Wrangler vs Cherokee: Which Jeep is Better and Why?

So, you are interested in Jeep’s. But, you don’t know what is better, the Cherokee or the Wrangler? Well, there are many things to consider which one is better, and which one is better for you specifically. For this comparison, we will be using the XJ Cherokee and the TJ Wrangler.

As a side note, I would like to let you know that own an XJ Cherokee, so I may be little biased to the XJ.

XJ Cherokee

Jeep made the XJ Cherokee from 1984 to 2001. They produced it as both a 2-door and a 4-door. But, the 4-door was always more popular. Jeep built the XJ Cherokee to be more luxurious than the Wrangler, but also more family friendly with its larger size. But, they kept it smaller and less luxurious than the ZJ Grand Cherokee.

I don’t think Jeep had ever intended for the XJ Cherokee to be a hardcore off-road rig, but today in 2016 that’s what most XJ Cherokee’s are used for.   For every 90 XJ Cherokee’s I see on the trail, I will only see 10 Wranglers.

TJ Wrangler

Jeep made the TJ Wrangler from 1996 to 2006 and produced it in a few different variations. Later in the TJ’s life Jeep introduced the LJ, which was an extended wheelbase model of the TJ. The TJ Wrangler was the first to ever be coil-spring front and rear. All other Wrangler’s before it was leaf spring from and rear.

Wrangler vs Cherokee: Interior

The removable roof and removable doors are of course the most defining features of the TJ Wrangler or any Wrangler for that matter. But what about other interior features? Well, the Wrangler and the Cherokee are actually very similar when it comes to the interior. They are of course different but share many of the same qualities and features.

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Most Cherokees and most Wranglers came with cloth seats and few power options. Higher up models like the Laredo offered leather seats and power everything, but most people opted for the lower model’s when Cherokees and Wranglers were brand new.

Wrangler vs Cherokee: Suspension

The Wrangler and Cherokee are both similar and very different with their suspension design. The front suspension of the TJ Wrangler and the XJ Cherokee are nearly identical. The TJ, XJ, and ZJ are all based on the same design, and share many of the same parts.

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The rear suspension is where the TJ and the XJ are very different from each other. Jeep built the XJ to be more family friendly, as with that they wanted it to be able to tow a little bit. So, they gave it a leaf-spring rear end. The TJ Wrangler was designed to be an off-roader, so Jeep gave it a coil-spring rear suspension.

Also Read: YJ vs TJ: Which One is Actually Better?

Why does the rear coil spring suspension help off-road? It helps the rear end articulate. This helps keep the wheels on the ground, which helps keep the Jeep moving forwards since they didn’t come with lockers from the factory.

Wrangler vs Cherokee: Off-Road

You would think that the Jeep Wrangler would be better than anything else off-road right? I mean, Jeep designed it to be a hardcore off-road vehicle and take you anywhere. But, would you believe me if I told you that the XJ Cherokee is actually better off-road than the TJ Wrangler?

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You might be wondering how that is possible. The TJ Wrangler is coil suspension front and rear, it should have more articulation and be better off-road right? Well, there is one thing that the TJ Wrangler is missing, and that wheelbase. Articulation is basically just wheelbase and suspension flex. The TJ Wrangler has great suspension flex, but a small wheelbase. The XJ Cherokee has good suspension flex and a medium wheelbase.

Check Out: TJ vs JK: Which One is Actually Better?

You might argue that since the Wrangler is smaller it can fit more places. This is true, but in all my years of off-roading there has never been a place my XJ didn’t fit, and a Wrangler did. But, in those years of off roading my XJ, I’ve seen Wrangler’s get stuck in spots where Cherokee’s easily go.

Wrangler vs Cherokee: Price

This is one of the most important factors when deciding which Jeep is actually better. Price is everything in the car world, we are all trying to save a buck, and then invest that buck into making our vehicles better. I’ve talked about this a lot in the YJ vs TJ and TJ vs JK articles.

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You can pick up a nice XJ Cherokee from $1,500 to $2,500 in near stock form. You can buy a slightly beat up XJ with a nice lift on it for about that much. Compared to the TJ Wrangler which goes for $5k+ for a near stock one, and $6k+ for one with a nice lift.

Basically, XJ’s are half the price of a TJ Wrangler. That leaves you a bunch of money left over for modifications, which is every Jeep owners dream.

Summary

So, Wranglers and Cherokee’s are basically the same on the interior. They are both pretty bare bones. They also share the same front suspension but don’t share the same rear suspension. The XJ Cherokee is cheaper to buy and will go farther off-road.

If you ask me, the XJ Cherokee is definitely better than the Wrangler.

About Bryce Cleveland 494 Articles
Bryce founded Dust Runners Automotive Journal in 2014 as a way to write about the cars he found interesting. He currently owns a 2003 Honda CRF450R Supermoto, 2006 Nissan 350Z, and a 2018 Yamaha MT09. Follow him on Instagram for more @bryce.cleveland.

6 Comments

  1. Great article, but apples and oranges. The Wrangler has a convertible top. So it’s like a cruiser or Harley motorcycle or Dualsport. You can cruise in the open air on back roads with wind in your hair or face if you lay the windshield down. If it rains you put top back up. Removing the top or windshield in a Cherokee involves blow torch and well its permanently off. That’s why I love Wranglers. It’s a motorcycle, it’s a atv it’s a convertible car, and it’s daily transportation and a trail rig. That’s a lot of value. Plus tell a girl you have a Jeep and show her your Cherokee and she will probably not give you a second date. Wind in hair… That’s why Wrangler best seller

    • If a girl doesn’t go on a date with you for your vehicle, then you’re going for the wrong girls.

  2. What about the 4-door Jeep Wrangler? Would that have the larger wheelbase needed to traverse off-road terrain?

  3. As an other person said- oranges to apples. First, what is “your” purpose? They are similar in many ways, but oh so different in many more. One could write volumes on this. So, get with a knowledgeable person, be very specific in what YOU want. I’ve been “Jeeping” for 30 years. I see & hear all sorts of experts & their crap. Usually, it’s a glorified “ mall crawler” Even almost 2 identical wranglers, turn out very different in off road performance. Example- stock Rubicon vs stock Sahara. So Wrangler vs Cherokee is no comparison. My personal choice- Unlimited Rubicon.

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