Video: Is the Jeep Cherokee XJ The Best Affordable Off-Road Rig?

How can this 25-year-old SUV handle the Tumbleweed Ranch off-road course?

Image: TFLoffroad

This 1999 Jeep XJ Cherokee represents a cheap, used, capable 4×4 segment that has been forgotten by many, but just how good is it?

Our friend Martin brought us his ’99 Jeep XJ Cherokee, to test its mettle against our course at Tumbleweed Ranch. Over many years, TFL Studios has pushed the idea that you can find (and build) a great off-roader for very little. Even today, there are still a few deals out there where you can find a nice project rig.

Sure, it had 150,000 miles on it when he bought it, but now it has 230,000 miles on it, with no problems. If you buy a well-maintained truck, you might be surprised. We’ve had a lot of great (and a few bad) experiences with cheap, used off-roaders in the past.

Equipped with the “legendary” 4.0-liter I6, the XJ also has a (not-very-common) five-speed manual transmission. Adam wanted a 825 high pinion with a Dana 30 axle setup, so it wouldn’t be a “toothpick.” He bought it locally, and it was pretty much stock – and in great condition.

Adam added deep, steel wheels with 33-inch BFGoodrich K02 tires. It has Bilstein 5100s and the lift is from Iron Rocks, which is a five 1/2-inch lift. According to Adam, the aftermarket bumpers were simple, basic and inexpensive. He wanted something that would be solid as an anchor point, and lightweight. There’s a beefed-up spare-tire-swing mount out back, and a beefy roof rack up top.

The TFL Studios crew like Adam and his Jeep. Not just because of the effort they put in at Tumbleweed Ranch, but because of the bumper sticker they sport. “She may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts, kid.” Love that!

Other than using a novel approach to disconnecting his front sway-bar, Adam popped the XJ into low-range and went for it. There was just one obstacle he struggled with. To be fair, it’s a spot that is becoming a stumbling block for many. Check out the video and see for yourselves!

Easily amused by anything with four wheels, Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. Wrecking yards, dealer lots, garages, racetracks, professional automotive testing and automotive journalism - Nathan has experienced a wide range of the automotive spectrum. Brought up in the California car culture and educated in theater, childhood education, film, journalism and history, Nathan now lives with his family in Denver, CO. His words, good humor and video are enjoyed worldwide.