Should You Take the 1998 Jeep ZJ Off Road?

The Jeep ZJ is a pretty good off-road vehicle—and with a few minor adjustments, this trail titan can transform into a backcountry behemoth.
Written by Matt Nightingale
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
Updated on Nov 23, 2022
The 1998
ZJ is a fantastic off-road vehicle. With plenty of power and great design, the ZJ can take on any casual off-roading you throw at it. And with a few modifications, it’s capable of true trail dominance.
A decent off-road vehicle can open up a whole new world of adventure. But, not all SUVs are created equal. So, how can you tell which SUVs are actually ready to hit the dusty trails and which ones just look like it?
Licensed broker
and car insurance comparison app
is here to sum up the off-road qualifications of the 1998 Jeep ZJ. We’ll look at key specs that make great off-road vehicles truly great, and we’ll even show you how to save on car insurance.  

Can the 1998 Jeep ZJ off-road?

You bet it can! The Jeep ZJ—aka the
Jeep Grand Cherokee
—is as comfortable to drive on the streets of downtown as it is on the dirt roads of Middle Of Nowhere, USA. The ZJ was raring to go right off the assembly line with a power and posture many SUVs cannot match. And because the ZJ was such a popular model, aftermarket parts are easy to find, so maintenance is not much of a problem.
Let’s take a closer look at the 1998 Jeep Cherokee ZJ’s specs to see just how good it is for off-roading.
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Ground clearance

Perhaps the most important spec when it comes to off-roading is ground clearance. Ground clearance is the measurement of the distance between the lowest point on your vehicle’s underside and the road. This spec basically tells you how large of an object you can safely pass over without damaging the undercarriage of your Jeep.
The 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee ZJ rolled off the line with a ground clearance of 8.07inches. Experts suggest a minimum ground clearance of 6.6 inches for any moderate non-city driving, but the more intense your off-roading, the more ground clearance you’ll need. For more intense overland activities you’ll want a clearance of about 8.8 inches, and for serious rock crawling you should have a minimum clearance of 10.8 inches.
So, the 1998 Jeep ZJ is fit for gravel roads and dirt paths, and with modifications—like the addition of a lift kit—your Grand Cherokee could conquer some serious terrain.


Torque is your vehicle’s ability to turn its wheels when faced with resistance. Good low-end torque is essential for any great off-road vehicle, and the ‘98 Jeep ZJ has got it. With 220 pound-feet of pressure at 2400 rpm, the Grand Cherokee can pull itself over objects and up ramps at low speeds.


The 1998 Jeep ZJ came outfitted with Eagle GA radial tires—not the best option for off-roading. 
The best tire option for off-roading is all-terrain tires. All-terrain tires have a chunkier tread to give you the grip you need, and tougher sidewalls making them more resilient to rocks and harsh landscapes.
Fortunately, tires are the easiest modification you can add to make your vehicle off-road ready. Keep in mind, though, that all-terrain tires tend to wear out faster than regular all-seasons, and they can contribute to lower fuel efficiency, so you may see your cost of ownership increase a bit with the addition of all-terrain tires.


Off-road aficionados advise only going off-road with all-wheel or four-wheel drivetrains. These drive trains give your vehicle better traction which is very important when traversing uneven terrain.
The Jeep ZJ was named Petersen’s 4Wheel & Off-Road Magazine’sFour Wheel Drive Vehicle of the Year for 1998, so it’s one of the most capable offroad drivetrains around. Be aware, though, that the ‘98 Jeep ZJ was made available in rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive variations, so make sure that your ZJ is one of the latter to avoid getting stuck.


Angles are an important aspect of off-roading—namely approach angle, departure angle, and break-over angle: 
  • Approach angle: the sharpest angle of a ramp that your vehicle can climb without contacting the ramp with its front end.
  • Departure angle: the steepest ramp your vehicle can safely descend without scraping its back end upon departure.
  • Ramp break-over angle: the angle between the front wheel and the undercarriage which determines how abrupt a plateau a vehicle can climb onto and descend from without becoming a teeter-totter.
The 1998 Grand Cherokee ZJ has excellent approach and departure angles of 36.5 and 29.3degrees respectively, and a decent break-over angle of 22.3 degrees

Off-road rating: Rough and Ready

We’ve scrutinized the 1998 Grand Cherokee ZJ against Jerry’s super technical DIRT rating system, outlined here:
Don’t Try It
Vehicles better suited to highway conditions
In a Pinch
Vehicles that can handle off-road conditions in certain circumstances
Rough and Ready
Vehicles designed for casual off-roading
Trail Boss
True off-road vehicles capable of tackling a range of terrain
All things considered, the Jeep ZJ scores an R rating. With great angles, top-notch torque, and good ground clearance, the ZJ rolled off the line ready for off-road adventure. Add a lift kit to this puppy for added ground clearance, and you’ve got yourself a bona fide trail boss.

The best off-road alternatives to the 1998 Jeep ZJ

The 1998 Jeep Cherokee ZJ is one of the best off-road vehicles around, but it’s not for everyone. If you’re looking for something more affordable—or perhaps a little more luxurious—we’ve compiled this list of the best alternatives to the Jeep ZJ.
Best truck alternative
2005 Dodge Dakota
The Dakota offers a rigid steel frame and coil-over front suspension with a towing capacity of 4,550 pounds. It’s only available in rear-wheel drive, so be cautious about any rigorous off-roading.
Best weekend warrior alternative
2001 Nissan Pathfinder
The Pathfinder was outfitted with a new, more powerful engine for the 2001 model year, giving it 250 horsepower and 240 foot-pounds of torque to match its solid body. On the inside, the Pathfinder offered a bevy of luxurious trimmings including leather-wrapped seats and a Playstation.
Best luxury alternative
2007 Chrysler Aspen
With available leather and suede upholstery, a 10-speaker audio system, and a rear-seat entertainment system, the Aspen was quite debonair. But, don’t let that fool you. Available all-wheel drive and a 235 horsepower V-8 engine with 370 foot-pounds of torque make this gentleman a giant in the backwoods as well.

How to find affordable car insurance for off-road vehicles

One of the downsides to owning an off-road vehicle is that they are generally more expensive to insure. Off-roading is a high-risk activity, and any time you take your SUV off the beaten path, your chances of getting into some sort of accident increase dramatically. To offset the cost of future insurance claims, insurance companies raise your insurance rates.
If you want to save money on car insurance, the
app is a good place to start. A licensed broker, Jerry does all the hard work of finding cheap quotes from the top name-brand insurance companies. Jerry will even help you cancel your old policy.
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