Jeep, a US-based automotive giant, has quite a few legendary nameplates on its roster. For example, the Cherokee is fast, strong, reliable, and pretty much perfect for off-roading. That’s especially true for the bigger and more capable Grand Cherokee edition. But what can you do to make it even more powerful? How can you boost its powertrain on a budget? I recommend aftermarket air kits.
With the Best cold air intake for Jeep Cherokee, you’ll get a decent increase in performance, including the HP/torque, acceleration, and even fuel efficiency. More importantly, a premium-quality intake system greatly improves the air filtration, keeping the engine cool and protecting it from harmful contaminants. By adding a cold air intake to your Cherokee, you can increase its fuel efficiency and even boost its horsepower.
I’ve done some research to find out which cold air intakes are best for Jeeps and have narrowed it down to five that we think you should consider for your Cherokee. Each of these intakes offers improved performance as well as various other benefits. Below, I’re going to take a look at each of these intakes in detail so you can decide which one will be best suited for your needs.
Best Cold Air Intake for Jeep Cherokee (Updated March, 2023)
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1. K&N – Best Cold Air Intake for Jeep XJ Grand Cherokee Diesel
If you’re the proud owner of a Jeep XJ, this air kit might be right up your alley. It was specifically designed to be efficient for diesel engines, by the way, and performs strongly in the most demanding situations. With it, you’ll get a guaranteed increase not only in horsepower but also in torque. With 12+ extra HP and up to 31 additional lb. ft. of torque, the difference (or, rather, the increase) in performance will be clear.
The K&N cold air intake system also improves the towing and hauling capabilities of the vehicle, making it easier to carry heavy stuff and to overcome steep climbs. Add a lovely 10-year slash 10-million-mile guarantee, and you’ll see why this company is an obvious leader on the market. Sadly, you’ll have to pay a pretty penny for all those pros, and that’s its biggest con.
Despite the somewhat steep price-tag (compared to the rivals), the K&N cold intake is a bargain for all Grand Cherokee drivers. It provides a significant boost in HP, torque, and also towing-hauling. The incredibly generous warranty is even more reason to put it on your list of must-haves.
2. aFe Power – Best cold air intake for 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee Altitude
Along with K&N, aFe is another fan-favored manufacturer of aftermarket Jeep parts. This company’s air kit features one of the finest filters out there. It’s a premium, five-layer filter that’s super effective against the tiniest rocks, dust, pollen, and allergens. It will make sure to keep the engine clear of any harmful components. The high-quality powder coating, in turn, protects the motor kit from rust and corrosion.
Another big pro: the FORCE cold air intake system is street-legal in 50 American states. It is 100% CARB-reliant and you won’t get in any trouble with it on the US roads. Now, while the performance improvements are pretty solid (extra ~10HP and torque), you won’t see any noticeable gains in the MPG (miles per gallon) ratio. That’s the only significant downside, though, and, overall, this is still one hell of an air kit.
Premium-quality black powder coating, a reliable progressively finer oiled filter, and availability across the states are this product’s biggest selling points. True, it doesn’t improve fuel efficiency that much, but you will feel a boost in HP, torque, and, of course, air filtration and flow.
3. Spectre Performance – Best Cold Air Intake for 1996 Jeep Cherokee 4.0L
This next replacement intake kit was designed to fit the older generations of the legendary Cherokee. So, if you’re driving, say, a 1996 model, I recommend putting it on the list. First of all, it greatly improves the way the engine sounds. The new tone is a lot more aggressive and fitting for an off-roading vehicle. Secondly, it is very easy to install on your own, with no instructions, extra tools, or a friend to help you out.
I do have to warn you, however, that you might have to bend the heat shield a bit to align it with the factory mounting holes. But, that’s nothing the average driver can’t handle. As for the filter, it does an excellent job of keeping debris at bay and won’t take much effort to maintain. The company recommends cleaning it only once in every 100K miles or so.
The Spectre cold air intake is one of the best picks for the older-gen Cherokee. It makes the engine sound like a beast, requires very little maintenance, and, in general, is very easy to install. Do keep in mind that depending on your Cherokee’s model year, some bending of the housing might be involved.
4. INTAKE KAI – Best Cold Air Intake for Jeep Grand Cherokee V6
If your factory intake system is acting up, and you need a replacement as soon as possible, Intake Kai can be a solid investment. This company takes very little time to ship and deliver its products, even during these uncertain times. You’ll be pleased by the cold air intake as well. It boasts premium engineering and is crafted from top-notch materials. They ensure a long, prosperous life not only for the engine but the entire powertrain.
Thanks to the unique design, the Cherokee will get a higher explosive horsepower output, resulting in faster acceleration, stronger performance, and even a slight boost in mileage. Sadly, there are some minor problems with quality control. True, the kits arrive very quickly, but buyers report missing bolts, nuts, couplers, and more.
The minor issues with quality control are this cold air intake’s biggest downside. As for the pros, it takes only a couple of days to arrive at your doorstep and provides a decent boost in pretty much every direction, including HP, torque, acceleration, and mileage, both on and off the road.
5. High Performance – Best Cold Air Intake Kit for Jeep Cherokee 2001
The final air intake kit on today’s list is also the most affordable one. Compared to the other intake systems that we checked out today, it is pretty cheap and won’t break your bank. That comes at a price, though: the kit doesn’t have a housing slash heat shield. The package only includes an intake tube and a filter. On the bright side, you will get all the necessary hardware for installation. Forged from stainless steel, it is rust-resistant and reliable.
And let’s not forget about the excellent customer support. The agents at HPP (High Performance Parts) know their way around cars and can give you quick, useful tips on how to install the cold air intake, how to get a replacement, and more. The filter is washable and reusable, of course, while the intake system is crafted from T-306 aluminum.
Do you feel like all the other replacement air kits are a bit too expensive for you? Well, don’t you worry, because the HPP unit is incredibly affordable, yet carries great value. Even without proper housing, it performs on par with most rivals and is backed by fast and helpful customer support.
There are a lot of things to pay attention to when choosing an aftermarket cold air intake for your Cherokee. The price-tag, warranty deal, material quality, and real-world efficiency are some of the most defining factors that turn an average product into something worth investing in. With a picture of an ideal intake system in mind, it will be much easier to find the right fit for your vehicle.
Pricing + Warranty
The most important thing to do here is to not overthink it. There are literally hundreds of different third-party cold air intake systems available out there, and you can’t keep track of them all. So, my advice to you: only check a dozen or so of the best-selling products. That will give you a good perspective on the average market price. Otherwise, you’ll most likely end up with an air kit that’s either overpriced (a waste of money) or too cheap (low in quality).
Right now, decent-quality air systems are available for 150-200 dollars. Anything that costs less than $100 shouldn’t really be considered; unless it’s only the intake tube without a filter and housing, of course. The 200-400 price range is where you’ll find premium engineering, top-notch materials, and five-layer filters with 99-100% efficiency against contaminants.
As for the warranty, there are lots of different options. Some brands cover their air kits with 30-day refund policies. Others include a will-not-void guarantee deal. K&N is the obvious leader in this regard. They provide the famous 10-year or 10-million-mile guarantee that no other manufacturer can top.
Construction + Materials
Essentially, a cold air intake is as good as its engineering and material quality. The finest units boast a performance-oriented design with sleek aesthetics. Durability and reliability also play a key role. The intake tube should be crafted from high-grade aluminum (like the T-306 type, for example). By the way, mandrel-bent tubes are the best deal, especially if they have proper powder coating.
It will protect them from rust, corrosion, and dust, among other things. As for the filters, look for cotton-gauze media. Synthetic filters are the leaders of the market, especially the ones made of urethane and steel mesh. And what about the heat shield, you might ask? It should implement the one-piece design for optimal efficiency and also be coated in black powder. In my experience, 18-gauge heat shields are the most reliable and effective ones.
Efficiency + Performance Boost
Look for a kit with a “dyno-tested” tag. That way, you’ll know it has proven its worth in real-world situations. Most brands conduct their own tests and also let third parties evaluate their products. Here’s a rule of thumb: if you see “50% boost in airflow compared to stock system” in the specs, put that cold air intake on your list of must-haves. A 25-35% increase in air filtration and flow is a pretty great result as well.
The performance improvements are next on the table. True, we all want to get as much extra HP, torque, and throttle response as possible, but, in reality, you usually have to choose. Some brands focus on the powertrain (horses and torque); others perfect the throttle response for better acceleration. And then there are intake kits that positively affect mileage.
On average, +/- 10 additional HP and torque is a good place to start. In some cases, manufacturers guarantee a much bigger boost; make sure to verify this before buying that kit, though. The mileage increase is in the 2-5 MPG range. With acceleration, there are no easy ways to determine the improvements unless you get behind the wheel and start the vehicle.
That pretty much says it all: look for an air intake system that’s easy to install. Direct installation with a bolt-on design is the way to go here. That means the new system will, most likely, fit the factory mounting holes perfectly and you won’t have to do any drilling or cutting. If the gear is a direct fit with your vehicle, the whole process will take 1-2 hours.
Cold air intakes are one of the most cost-efficient upgrades for the Cherokee (or any other Jeep, for that matter). They guarantee a boost in air filtration and airflow. Plus, you can expect an increase in the throttle response, mileage, and raw power (horsepower and torque). I spent more than a month testing dozens of different air intake kits from the most popular brands before compiling this list.
So, if you’re in a hurry and need a premium intake system right now, the comparison table will help you with the choice. For example, if you’re on a tight budget, go with High Performance Parts – this company’s air intake is highly affordable. In contrast, the K&N product isn’t particularly cheap but does have a long list of pros. Share your favorite pick in the comments!