First Look: 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8

The all-new Jeep Grand Cherokee has been a long time coming for the Jeep brand, and by most accounts, the revamped Jeep flagship has proven to be a success. But the paint wasn’t even dry on the new ute before enthusiasts started asking the follow up question: Where’s the SRT8? Not surprisingly, the 2012 Grand Cherokee SRT8’s been in Chrysler’s Street and Race Technology team shop, getting its monster makeover done in advance of its 2011 New York auto show debut.

Not surprisingly, Chrysler’s revamped 6.4-liter Hemi has been fitted under hood of the new super Jeep. Both the horsepower and torque figures bump up to 465, 45 more than before. Jeep is still rating the 0-60 time at 4.8 seconds, although there’s a good chance that Chrysler may be sandbagging. We’ll find out soon enough when we get our hands on one.

More power, however, doesn’t equate to decreased fuel economy, thanks to Chrysler’s Fuel Saver Technology and new-for-2012 active valve exhaust system, which deactivates four cylinders in most cruising situations. That should be good enough for a 13-percent improvement in highway fuel consumption, according to the automaker’s estimations.

All talk of fuel efficiency goes out the door once the driver starts tinkering with Jeep’s new Selec-Track system and selects Track mode — that’s where the real fun begins. Selec-Track transforms the Cherokee to a high-performance track machine by adjusting various parameters such as transmission shifts, the Electronic Limited Slip Differential, and the fully independent adaptive-damping suspension. The Sport setting is less aggressive than the full Track setting, while Auto mode is used for everyday driving. Selec-Track also offers two conservative settings that assist in taming the Hemi and ride control during snow or towing situations.

Adding to the healthy list of high-tech handling gadgetry is a transfer case that proportions and optimizes torque between the front and rear axles. The Jeep will ride on 20-inch forged aluminum wheels with Pirelli PZero run-flat tires. Brembo brake calipers (painted red) make an encore appearance, though the front calipers get a bump up to six pistons (previous SRT8 had four), while the rears remain at four. Not surprisingly, Jeep claims an impressive stopping distance of 116 feet from 60 to 0 mph.

Subtlety was a secret weapon of the previous Cherokee SRT8. At first glance, the 4,800-pound SUV appeared to be another average grocery-getter to unsuspecting drivers in Porsche Cayennes and BMW X5s. But a closer look revealed bigger, wider tires and dual center-mounted exhaust pipes. The new Jeep also benefits from tasteful upgrades including LED running lamps, a body-colored grille, and a liftgate spoiler. The dual exhaust pipes are no longer mounted together in the center. They have been pulled apart to the lower edge of the rear bumper, making towing more of a reality than on the first-generation model. The sculpted hood is perhaps the most dramatic styling feature on the new Grand Cherokee SRT8, which now sports functional dual black heat extractors. Barely noticeable from most outside angles, the tear-shaped extractors are impossible to miss if you’re sitting in the front seat and serve as a not-so-subtle reminder of the 465 horsepower Hemi beast lurking beneath the hood.

Passengers are surrounded by sporty upgrades including carbon-fiber accents throughout the dash and door panels. The flat-bottom steering wheel is leather-wrapped and heated, while the seats (standard heated and ventilated for front and rear) are upholstered with Nappa leather and suede and embroidered with SRT logos.

Though official pricing hasn’t been announced, we estimate it shouldn’t be too far off the $40,000 base price of the previous SRT8. With performance that can keep pace with its German competitors at almost half the price, we expect Jeep will have another hot showroom item when it arrives later this summer.

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17 City / 23 Hwy

Cargo (Std/Max):

NA / 68.7 cu. ft.