Welcome to the forum. If you looking at the 97's and up most people go with the 6 as it does have more power. With this either the auto or the 5spd or 6 spd in later years does a nice job. The 4 does have less power and does well with the 5spd but with the auto is darn right slower than grass growing in the winter. If you can find one with a dana 44 rear end, has a metal diff drain plug vs a round plastic drain plug. The 44 is a much better axle, and holds up well with larger tires.
Other than that I would say the 2000+ model is nice as it had a nicer 5spd and some engine improvements, none hp upgrades, but still nice. However with any year look at condition. Hope that helps a bit.