Jeep Cherokee: The perfectly balanced SUV

For a while there at the beginning of the 2000s, it seemed like every carmaker was trying to get a piece of the domestic SUV market. In a short span of time, the sport-utility vehicle transformed from a niche product made by a handful of truck brands to a body type that no marque's lineup would be complete without. Even Porsche got in on the game with the surprisingly successful Cayenne, itself based upon the out-of-place Volkswagen Phaeton.

The model that arguably ignited the SUV craze was the Jeep Cherokee. Introduced in 1984, this was among the first vehicles to mix the utility aspect of a truck with the street smarts of an everyday people-mover.

The Jeep brand was widely known for its military inspired CJ model before the Cherokee was introduced. These earlier CJs were all about play, as you couldn't even purchase one with a stock hardtop.

The Cherokee brought four-wheel-drive to the masses in a car that was comfortable but simple, with a design that was attractive without being flashy

Automobile magazine named the Cherokee one of the best models of all time because of it's influence on the entire American auto industry. Robert Cumberford said in an April 2009 article in the magazine that because the Cherokee is "possibly the best SUV shape of all time, it is the paradigmatic model to which other designers have since aspired."

The competition has surely tried to capture the look and magic of the Cherokee, with models like the compact Honda CRV and the Toyota RAV4. Since the last Cherokee rolled off the assembly line in 2005, no other model – even newer Jeeps – has been able to achieve the same balance between ruggedness and sensibility.

Do you agree that the Cherokee was the best SUV of all time, or do you think that a different marque did it better? Leave your opinions below: