It was a gamble for American Motors Corporation’s Jeep division to introduce the “XJ” Cherokee, using a venerated nameplate on a new 4×4 that was very different from any Jeep that came before. This compact, efficient, and stylish people mover was thoroughly reimagined for the 1980s and became an immediate best seller in its first year on the market. With decades of hindsight, the XJ Cherokee proved a winning formula with incredible longevity, and 1984 was where it all began.
The Cherokee and Wagoneer being sold in 1983 had their origins in the early 1960s, being large, six passenger, two- and four-door SUVs. Those “SJ”-chassis models were powered by inline-six and V-8 engines, and their traditional body-on-frame construction was rugged, if not particularly intended for daily driven on-road comfort. A clean-sheet replacement for those near 4,000-pound, 186.4-inch-long trucks had long been in the making, and the new versions of these models reached AMC/Jeep showrooms for the ’84 model year, having modernized four-wheel-drive motoring.
The crisply attractive design shared by the new Cherokee and Wagoneer variants was drastically downsized, their “UniFrame” integrated chassis-bodies measuring 21.1 inches shorter, on a 7.3-inch shorter wheelbase, and weighing in an average of 800 pounds less than the original design that stayed in production as the upmarket Grand Wagoneer. The XJ came as a basic two- or four-door Cherokee, a well-trimmed two- or four-door Cherokee Pioneer, a sporty two- or four-door Cherokee Chief, and as a plush four-door Wagoneer and premium Wagoneer Limited.