Off-Roading with the Jeep Cherokee

May 8th, 2020 by

A red 2020 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk, which is popular among Jeeps for sale in Colorado Springs, CO, is off-roading through water.

Amongst all of the Jeeps for sale in Colorado Springs, you’re sure to see a galaxy of Jeep Wranglers, brand new Gladiators, and more. Sometimes, it seems the Jeep Cherokee is forgotten in all the hype surrounding its high-performance cousins. In fact, many people see the Jeep Cherokee as just another road-friendly SUV. Perhaps it’s time for that thinking to change. From the “Old School” XJ model Cherokee, to the newest generation of Cherokee Trailhawk, it turns out that this Jeep model is very worthy of the pavement and the road less traveled. In fact, the XJ Cherokee has quite a following when it comes to classic off-roaders.

Furthermore, with Jeep’s additions and changes to the Cherokee in recent years, even more of the traditional Jeep lineup is ready for whatever terrain might lie ahead. Check out the details surrounding Jeep’s off-road commitment, and how even the Cherokee can take you wherever you might want to explore. If you want to know more, you can always visit us at Faricy Boys and take any of the vehicles on our lot for a test drive and experience the excellence for yourself. For now, though, let’s take a look at some of the details.

The Jeep Off-Road Experience

A red 2020 Jeep Cherokee is following a blue one up a winding trail.

When people think of taking a Jeep off-road, they typically picture a classic Jeep Wrangler, crawling a rocky wilderness trail, roof, and doors off, with the drivers having the time of their lives. And truth be told, this is the picture that off-road culture has painted. Extreme, bold, daring, and wild- everything that off-road experience is made of. Still, for those who are just starting off-road, or looking for a next vehicle, there’s one massive block in the road: Wranglers can be expensive! Even used Wranglers dating to the 1990s with over 200 thousand miles can leave drivers with a bit of sticker shock.

This is typically because Wrangler culture involves a lot of mods, and the ability to repair things on the fly. With lifts, big custom off-road tires, shocks, and struts that are made to take on the rockiest terrain and the most intimidating obstacles, Wranglers are one of the most customized vehicles available. So you’re always going to see a bigger price tag with plenty of options that it acquired after it left the lot. It makes sense why the price is so high, but that just is not in some people’s budgets.

But that’s not to say other vehicles in the Jeep lineup aren’t just as worthy of a tour through the off-road kingdom. The 2020 Gladiator touts itself as being an off-road read full-duty pick-up truck, with the ability to haul anywhere. The Jeep Compass even has a reputation for being “adventurous,” especially within the SUV niche. Meanwhile, vehicles such as the Cherokee, Grand Cherokee, and Renegade seem much more like “daily drive” vehicles, yet when properly equipped, they can cruise along the path just as well as their stablemates.

Since the early 1980s, however, the Cherokee model has been more prepared than most people imagine for the mud, the wind, the water, and the rocks.

The XJ Cherokee 1983-2001

The XJ Cherokee is the sleeper hit of the off-road community in many ways. When it appeared on the market in 1983, it didn’t offer a lot of power. This unibody addition to the Jeep family marketed itself as a “Sportwagon,” an identity that morphed into the concept of a Sport Utility Vehicle, or SUV, in the 1990s. The idea was to introduce a bigger, bolder vehicle that melded the capabilities of both the station wagon and an off-road vehicle. Jeep tinkered with two-door and four-door models, as well as rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive.

For many, the tides changed when the 1987 model, featuring a 4.0L straight six-cylinder engine, was introduced. This engine was initially paired to an automatic transmission, but some drivers chose a five-speed manual transmission – a massive boon to off-road drivers.

The unibody style persevered, however. This means the body and frame are integrated. The driving feel has been described as more “solid” when compared to universal style Jeeps such as the Wrangler, which features a body sitting on top of a full-frame. Additionally, the XJ included Dana 30 and Dana 35 axles and differentials in the front and rear, adding an impressive amount of stability.

While there are plenty of differences between the XJ Cherokee and a Wrangler, the truth is that a four-wheel drive XJ could hit the road any day of any week, equipped with just the maximum rated tires, some heavy-duty trail-rated shocks, and maybe some extra lights. That being said, it’s not at all challenging to find XJs on the market that have been treated to a full suspension lift with massive all-terrain tires, and protective gear (like skid plates). You might even find XJs with a full roll cage built into the interior!

There are many XJ beasts available on the market today if you find just the right seller or dealership. But for those looking for some of the modern conveniences of vehicles, the current generation of Cherokee is just as ready to perform.

A red XJ Stroker Jeep Cherokee built by Mopar is in the desert sand.

The Cherokee Trailhawk 2007-present

The new generation of Jeep Cherokee lacks the rugged, butch look of its older sibling, so it might be easier to think of it as more of a road vehicle, and less of an off-road warrior. The truth is, it’s ready to roll just about anywhere.

When it comes to traction, the modern Cherokee is ready to perform. The current Trailhawk trim includes Jeep’s special Active Drive Lock 4×4 System, which features a full-time four-wheel drive that engages automatically based on driving conditions. The special off-road edition used on Trailhawk adds a mechanical rear axle lock, as well as the Select-Terrain® Traction Management system, which allows drivers to choose four different traction settings, including Automatic, Snow, Sport, Sand/Mud, and Rock.

For power, the 2020 Trailhawk relies on a 3.2L DOHC V6 engine, which produces 271 horsepower and 239 lb/ft of torque. It’s also an inch higher than the rest of the Cherokee trims, allowing for greater clearance of 8.7 inches.

Inside, drivers will find all of the conveniences of a modern drive. Compared to the ruggedness of the Wrangler- which can shed its doors, roof, and windshield for extreme trail driving- some may call this cheating. Others might say it’s pretty wise. Heated and cooled leather seats, noise-dampening glass, and an infotainment system with navigation and HD radio make the Cherokee a well-rounded vehicle that can transition from the office to the trail in no time flat.

The modern Cherokee also includes safety features that make it welcome on any road, including forward-collision alert with emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, as well as automatic high beams and windshield wipers. Cameras and sensors surrounding the body assist with blind-spot monitoring, parallel parking, and navigating in reverse in crowded areas like parking lots or garages.

For those in the Colorado Springs area, it might seem like any road can be an off-road experience, depending on the weather, the potholes, or traffic obstructions. The Jeep Cherokee is well-suited to the challenge- both in its modern iteration and in its previous generations. This reliable, well-engineered vehicle may not offer the same thrill as crawling rocks in a Wrangler with the roof off, but it maintains the rugged off-road capability that Jeep has built its reputation on. From the cozy interior to the considerate budget, a Cherokee is an ideal off-roader for the budget-conscious, for those who need a capable daily driver, and for those who aren’t quite ready to sacrifice comfort for thrills.