New Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8® melds power with luxury.
By Tom Crosby
Jeep’s Grand Cherokee, completely redesigned last year, introduced a new, more powerful 2012 model. This all-wheel drive SRT8® with a HEMI® V-8 engine spurts forward from a stop faster then most sport coupes. Melding that performance with a well-designed cockpit, plenty of cargo space, and versatility, the SRT8® has appeal for families, as well as someone who doesn’t want to be left behind at the stoplight.
Jeep’s Grand Cherokee SRT8® 4X4 can handle a night on the town, as well as a heavy tow load. ©Chrysler Group LLC photo
The trade-off for the power comes in the form of an engine that craves premium gasoline and averages mileage only in the teens. That gets expensive with gasoline prices hovering well above $3 a gallon but with a $54,470 base price, the SRT® is about comfort and performance, not protecting the wallet.
Driving the SRT8® generated pleasant experiences, such as using the adaptive speed control, blind spot monitoring, and enjoying the leather trim, all part of a $4,495 Luxury Group Package option that also added a power lift gate and collision warning system. Other options on the model I drove included a $995 trailer group (towing rated at 5,000 pounds), a dual pane sunroof ($1,195), and a 19-speaker Harman Kardon® audio system ($1,995) that sounded like the front row at a concert.
What elevates the SRT8® above its brethren is the responsiveness of the steering in different road situations. The SRT8® uses a new full-time 4WD system for superior driving performance in any condition. The standard Quadra-Trac SRT 4WD system features a massive mechanical “wet” clutch and Electronic Limited Slip Differential in the rear, which allows 100 percent of the drive torque to be sent to one rear wheel. Managing of torque split and suspension damping is accomplished with a dial on the five-mode Selec-Trac™ system. Drivers simply dial auto, sport, tow, track or snow.
The SRT8® rides on 20-inch wheels with Pirelli Scorpion Verde All Season tires that, when punctured, will maintained safe tire pressure for 400 miles. The tire monitor noted the drop in psi but also indicated on the information panel that it was safe to continue driving.
Inside, leather touches are plentiful. There are performance feedback similar to race measurements (torque, braking force, etc.), a navigation system with traffic updates, and fold-flat rear seats.
More than 40 safety features have won awards. Jeep Cherokee is the brand’s flagship and the SRT8® (Street Racing Technology) now becomes the most impressive model.
LIKES: Powerful, spacious, handling, ride, versatility, quiet
DISLIKES: Gas mileage
BOTTOM LINE: Quick like a sports car yet has top-notch SUV attributes
Tom Crosby is vice president of communications for AAA Carolinas. He is based in Charlotte, N.C.