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