Cherokee vs. Wrangler/ Which Jeep Sibling for Off-Roading?

October 25th, 2016 by


Looking to purchase one of the many custom Jeeps for sale in NH? Or, maybe you’re just interested in buying a stock Jeep, so you can add your own style to it through off-road modifications and customization. If that’s the case, you’ll find no better choice than the Cherokee or Wrangler — new or used. Granted, a used Cherokee isn’t technically part of the same model line as the new Cherokee, they just share a name. Regardless, it’s worth looking into both to see which one will fit you best, since both provide a different driving style. With the Wrangler, new and used, both achieve the same goal: providing unparalleled off-road performance in the automotive world. Therefore, it boils down to preference and budget when it comes to considering the Wrangler.

Let’s take a closer look at these points, and see which of these two Jeep siblings will best fit your needs when it comes to off-roading.


The new 2016 Cherokee has an interesting design, but there is a reason behind that. Unlike the previous blocky shape of the Cherokee from the ‘90s (before it was discontinued), the new angular hood and front-end is meant to enhance the aerodynamics of the vehicle. Does this help in an off-road situation? No, but it does when it comes to on-road travel.

Couple that with the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that’s been tossed under the hood, and you have a Jeep that is able to achieve full-size sedan-ish fuel economy, rated at 22 mpg city/31 mpg highway. Now, relying on a Jeep model as your daily driver has never been so affordable.

For those looking to off-road, grabbing a Trailhawk trim yields a refined 3.6-liter V6 engine that puts out 271 horsepower and 239 lb.-ft. of torque. This engine option provides more appropriate power for off-roading, and is paired to Jeep’s own Active Drive II off-road system, which earns the Trailhawk trim a prestigious Trail Rated badge. Fuel economy doesn’t suffer too badly, and it’s able to get up to 21 mpg city/27 mpg highway.

Even if you choose the Trailhawk trim, you’re still getting an interior that’s perfect for transporting family and friends. Combine that with the fuel economy, and you have a vehicle that’s able to drive proficiently on and off the road. Making it highly versatile, much more so than the Wrangler.

Used Cherokee

The Cherokee models might be different, but they still share the same nameplate. Therefore, you can’t rule out considering a used Cherokee. Especially since modifications for the 2016 Cherokee are still few and far between. Buying a used Cherokee won’t just save you money and give you a more old-fashioned off-road experience, but will also provide you with more versatility when it comes to modifying it.

But, you lose that on-road efficiency and proficiency. Therefore, if you’re thinking of grabbing a used Cherokee, you might as well just grab a Wrangler instead.


Unlike the Cherokee, new and used Wranglers share the same basic design, which means they not only share similar performance traits, but also the versatility when it comes to customization potential.

For years, the Wrangler has been considered the pinnacle of off-road performance. Nothing can stop it on the trail, and competitors can’t even come close to touching its performance. Even in 2016, it’s still the king of the woods — sorry, Land Rover.

Because of this, it’s not surprising to see so many off-road mods still offered for used Wranglers. Or, companies that specialize exclusively in modifications for the Jeep Wrangler. Which means the Wrangler sees a lot more extensive factory and aftermarket parts support than the Cherokee.

AEV is one such company, and they have plenty of off-road mods for the 2016 Wrangler. The thing about AEV is their parts not only make the Wrangler more powerful in an off-road environment — they also don’t hinder it when it comes to on-road performance. Are you still going to lose fuel economy by lifting it and throwing a set of 33” tires on it? Yes, but no longer does altering the suspension impact the on-road handling as much, thanks to the company’s modern approach to off-road customization.

Then again, the new Wrangler stock is Trail Rated just like the Cherokee. Which means it can take on any type of off-road environment without modifications. The Pentastar 3.6-liter V6 engine with 285 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque, combined with the upgraded transfer case, ensures the Wrangler’s extra-low crawl ratio.

Again, grabbing a used Wrangler will help save you some cash, and it still has plenty of aftermarket parts to choose from. The intention of the vehicle is still the same, though: unstoppable off-road performance, with less of a focus on on-road handling. Because of its now primitive state, a used Wrangler will also get even worse handling and fuel economy than a new one.

Let’s Recap

The new Wrangler is by no means outpacing the Cherokee when it comes to being family-friendly and on-road worthy. Therefore, if you’re considering grabbing a Wrangler for purely off-road fun and customization, go for it. If you have a family to think about or need a off-roader and daily driver, the Cherokee still beats the Wrangler in that regard. Body style alone should make that obvious, since the Wrangler is a two-door model and the Cherokee a four-door. Granted, there is a four-door Wrangler Unlimited model available. But, it still doesn’t change the horrendous aerodynamics and on-road steering when compared to the Cherokee.

Each one has its own unique strengths and weaknesses, and each one has a used model option to consider. The used Cherokee has a decent base of aftermarket support, and the modifications that can be made for both new and used Wranglers are a dime a dozen. In the battle of custom used Jeeps, the Wrangler still comes out on top.

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