Buying a Jeep off the factory floor and heading straight to the Rubicon Trail sounds like a great idea, but not all Jeeps are created equally. Few are actually ready to rock crawl right out of the showroom. Before Jeep’s Trail Rated marketing schtick and its Trailhawk off-road trim levels, the automaker offered an optional factory lift kit called the Up Country Suspension Group for most versions of its Cherokee and Grand Cherokee SUVs.
Finding one today is tough, even if you know what to look for. The package included 4-wheeling goodies such as taller springs, special shocks, skid plates, tow hooks, a full-size spare tire and, on some models, a limited-slip rear differential. In other words: they came with all the stuff you’d really need if you planned to recreate the automaker’s ads.
The Up Country package debuted as a 1-in suspension lift on the 1993 Grand Cherokee, known by its ZJ development code name, and it could initially be ordered as a stand-alone option on base and Laredo trim levels. Jeep later added it to the Limited trim level, because apparently capability and luxury didn’t need to be mutually exclusive (cough, Range Rover, cough).
Jeep offered an off-road package on its smaller Cherokee that included much of the Up Country goodies, but it wasn’t until 1997 that the package was renamed and reworked with a taller ride height on the boxy classic. The off-road brand went as far as removing the Cherokee’s rear sway bar to increase off-road articulation and upgrading engine and transmission cooling, too.
The Up Country package remained an option on the Jeep Cherokee through its demise in 2001. The bubbly Liberty that replaced it could be ordered with an off-road package, but the evocative Up Country name went away. The Grand Cherokee kept the package until late 2003, although some early production face-lifted 2004 Grand Cherokees were still available with the Up Country package. The option was unusual to find on dealer lots except on Grand Cherokee Limiteds where sales managers may have been more tempted to check every option box. Colloquially, Up Country seems to have been more common in places like the Rocky Mountains.
So if you come across a 1993-2004 Grand Cherokee or a 1997-2001 Cherokee with tow hooks poking out of the front bumper and think it sits up a little higher than you expect, it probably has Jeep’s short-lived factory lift kit. Consider yourself in the know now. Find a Jeep Grand Cherokee for sale
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