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