Jeep Cherokee XJ - Contender for the Overlanding Crown?


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I have really enjoyed this thread. As a die hard XJ fan (I've owned three) I gotta say I haven't encountered any other vehicle that suits me better. And when my current one gets too long in the tooth I'll simply find another cleaner fresher one and swap my parts over.
That's similar to how I feel. At a towering 5'7", I feel like the XJ was tailored around me. Spacious enough to take it with you, small enough to squeeze between the trees. I'm constantly tempted by the allure of other vehicles, but the dirt-cheap practicality of the XJ suits my lifestyle.


That's similar to how I feel. At a towering 5'7", I feel like the XJ was tailored around me. Spacious enough to take it with you, small enough to squeeze between the trees. I'm constantly tempted by the allure of other vehicles, but the dirt-cheap practicality of the XJ suits my lifestyle.

I feel the same but at 6'1 lol. I cut my seat bracket by 3/4" so I sat a bit lower in the driver seat. But for me and 2 others and the dog it's fine. I really want a burb but haven't been able to let go of my xj yet. I fear an accident with kill my xj forever but then I can buy another for under 2000 and swap everything on over.
The inline 6 and ax15 keep me in mine. Honestly..nothing like shifting gears or engine breaking. And that inline 6 is so damn sweet and damn near up indestructible. And for crist sakes they are EVERYWHERE!!!


had a few,really really liked them.

i'm around 6'5 so it wasn't exactly large minivan fit lol but still ok.

there's not much you have to look for with these cars,except perhaps avoid (if you can) the rear dana 35,and the cracking head years(99-01 or 00-01 as lots say)

bit my hand a few times in order not to get another one lately. cheap,real cheap. around 1k there's plenty.

though i wouldn't recommend them for lots of miles,not because of reliability,but because of the 4.0's thirst :)

fuel is around 1.35$ per liter around here,will probably go to 1.5$ soon. with 15 l/100km's or worse,it adds up.

if you keep it for occasional wheeling or short/medium trips, i.e. not your long range vehicle,cant beat them.


West slope, N. Ser. Nev.
My friend had a 1988 Jeep MJ, Metric Ton pick up. I've only seen a few of these. Yes, a 2200 pound load could drop into that 8' bed. It had a heavy duty Dana 44 rear end, with the 31 spline semi floating, thick tube axle. It had a 5 leaf main pack and a 3 leaf secondary pack for the heavy loading. The front looked just like an XJ. He did a 5" lift with a kit for the front axle (high pinion D-30, 4.56 gears and Power Lok) and a springs-over-axle for the rear (4.56 gears/ Track loc). He had 33x9.50R15 Mud Terrain's, so tall and skinny. An interesting variant on our beloved XJ's, one that I would also see in the running as a primo Expo rig. Put a shell or small pop up camper on there and see the world. jefe



West slope, N. Ser. Nev.
Three and a half years ago I posted on this thread about the exigencies of owning an XJ. In the meantime, I installed a Detroit True Trac, torque biasing limited slip diff. in the front to go with the rear trash-lok. I think it's the only 3.73:1 geared XJ around. I'm still using it as the best of our snow cars and pulling a jeep trailer with wood sides and a pintel to collect firewood.

Why does that work? Narrow comes to mind. I can get through the trees easier than with my Dodge 2-series pickup.

Now, I want to say why I don't think it's the best Overlanding rig ever made. Firstly, the jeep has marginal power with only one person and no passengers and does well, but there's no cheap way to up the HP especially in high smog litigation states. One of it's successes is that it's very lightweight, comparatively. @ 3K pounds, with me driving alone, it's good. I've owned three of them (1989, 1990, 1999) and together put about 175K miles on them. Load it up with a bunch of expo add-ons, big tires, and it is a lot slower and the mpg numbers drop like a rock. Pull a jeep trailer loaded up with long range EXPO travel goods, some folks and you have a slug. It remains one of the best Jeeps ever built, and it's flower is fading, but most of the newer jeeps have a better drivetrain, engine, load capacity and creature comforts.
This view has stuck in my craw since posting on here in Jan/2013.
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I disagree about the load capacity. GVWR on the XJ is superb at 4900lbs. Finding a modern, similar sized vehicle with that much payload capacity would be difficult. My XJ is a little slow going up large hills, but it will maintain 65mph up them, even close to GVWR. MPG isn't great, but it gets me where I need to go.


New member
Gearing gearing gearing. IMO thats what makes or breaks a jeep. My XJ is a but sluggish now with 32s, winch and steel bumpers front/rear. But when on stock size tires this thing was a bat out of hell for a small SUV. Towed 1500lb trailer no problem. Now im looking at 4.10 or eveb 4.56 gears, as im at 3.55.


West slope, N. Ser. Nev.
I thought I would rattle a few cages here. I still like mine, and it's great for what I need, but the point was that when you have one person with no cargo, it does fine. It was sold to be optimal that way. When you start loading it up and adding big tires and more passengers it's target 'zone' for optimal power and acceleration go south quickly. You can keep gearing down, but the AW-4 already has the widest ratio of the autos of the era. Every drop in gear ratio (numbers up) equals a commensurate drop in mpg. No more loafing engine. No way to get around that. My bro built his '99 XJ to include ARB's, 4.56 gears, 33's, 5" lift, Ford 9" rear end, 9K pound winch and bumper, 4:1 T. case and it was the bomb. But he never got very good mpg with all that stuff hanging on it. If he were to do it again, it would be 4.10's instead of 4.56's. Traveling @ 75 mph on the interstate sucked the fuel big time.
The Dana 35 has a 2700 pound load rating from Dana. For safety reasons, car mfgrs. usually downgrade the rating. Most of the rating is in the housing and bearing loading. The rear axle is where most of the payload resides. My Dana 80 in my RAM has an 11,000 pound load rating from Dana, downgraded to 7500 pounds by Chrysler Corp. in my application for safety reasons. I know it's no comparison, but the numbers give a range at which you can operate safely.


Is it the perfect overlanding rig? IMO NO, simply because it lacks a full separate frame. Does it work for 75% of the "overlanders" out there, You betcha. It is a great base to build upon, and has a great potential. I Had always wanted a Cherokee because it is the perfect size for 2 people, 2 dogs and a weeks worth of camping gear "if you are not a glamper" When mine was in mere stock form, i got 21mpg, and handled any trail in my local mountains and i drove her across country twice. Save for no cruise control, it was once of the most comfortable vehicles i have owned. Then i got the itch to modify, and she dropped to about 13mpg and goes anywhere you point it. She is a bit more uncomfortable to drive than in stock form and tops out at about 75mph, but i wouldn't hesitate to drive her to Moab and Back. If i were to do it over again, yes there are some things i would have done differently to make her more road friendly and more reliable, but i was in a hurry to get her ready for a big 4wheeling trip, that i took some short cuts, and did some things in a hurry, that i could have saved up and bought better. Now i am paying more to go over and do them right, and sell my old parts at a loss.15.jpg