Jeep Wrangler Specifications

The 1997 Jeep Wrangler still flaunted a paramilitary appearance, but its rough edges were softened just a bit. Aficionados might spot the appearance changes in an instant, but apart from the retro look headlamps, nothing dramatic had happened to the Jeep Wrangler's "classic" shape.

The hoodline was lowered by an inch, and the fold-down windshield, which was moved four inches forward at its base, sat at a steeper angle. Hood hinges and fasteners remained exposed, but were now flush with the surrounding metal. Turn-signal lamps moved from the grille face to the front of each fender.

From the windshield pillars rearward, though, the 1997 Jeep Wrangler looked an awful lot like the old model. As a convenience, the fuel filler moved from behind the rear license plate holder to the rear quarter.

1997 Jeep <span class=
©Chrysler LLC
Under the skin of the 1997 Jeep TJ Wrangler was a roomier interior and all-coil suspension.

Once again, Jeep Wrangler came with a folding soft top and an available plastic hardtop. The modified canvas top now folded more like a traditional convertible roof and Jeep claimed it could be lowered in one-third the time needed for the old one.

Plastic rear side windows were no longer removable, but the fabric top could be lowered and left in place with the optional hard-top installed directly over it. Jeep claimed that the new removable plastic door frames for soft-top models reduced wind noise at highway speeds.

Base SE, midlevel Sport, and upscale Sahara models went on sale. A Wrangler SE stickered for $13,470, while a Sahara brought $19,210.

Engines were basically the same as in the prior generation. The 2.5-liter, overhead-valve four-cylinder made 120 horsepower at 5,400 rpm. Modified for smoother running and better low-end torque, it produced three fewer horse-power than before, but one more pound-foot of torque.

Standard on the Sport and Sahara, the 4.0-liter, inline six-cylinder engine developed 181 horse-power at 4,600 rpm, and 222 pound-feet at 2,800 revs. Horsepower was up by one, torque by two, though the latter now peaked 1,200 rpm earlier than before. New aluminum pistons, a stiffer block, and a revised cam profile were the foremost changes. Six-cylinder models could tow exactly one ton. Payload capacity continued at 800 pounds.

A five-speed manual transmission was standard, a three-speed automatic optional. Standard Command-Trac four-wheel drive was a part-time system not for use on dry pavement. Equipped with auto-locking front hubs, it could be shifted while on the move between two-wheel drive and four-wheel high.

A center-console-mounted transfer case lever also selected the four-wheel drive low range. Options included a limited-slip Trac-Lok rear differential and a Dana 44 rear axle. Six-cylinder Wranglers could be ordered with four-wheel antilock braking, which again worked in both two- and four-wheel drive.

Wranglers seated up to four, with two front bucket seats and a two-place folding/removable rear bench that offered six more inches of hip room, thanks to the new rear suspension design. The front passenger seat had a new flip/fold mechanism to ease entry into the rear seats. Upholstery was done in vinyl or cloth, depending on the model.

Round analog gauges-including a tachometer-again sat in the redesigned dashboard, but instruments were now grouped ahead of the driver instead of strung out along the dashboard top. The climate system was now integrated into a central panel, whereas previously, air conditioner outlets hung below the dash. A full locking glovebox was installed. An optional full console (standard on Sahara) had two cupholders and a deep lockable bin.

Wipers now "parked" at the windshield base when not in use, rather than right on the glass, for an unobstructed view of the road. The former parking-brake foot pedal was replaced by a lever between the seats. Door map pockets contained "wash-out" slots, and carpeting could still be removed to hose down the Wrangler's interior after a muddy days' work-or play.

Ride quality and ergonomics ranked as the biggest improvements. Though still not truly comfortable, the TJ Wrangler stood well ahead of its predecessors in passenger pleasantness. According to Consumer Guide, the new suspension was far more absorbent, but still reacted abruptly to dips and bumps. Sharper steering helped make the Wrangler more responsive and stable, with less correction needed to stay on course.

Both engines felt smooth, though not really, stronger, and the automatic transmission sapped a lot of energy. Gas mileage was unimpressive. Consumer Guide testers averaged 19.3 mpg in mixed driving, including some off-roading, with a five-speed Sahara. Considerable wind noise was noted where the roof met the windshield frame. Doors sealed poorly with the canvas top, which fluttered. Meanwhile, the hardtop drummed at highway speeds.

Two adults no longer sat shoulder-to-shoulder in the back seat, but the cushion and backrest were deemed hard and short. The digital odometer became invisible in sunlight, and cargo space was modest unless the rear seat was folded or removed.

Despite Jeep's claims of easier operation, erecting the top still turned into an ordeal of struggling with zippers and plastic fittings. Still, Consumer Guide declared the Wrangler markedly more refined in this new generation and thus much closer to viable everyday transportation.

In an eight-vehicle trial dubbed "Festival of Filth," Car and Driver noted that a Wrangler Sport "proved terrific at telegraphing how much traction was still available to each front wheel," in a nasty dry wash. C/D also noted the Wrangler's "cement-mixer ride, deafening noise [and] amenities you'd find in a county lockup."

Details on the 1997 TJ Jeep Wrangler continue on the next page, as well as information for the 1997 Jeep Cherokee.

For more information on Jeeps, see:

  • History of Jeep
  • Consumer Guide New Jeep Prices and Reviews
  • Consumer Guide Used Jeep Prices and Reviews

1997 Jeep Cherokee

AutoWeek praised the TJ's all-coil suspension, which "allows you to keep all the fillings in your teeth through the vehicle-warranty period," while the extra seven inches of articulation was welcome "for getting over high rocks and through big holes." The Wrangler's "ride is still bouncy, but it is not as severe."

Popular Mechanics put a TJ through the rigors of the Rubicon Trail, placing it "at the front of the pack in stability and capability," able to take "holes, ditches and trenches in stride." Additional merits included the Wrangler's "exposed drawbridge-grade door hinges," and the fact that "doors can still be removed for that close-to-nature experience."

"Like all Wranglers," wrote Ted West in Outdoor Life, the new TJ "eats phonies and spits rivets-only now it wipes its chin afterwards." Though continuing to use "no-nonsense solid beam axles," the new Wrangler proffered "much improved pavement manners [and] has traded in most of its buckboard harshness . . . in favor of a well-controlled pavement ride."

While lauding its "improved ride and off-road manners," Car and Driver gave low marks to the Wrangler's "high-decibel soft top," complaining that "highway cruising with the soft top up is like driving through a perpetual hailstorm." Comparing Wrangler with the Geo Tracker, Suzuki X-90, and Toyota RAV4, C/D called it "too spartan," despite leading the pack for off-road adventures. "Wrangler is still something of an implement," said the magazine.

Wrangler sales had escalated every year from 1986 onward, peaking at 74,952 in 1994 before slipping down to 63,890 a year later. Sales rebounded sharply with the TJ's debut, to 81,444 in 1996 and another 81,956 during 1997.

Changes to the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee were less dramatic for 1997. A new Cherokee interior boasted increased sound insulation and interior standard dual air bags. Furthermore, a new central panel held climate and radio controls, while an overhead console contained a five-function trip computer.

Subtle styling revisions revolved around the grille, fascia, and front bumper. Revised bodyside moldings and wheel arches flowed into front and rear bumpers, and a new stamped-steel liftgate used hidden hinges.

With a major redesign looming, Jeep Grand Cherokee sailed through 1997 with minimal modification. The 5.2-liter V-8 engine, formerly available only with four-wheel drive, became available with two-wheel-drive models. Integrated child safety seats were dropped from the options list.

Detail changes marked the 1998 Jeep Wranglers. Cruise control became available for the first time. So did an engine-immobilizer antitheft system.

The driver's seat got tilt-forward entry, like that of the passenger seat. For off-roading, a 3.73:1 axle replaced the 3.55 unit as a no-cost option for six-cylinder models. Power steering was now standard across the board (it had formerly been optional on the base model).

Comparing a four-cylinder Wrangler to the new Isuzu Amigo, Motor Trend noted that its "Wrangler SE 4x4 is a ready-to-rumble dirt monger with a torquey 2.5-liter/120-horsepower inline four, a huge fun quotient, and not a whole lot more." Its main appeal, they suggested, was the long list of personalizing options, including brush guards, tubular bumpers, light bars, and side steps available from the factory.

Learn more about the 1998 Jeep on the next page.

For more information on Jeeps, see:
  • History of Jeep
  • Consumer Guide New Jeep Prices and Reviews
  • Consumer Guide Used Jeep Prices and Reviews

1998 Jeep

Wondering in AutoWeek if the 1998 Jeep TJ Wrangler qualified as a sports car, Pete Lyons wrote that it "certainly is meant for sport, in the meaning of something beyond effortless, mindless transportation." At the same time, the "once-spartan warrior offers such civilities as a/c, cruise control, even an electronic theft deterrent system." Adding that "this tough little trucklet's off-road-worthiness is well-established," Lyons noted the "straight-six's smooth whine is always audible."

Some road testers remained unhappy with the Jeep Wrangler's fabric roof. "With the top up," wrote Car and Driver's technical editor, "the noise of the flapping canvas is almost deafening." Taking the top down required 12 minutes, and "putting it back in place took a similar amount of time." Able to accelerate to 60 mph in 10.1 seconds when brand-new, the six-cylinder/automatic Sport the magazine tested accomplished that feat in just 9.5 seconds after 40,000 miles rolled up on the odometer.

"The Wrangler steers, handles, sticks, and goes better than a lot of cars on the road," wrote one C/D tester, "yet politely reminds you that serious off-roading capabilities are no farther away than a lift of the drive wheels' selector lever . . . As a daily driver, the Wrangler excels for those who commute on the Rubicon. The rest of us need a few days' break between drives."

1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee 5.9 Limited
©Chrysler LLC
The 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee 5.9 Limited was a one-year wonder that had a 245-horsepower V-8 engine.

A new Classic model topped the Jeep Cherokee lineup for 1998, and a Limited option package (for the Classic) replaced the Country. Only the SE and Sport came in two-door form. Four-cylinder models could now be equipped with a three-speed automatic transmission instead of the five-speed manual, and depowered dual airbags were installed. A quicker steering gear and aluminum radiators were used, and vibrant Chili Pepper Red was among new color choices.

Ranking just behind Ford's Explorer in the midsize sport-utility market, the Grand Cherokee faced fresh in-house competition as Dodge introduced the Durango, which was capable of seating seven. Laredo, TSi, and Limited again made up the Grand Cherokee lineup, but the Orvis trim level was gone. A 245-horsepower V-8 engine was now available, exclusive to a new premium 5.9 Limited model.

Jeep claimed the 5.9 Limited was its fastest and most powerful vehicle ever. Mated to a new Automatic transmission, the 360-cubic-inch V-8 yielded 345 pound-feet of torque and could, Jeep said, accelerate to 60 mph in a swift 7.3 seconds. The Limited had its own mesh grille, hood louvers, and 16-inch tires on Ultra Star spoke alloy wheels. Interior trim included "claf's-nap" grain leather seat inserts, complemented by bird's-eye maple woodgrain accents.

As 1998 ended, Chrysler Corporation -- Jeep's parent -- evaporated, melding into Daimler-Benz AG to become DaimlerChrysler Corporation. Initially described as a "merger of equals" when the surprise announcement of the deal was made early that year, the marriage would later be criticized as a full-fledged takeover of the old American company by its new German partner.

In any case, the continued success of the Jeep brand was a major reason for the appeal of Chrysler as a merger/takeover target. See the next section for details on the success of the 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee.

For more information on Jeeps, see:

  • History of Jeep
  • Consumer Guide New Jeep Prices and Reviews
  • Consumer Guide Used Jeep Prices and Reviews

1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Against the backdrop of the corporate drama, the biggest Jeep product -- Jeep Grand Cherokee -- emerged as all-new for the 1999 model year. This second-generation Grand Cherokee was larger and could be fitted with a new V-8 engine and four-wheel-drive system.

"Designing the new Grand Cherokee was like doing a new generation of Rolls-Royce or Harley-Davidson," said Tom Gale, executive vice president of product strategy and design. "The Jeep image is larger than life."

Called "the most capable sport-utility ever," the WJ series debuted in August 1998 as a "reaction to the increasing desire on the part of the sport-utility marketplace to move the vehicle upscale," said Jack Broomall, director of Jeep vehicle development. Developers wanted it to be "quieter, more sophisticated, with a higher level of interior appointments."

Appearance of what was called "The New Level" was not dramatically different from the 1993-98 version, but sheetmetal edges were softer and rounder. Traditional styling themes remained, including the familiar slotted grille and ribbed body cladding. A less-angular grille displayed greater rake. An arched roof and stretched trapezoidal wheel arches rounded out the picture.

Wheelbase was unchanged at 105.9 inches; while length increased 4.3 inches. Track width grew an inch, overall width 1.6 inches, height 2.2 inches. Step-in height dropped by 1.1 inches, but seating position turned out to be higher than before.

Jeep reported that only 127 very small pieces were carried over and, according to AutoWeek, claimed they had "redesigned the interior using German sport/luxury sedans as benchmarks." Solid front and rear axles were retained, but matched to a new three-link rear suspension.

1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee
©Chrysler LLC
The big news for model-year 1999 was an all-new Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Still with seating for five, the 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee offered more usable luggage capacity, because stretching the rear by three inches allowed the spare tire to move from the cargo hold to beneath the rear floor. Rear hip room grew by 3.1 inches. Laredo and more luxurious Limited models were offered.

A revised 4.0-liter, six-cylinder base engine produced 10 more horsepower this year; it was rated at 195. The pushrod 5.2-liter V-8 of prior years was replaced by a brand-new, overhead-cam, 4.7-liter V-8, yielding 235 horsepower. Those with trailering needs could get an optional 6500-pound towing package.

Instead of the usual two planetary gearsets, the new "multispeed" 45 RFE automatic transmission fitted to V-8 models had three. It used four ratios for upshifting, but five for downshifting. When downshifting under light or normal load from third, it would select the 1.50:1 second gear. But when maximum response was needed, it shifted to an alternate second gear, with a lower (1.67:1) ratio. The latter gear was also used for upshifts.

Jeep Grand Cherokees could have rear-wheel drive or an appealing choice of four-wheel-drive systems. Selec-Trac could be shifted from two-wheel drive to full-time four-wheel drive. Permanently engaged Quadra-Trac could apportion power between the front and rear axles. The new permanent Quadra-Drive could send 100 percent of engine power to any wheel, at any time, to maintain traction.

The innovative Quadra-Drive system consisted of two components: a Quadra-Trac II transfer case and Vari-Lok progressive differentials. Under normal conditions, most of the engine's power went to the rear wheels. As soon as any wheel lost traction, a speed-sensing torque-transfer coupling detected the speed variation that occurs between the front and rear axle. A special pump would then apply hydraulic pressure to a multidisc clutch that sent power to the front axle. As a result, nearly 100 percent of engine torque could be diverted to a single wheel, allowing the vehicle to keep moving even if that tire had minimal traction.

Meanwhile, Vari-Lok sensed wheelspin caused by differing traction characteristics at certain wheels -- for instance, when ice was present only on one side of the road. Torque would then be transferred to the wheel on the higher-traction surface.

A two-wheel-drive Laredo started $25,695, while the four-wheel-drive Limited stickered for $33,890. At the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the Grand Cherokee was crowned the 1999 North American Truck of the Year by a panel of journalists.

No midsize SUV rode more comfortably, in the estimation of Consumer Guide staffers, noting that the revised suspension "handles all but the worst potholes with aplomb." The new V-8 was declared far smoother than its predecessor.

Find out more reactions to the 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee, as well as the 1999 Jeep Wrangler, on the next page.

For more information on Jeeps, see:

  • History of Jeep
  • Consumer Guide New Jeep Prices and Reviews
  • Consumer Guide Used Jeep Prices and Reviews

Reactions to the 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Wrangler

"The Grand Cherokee is a mountain goat," wrote Scott Oldham in Popular Mechanics. His Limited with Quadra-Drive leapt to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds. "In the city," on the other hand, "the system seems crude, binding up during tight parking lot maneuvers and U-turns."

Joe Oldham, Scott's father and fellow journalist, dubbed the new Grand Cherokee "the quickest and fastest sport utility vehicle you can buy [and] unquestionably the best Jeep ever built." On the downside, he advised that "the rear suspension doesn't always want to do the same thing you want to do and it gives a little jiggle under you to let you know that you're pushing a bit too hard."

Consumer Reports was satisfied with the Jeep Grand Cherokee's handling skills both on- and off-road, but found it "unrefined" overall. "Side-to-side rocking spoils the Grand Cherokee's ride," they declared. "The drivetrain whines constantly, and the engine growls harshly when it's revving."

Although the "previous Grand Cherokee lumbered toward truckiness," AutoWeek suggested, this one's "tempered personality makes it a real-world runner." AW's 0-60 mph acceleration test produced a figure just under 7.5 seconds.

Jeep engineers had made "deliberate compromises in on-road comfort to keep off-road prowess at a high level," Car and Driver declared. "The Rubicon raider is smoother and more refined on the paved road, but it's still sure-footed on the trail."

Sales figures for calendar-year 1999 demonstrated Grand Cherokee's prowess on show-room floors. A total of 300,031 went to customers, up 31 percent from 1998.

As for the other two Jeep products, rotary controls replaced the Jeep Wrangler climate system's sliding levers. Wranglers came in new colors for the body, interior, and both top styles. Meanwhile, minor appearance changes marked the Cherokees. New options included heated seats for Classics with the Limited package. A Sentry Key theft-deterrent system for the Sport and Classic could disable the ignition if an improper key was used.

Consumer Guide concluded that though crude even for a no-frills SUV, the 1999 Jeep Wrangler nonetheless exuded more personality and better off-road capability than nearly anything on the market. On the other hand, CG editors dubbed Cherokee the "blue light special" of midsize SUVs, noting its aging design and behind-the-times interior space, ride, and refinement.

The Walter P. Chrysler Museum opened in October 1999 in Auburn Hills, Michigan, home to DaimlerChrysler's U.S. headquarters. Several Jeep products from throughout the years were put on display, but none so prominently as Willys MB placed in a diorama depicting the advance of American GIs through war-torn Europe sometime after the D-Day invasion.

On the next page, learn about Jeep in the twenty-first century with details on the 2000-2001 Jeep.

For more information on Jeeps, see:
  • History of Jeep
  • Consumer Guide New Jeep Prices and Reviews
  • Consumer Guide Used Jeep Prices and Reviews

2000-2001 Jeep

For 2000, the Jeep Wrangler's six-cylinder engine was modified for smoother operation and reduced emissions. Standard radios were upgraded. The Sport added a cassette player and two speakers in the roll bar, while the Sahara got a CD player. The tilt wheel optional in SE and Sport now was leather-covered, as in the Sahara.

Now sold as a separate model, the Cherokee Limited grew fancier in 2000, wearing a chrome grille, headlight surrounds, and brow over the rear license plate, plus bright-silver alloy wheels. Cherokee's six-cylinder engine was said to be quieter and emit fewer exhaust pollutants. Headlights were designed to be brighter and longer-lasting. A new cassette stereo became standard.

2000 Jeep Cherokee Limited
©Chrysler LLC
Formerly an option package, the Limited gained full-model status atop the Jeep Cherokee lineup for 2000.

Following its major reworking for 1999, the 2000 Grand Cherokee showed minimal change. Two-wheel-drive models were now available with V-8 power. Also, V-8 four-wheelers could be ordered with the Selec-Trac system. A "Headlights-On" indicator became standard.

A revised 2001 Jeep Wrangler interior featured standard intermittent wipers and a modified console with rear cupholders. The Sahara added standard air conditioning. Stereos could be equipped with newly available subwoofers. The optional Add-A-Trunk storage compartment switched from metal to molded plastic construction and could slide forward or be removed. Child-seat tethers were added to the rear seat. Tinted soft-top windows were new extras. The top was thicker for added quiet and durability.

Four-cylinder Cherokees disappeared after 2000, as did the base SE and the uplevel Classic editions. That left two- and four-door Sport models and a four-door Limited for 2001. Each had a cleaner-running update of the 4.0-liter, 190-horsepower, six-cylinder engine and gained rear child-seat anchors.

A five-speed automatic transmission went into V-8 Grand Cherokees for 2001, with a second overdrive top gear for better highway economy. The unity retained the extra gear between second and third for better passing response. The Limited gained 17-inch alloy wheels, which were optional on Laredo. Aluminum-finish interior trim was added. A rear storage net was new, along with rear child-seat anchors and a connector for electric trailer brakes.

Jeep marketed 60th-anniversary editions of the Wrangler, Cherokee, and Grand Cherokee, beginning in February. Each came in silverstone or black, and contained embroidered floormats and badges that displayed the Jeep 60th-anniversary logo.

Nothing lasts forever, and age had become a serious issue for another Jeep model. The essential design of the midlevel Cherokee had been around ever since 1984 without a major redesign. Clearly, a replacement was needed, even though Cherokees continued to sell quite well. A total of 165,261 went to customers in 2000, for instance-up 13 percent from the 1999 figure.

Learn about the replacement for the Jeep Cherokee, the 2002 Jeep Liberty, on the next page.

For more information on Jeeps, see:

  • History of Jeep
  • Consumer Guide New Jeep Prices and Reviews
  • Consumer Guide Used Jeep Prices and Reviews

2002 Jeep Liberty

Jeep Cherokee's replacement was the 2002 Jeep Liberty, an all-new design larger inside and out, but with traditional Jeep styling cues and, naturally, serious off-road capability.

Designed to appeal to a new breed of SUV buyer who expected comfort and refinement, it was the first Jeep with independent front suspension, rack and pinion steering, and available curtain side airbags. The link-coil solid-axle rear suspension was similar to Grand Cherokee's.

2002 Jeep Liberty
©Chrysler LLC
The 2002 Jeep Liberty replaced the Jeep Cherokee and was the first Jeep with independent front suspension and curtain side airbags.

In addition to the four-cylinder engine was a new V-6, which was derived from the 4.7 V-8 and provided a 5,000-pound towing capacity, tops among compact SUVs. Sport models had contrasting-color wheel-arch cladding, while upscale Limited Editions (shown) had a monochromatic look and available leather upholstery.

Jeep was dismayed when early customer-research clinics interpreted the first Liberty styling prototype as a "mini Grand Cherokee." So designers went back to the drawing board to blend the Dakar and Jeepster show vehicles into this final result. Liberty is sold in 90 countries, but outside North America it's marketed under a familiar old name: Cherokee.

"Uniframe" construction is said to be stiffer and lighter than body-on-frame assembly used by truck-based competitors. Two four-wheel-drive systems are available: part-time Command-Trac and optional full-time Selec-Trac.
An innovative swing gate/flipper glass design provides access to the cargo area. The spare tire is externally mounted. Round gauges have black-on-beige graphics and a 65/35 split rear seat features one-handed folding.

Amplifying the newness of the Jeep Liberty, DaimlerChrysler made a surprising selection of temporary "spokesperson" to launch the vehicle at the 2001 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. He was none other than Ken Kesey, author of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," among other novels, and guru of sorts to the Sixties counterculture.

Kesey appeared on a small, elevated stage to the accompaniment of vibrant sound effects in the darkened meeting space, filled to capacity with journalists. The vague sounds were meant to represent traffic, prompting Kesey to launch into a quiet, rhapsodic evocation of highways: quiet highways, small-town highways -- the byways of the American past. "Blue highways," in fact, of the sort described by William Least Heat Moon in his travel memoir of that name.

People could "get anywhere," Kesey explained, "simply by following the blue highways." They "still exist [but] you have to want to look for them . . . Blue highways are not for everyone." Rather, they're for people who "let trips take them." The new Liberty just might "help knit the blue highways together again," Kesey asserted.

Three examples then drove onto the stage -- one of them down a simulated off-road byway. Jeans-wearing Jeep general manager Tom Sidlik called the 2002 Jeep Liberty "a new Jeep for a new adventure," meant to attract "a whole new kind of Jeep buyer" without losing the hard-core enthusiasts.

Sport and Limited editions were offered. The Sport model has contrasting mold-in-color fascias, fender flares, and bodyside moldings. The Limited projects an upscale monochromatic look.

After promising an appealing price, DaimlerChrysler announced in late March 2001 that the base Liberty Sport would list for $17,035 (including a $585 destination charge). A 4x4 Sport was offered $18,545. Limited prices started at $21,795 (or $23,305 with four-wheel drive).

Liberty is the first Jeep with available side-curtain airbags. An optional off-road group includes Trac-Lok and all-terrain tires. Skid plates covering fuel tank and transfer case are available.

Early reviews found things to like about the Liberty. "Approach and departure angles are best in class," according to Car and Driver. "Refinement and noise abatement were high priorities during the development." Ward's Auto World reported that the KJ is "the stiffest Jeep yet," according to Jeep body director Phil Jansen -- 45 percent better than Cherokee in bending and 30 percent in torsional rigidity.

The Jeep Liberty will have a big reputation to uphold. "Jeep is not a brand of a product." said Broomall, "it's a lifestyle." Jeep owners wave to each other, he noted, the way drivers of British sports cars did 40 years earlier.

"Exciting breakthrough products made this company," said Dieter Zetsche, new head of the American portion of DaimlerChrysler, during the Liberty's Detroit debut. "[And they] will do so again."

For more information on Jeeps, see:

  • History of Jeep
  • Consumer Guide New Jeep Prices and Reviews
  • Consumer Guide Used Jeep Prices and Reviews