First Drive: 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8

More Power, More Capability
Like SRT's other offerings for 2012, the heart of the Grand Cherokee SRT8 lies with a 6.4-liter Hemi V-8. For those keeping score, that extra three-tenths of a liter of displacement over the previous 6.1-liter V-8 brings the power up by 50 ponies, to 470 hp. It also increases peak torque from 420 to 465 lb-ft. Chrysler continues to mate this engine to a five-speed automatic transmission and an all-wheel-drive system with a single-speed transfer case.

Weighing in at 5150 pounds, the new SRT8 has 331 pounds more bulk than the last iteration. Chrysler says its 0-to-60-mph time should be in the range of 4.8 seconds -- slower than the 4.4 seconds we noted in 2007. However, given that Chrysler had estimated that the previous model would do the run in roughly 4.9 seconds, this new estimate may be conservative. 0-to-100-mph runs should still be ticked off in a little more than 16 seconds, and quarter-mile times are expected to remain in the mid-13-second range.

There are two important metrics where the new SRT8 absolutely trumps the old. The first? Towing. The last model's center-exit exhaust pipes may have looked good, but they limited the size and capacity of hitch that could be installed. Since the 2012 model ditches that design, pulling is now a possibility. A class-four receiver and wiring connector are optional and allow the SRT8 to tow up to 5000 pounds -- an improvement of 1500 pounds.

While drivers may have difficulty refraining from goosing the throttle, those who show some restraint may also be rewarded with improved fuel economy. The 6.4-liter gains Chrysler's cylinder deactivation system, which shuts off four cylinders when not under load. EPA figures are still pending final approval, but the SRT8 is estimated to return 12/18 mpg (city/highway) - an improvement of 2 mpg on the highway.

Still a Track Rat at Heart
The new SRT8 may be a more well-rounded vehicle than its predecessor, but that doesn't mean it's any less engaging to toss around, particularly on a track. Hard launches are entertaining, but throwing the massive Grand Cherokee into a corner is perhaps most enjoyable.

The grip is absolutely massive, and the electronic-locking rear differential, coupled with the ability to shift power to the front axle (but not from wheel to wheel) further helps the beast bite into the tightest of corners. A quicker steering rack improves turn-in and facilitates mid-corner corrections but is still reluctant to deliver much feedback to the driver's hands. We encountered some mild understeer, but it emerges in a predictable fashion and only when the Grand Cherokee is being taxed to the edges of its limits.

Dialing the truck into sport mode defeats traction control but not electronic stability controls. Thankfully, it's not very intrusive. Engineers aimed to have the all-wheel-drive system (including the rear electronic-locking differential), not a brake-based ESC system, do most of the work in getting the truck to rotate. When ESC finally steps in, it does so in a smooth manner that doesn't disrupt the driver's focus.

Pay to Play
You will, however, have to pay to have your cake and race it too. Pricing hasn't been finalized, but officials suggest that the MSRP for the 2012 Grand Cherokee SRT8 will come in just below the $55,000 mark, excluding destination.

That's a sizeable jump from the last model, but it's still a far cry cheaper than other premium SUVs that offer similar performance. The Range Rover Sport, for instance, stickers at $60,495, while the Porsche Cayenne S comes in at roughly $65,000. Better yet, the Jeep still manages to best both those vehicles on the track and no longer forces buyers to live with a subpar interior and a malicious ride.

Is it possible to have it all? Perhaps not, but the Grand Cherokee SRT8 walks the line between daily driver, family hauler, and scream machine better than many other vehicles (let alone sport-utilities) currently on the market. It's an impressive achievement.

2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8

Base Price: $54,470 (est.)
On sale: Summer 2011

6.4-liter SOHC 16-valve V-8
Horsepower: 470 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 465 lb-ft @ 4300 rpm
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Drive: All-wheel

L x W x H:
191.3 x 77.1 x 69.1 in
Legroom F/R: 40.3/ 38.6 in
Headroom F/R: 39.9/ 39.2 in
Cargo capacity (seats up/down): 35.1/ 68.7 cu. ft
Curb Weight: 5150 lb
EPA Rating (city/highway): 12/18 mpg

2 of 2
All that praise for the elegant interior, yet 13 repetitive photos of the exterior and not a single view of the seats or dash, etc.That's what the driver and passengers live with!
This is an absolutely insane vehicle that doesn't have enough redeeming qualities that could possibly justify its existence. There are multiple vehicles at a much cheaper price that can easily outperform the GC SRT8. And that EPA rating? 12/18 mpg? WTF? But do I want one? Just tell me which arm and leg you want me to donate!!
"EPA Rating (city/highway): 12/18 mpg."Environment be damned!

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