The Worst Jeep Cherokee XJ Models You Should Never Buy

Have you been noticing Jeep Cherokee XJ models popping up around your city? These classic Jeep models are really starting to rise in popularity. But don’t buy a used Jeep Cherokee just because the square body looks cool. Do your homework to learn which models need to be avoided. 

The Used Jeep Cherokee XJ models to avoid 

First of all, what is a Jeep Cherokee XJ? It is a Jeep Cherokee generation that was manufactured from 1983 to 2001. They were called SportWagens, as the precursor to sport utility vehicles (SUV) before that term was used. 

1997 Jeep Cherokee Police Group 4x4
1997 Jeep Cherokee Police Group 4×4 | Bring a Trailer

What does XJ mean for Jeep? It means eXperimental Jeep. I guess the experiment worked because the style lasted for decades. It had a bespoke unibody chassis for a more car-like performance with epic off-roading capabilities. 

Some fans call it the golden age of Jeep. Then the Jeep Liberty came out and ruined the party. However, now you can find a few used Jeep Cherokee XJ models for cheap. They are also extremely durable and easy to mod for rock crawling if you don’t have the cash to spec out a Jeep Wrangler. 

The 1983 – 1987 Jeep Cherokee XJ models 

According to FourWheeler, the earlier Jeep Cherokee XJ models are not the golden years. Models before 1987 had early model transfer-case options that didn’t hold up as well. They aren’t weaker, but they lack aftermarket support that NP242 and Np231 found in the 1987 Jeep Cherokee has. 

RELATED: These Jeep Cherokee Model Years Have Awful Transmissions

The later transfer case options came with a 2.72:1 low ranger and have aftermarket parts like 4:1 gear-reduction kits, slip yoke eliminators, and wide-chain upgrades. The NP242 was even offered with a part-time option for frequent off-roaders. 

The 1987 Jeep Cherokee XJ

Also, in 1987, the beloved 4.0-liter inline-six engine was introduced. It’s one fast and sporty engine. However, the system on the first 4.0-liter engine is known to come with a few problems. Some drivers faced the engine overheating and a raw gas odor. 

Jeep Cherokee XJ off-roading
Jeep Cherokee XJ | Getty Images

In 1991 the Cherokee XJ gained the High-Output version of the 4.0-liter engine. It came equipped with a multi-port fuel injection system to produce 190 hp. This was pretty much the only change it saw for nearly a decade, until 1999. 

I have the inline-6 engine in my 1996 Jeep Cherokee XJ, and it’s still a blast to drive around town. The most common issues with this engine include a leaky rear main seal and cracked header. Otherwise, these engines are known for going over 200,000 miles. 

1997 – 2001 Jeep Cherokee XJ models

Hardcore Jeepers claim that 1996 was the last good year for the Jeep Cherokee. From 1997 – 2001, the Jeep Cherokee started to stray away from its classic look. It got a brand new interior, which takes away from the retro style that’s now highly desirable. 

Also, it’s rare to find a Jeep Cherokee XJ with a manual transmission. From 1987 and on, the Jeep Cherokee XJ primarily had four-speed automatic transmissions. However, in 200, the NV35000 five-speed manual transmission appeared. It’s pretty rare and may be expensive if you can find one. 

It seems like your best bet is to find a Jeep Cherokee XJ model from 1991 to 1996 for the best engine and better off-roading equipment. But the Jeep Cherokee XJ is easy to mod into the perfect option no matter what model year you find. Just look out for body rust; it’s a huge Jeep Cherokee XJ killer.