Good Lord. This is the most impressive Chrysler product I’ve driven in years. I spent a lot of time in the previous Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 and I really disliked that vehicle. I guess there was only so that could be done to the previous generation of Grand Cherokee. Now that the regular Grand Cherokee is such a refined and luxurious vehicle, the SRT8 model can really shine.
The biggest improvements here are in the suspension. I could not believe how buttoned-down and well behaved this Jeep was during my commute and after a few laps at Waterford Hills. There’s still a lot of mass to contend with, but the vehicle reacts very well to inputs and offers incredible performance. Our Four Seasons Grand Cherokee has a bit too much body roll on the street because it must meet Jeep owners’ expectations off-road. Luckily, the SRT8 version carries no off-road pretenses and its on-road performance is on par with any European SUV other than a Porsche Cayenne Turbo S, although the Jeep’s price is a mere fraction of the Porsche’s.
Any SUV with performance intentions is a bit of an oxymoron, but the SRT8 never feels like a joke. There may only be a few people who really want a go-fast Jeep, but it’s so well done that you can’t help but enjoy your time behind the wheel. Even the looks of the Grand Cherokee SRT8 are incredible. The hood is my favorite with the two functional vents adding an aggressive look to the front end as well as a special feeling from behind the wheel. There’s a little less thrust than I’d expect from the 6.4-liter Hemi at speed, but I suppose that’s what happens when you’re pushing this much air. At least launches from a stop are incredibly authoritative.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
The Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 is so composed on the racetrack, I fell asleep in the front passenger’s seat while a colleague was piloting it around Waterford Hills road course. Aside from the fact that I am a bit of a narcoleptic after lunch, this is a testament to how well tuned even the base Grand Cherokee is. Later, I drove the Jeep home to Ann Arbor and had many opportunities to dip into the throttle and savor the tremendous, explosive acceleration, the V-8’s throaty overrun, and the gravelly exhaust note.
Full-throttle upshifts are almost brutal. It’s like someone is punching you in the back, and the exhaust note deepens to emphasize the action. I’m not complaining; this was pretty cool. You can zoom up to 110 mph very easily and then scrub off the speed with the super-strong Brembo brakes. The Jeep bounds and leaps over the road with a stiff, bouncy ride, pounding bad pavement into submission. There’s a constant battle going on between the huge twenty-inch wheels and tires and the road surface, and the Jeep usually wins, but I think I might tire of the fight after a while. Good body control here, though. The steering feels a little heavy and could be more precise but ultimately it works.
And, yes, the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 looks totally badass.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
Wow. This Grand Cherokee SRT8 is totally ridiculous, but amazingly capable. It’s fast — although I expected it to be a little quicker off the line — and remarkably stable at high speeds, with badass looks and a soundtrack to match. The interior is really nice, with white stitching on the black seats and dash, subtle carbon-fiber trim, and grippy suede inserts to keep you and three passengers in place when you inevitably start taking entrance ramps at obnoxious speeds, just because you can. It’s a remarkably competent high-performance SUV that, especially for the price, gives nothing away to the best in its class from Germany. If you weren’t sure if Chrysler had successfully survived bankruptcy, this Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 is the indisputable evidence.
Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms
“Support Wind Power,” read the bumper sticker on the jalopy in front of me. “I love wind power and would happily give it every bit of support I could if you would only get off the freaking road,” I said to myself, indicating a change to the right lane and mashing the gas in our 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8. Wind power would have to wait.
Hellfire and brimstone burst out of this SUV’s tailpipe at almost any rpm, including idle, but the real fun starts when the throttle is wide open. Ridiculous amounts of power, 470 horses to be exact, rocket this four-wheel-drive, over-5000-pound Jeep down the street. In a straight line, it’s as fun as you would expect it be. Where the car is really surprising is the turns. Torsional stiffness was improved by 146 percent over the 2010 model and it shows. While it’s not difficult for Joe DeMatio to fall asleep in a car, to catnap in a Hemi-powered tank, making its way around a track, being driven by novices, is quite the feat.
It might not be that most sophisticated car, but I’ll join my colleagues in saying that the new Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 is BADASS.
Chris Nelson, Road Test Editor
As Phil stated, the Grand Cherokee SRT8 is one of the most impressive vehicles I’ve driven from Chrysler. This Jeep was exceptional on many fronts from visual to performance.
Note to user, to really get a full exhaust sound effect that Chris mentioned above, I’d suggest lowering the windows, opening the roof, and slowing your speed as you are about to enter a tunnel, and then dropping the hammer! OMG!!! I think I made more noise at Metro Airport than the Delta jets! I’m questioning my desire for a BMW X5 now.
Kelly Murphy, Creative director
Before you question the rationality of a high-performance SUV, listen to the muscle-car-like engine noise of this Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8. Look at the terrific, burly exterior design. And finally, sit inside and step on the thoroughly addictive throttle. The engine note under load is incredible, and full-throttle shifts are uncompromisingly fierce. This Grand Cherokee is a serious performance machine — Chrysler says the SRT8 will hit 60 mph in 4.8 seconds and tops out at 160 mph. The best part, though, is that this could be your only vehicle. It has the grunt and moves of a sports car, yet seats five people in comfort and has a huge cargo area. With appropriate tires and the standard all-wheel-drive system, you could even conquer a blizzard. I have no hesitation in admitting that I really, really want this Jeep.
On Saturday, my girlfriend and I took the Grand Cherokee SRT8 to the Woodward Dream Cruise in Detroit. With rides like Chevrolet Bel Airs, chopped 1932 Fords, and even a Mercedes-Benz SLS gracing Woodward, I didn’t expect the Jeep to draw much attention — but it did. Almost everywhere we went, people asked me to “rev it up!” and “light ’em up.” Bystanders came up to tell me how much they loved the Jeep and ask all sorts of questions: “Those wheels are stock?” “It comes with Brembos?” “When does it go on sale?” According to Woodward attendees, the Grand Cherokee is “sick,” “mean,” “awesome,” and “looks like a Porsche Cayenne.” I agree with the strangers on every count, and will add that I think a base price of just $55K is a bargain for a vehicle with this much style, performance, and practicality.
Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor
This is definitely one of the coolest cars I’ve driven in a long time. Despite its many faults, I loved the first-generation Grand Cherokee SRT8, and the new one has even more power, looks even better, and most important, is more refined on public streets and is easier to drive smoothly around a racetrack.
When this SRT8 was parked in my driveway last night, I told my wife that this would probably be my daily driver if we were to suddenly become flush with money. However, after installing the child seats for my daughters, I’m not so sure about that — because the back seats are so far behind the rear door opening, it’s hard to load the rear-facing infant into her seat.
Oh well, an SRT Grand Cherokee would just have to be Daddy’s toy. It’s no BMW X5 M around a racetrack, but it’s close, and close is good enough for me when you’re talking about saving $30K or so for something that looks and sounds so amazing.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
Chrysler has gone full-bore with its SRT program, with SRT8 models of the Grand Cherokee SUV, the 300 and Charger sedans, and the Challenger coupe. The most incongruous of the lot might seem to be the Grand Cherokee – after all, what’s the purpose of an SUV if you can’t take it off road? The easy answer is that 90 percent of the folks who buy SUVs never take them on anything more challenging than a graded dirt road, so giving the Grand Cherokee the SRT treatment is really not so illogical after all.
My colleagues have sung the praises of the Grand Cherokee SRT8’s powertrain and handling – it makes a pretty impressive bit of noise, punches you in the back with its accelerative abilities, and doesn’t even feel out of place on a racetrack. Its upgraded Brembo brakes scrub off speed in a hurry, but they are a little touchy at low speeds, such as in a parking lot or in heavy traffic. Also at low speeds, the steering effort is heavier than in a regular GC, but it lightens up as the speedometer needle moves up. The appropriate response to both of the above observations, of course, is to drive this SUV as it’s meant to be driven – with enthusiasm and at speed.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
Shy of towing a trailer, I feel as if I’ve done it all with the Grand Cherokee SRT8. That isn’t an exaggeration, either. I’ve flogged it around road courses at Willow Springs and Waterford Hills, wrung it through the canyons north of Hollywood, and now, spent a weekend using it as a pedestrian daily driver. Unlike its predecessor, the SRT8 excelled in both roles. So much so, in fact, that I seriously considered calling in sick on Monday just to have another 24 hours with the thing.
As fun as the SRT8 is on the track, the biggest surprise is just how usable it is as a daily driver — especially when you stack it against its predecessor. The last SRT8 banged heads, bruised organs, and as Phil attests to, was nothing short of cantankerous on Michigan roads. The 2012 model is an absolute breath of fresh air.
The only thing I haven’t done with an SRT8 is achieve decent fuel economy. That’s not Chrysler’s fault (it did add cylinder deactivation to this new 6.4-liter V-8); it’s my own. When the SRT8 sounds so good and feels so great at speed, it’s extremely difficult to keep from inching your right foot closer to the floorboards…
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor
Base price (with destination): $54,470 (est.)
On sale: Summer 2011
6.4-liter SOHC 16-valve V-8
5-speed automatic transmission
3.70:1 axle ratio
Fuel saver technology
Brembo six-piston front calipers; four-piston rear calipers
Leather-wrapped steering wheel w/paddle shifters
Power tilt & telescopic steering column
19-speaker harman/karmon premium audio system
Dual-zone automatic climate control
SRT hood w/heat extractors
Premium fog lamps
Options on this vehicle:
Luxury Group II
– Premium upper door trim and instrument panel, power liftgate, forward collision warning, adaptive speed control, blind-spot monitoring and cross path detection, leather-wrapped interior items
Key options not on vehicle:
Rear DVD Entertainment Center
– Rear-seat video system, rear overhead console, power sunroof
Trailer Tow Group IV
– Class IV receiver hitch, 7- and 4-pin wiring harness
SRT High Performance Audio System by harman/kardon
– 825-watt amplifier with 10-inch subwoofer, remote USB port, 30GB hard drive w/ 4250 song capacity
6.4-liter SOHC 16-valve V-8
Horsepower: 470 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 465 lb-ft @ 4300 rpm
Curb weight: 5150 lb
20-in. forged aluminum wheels