2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 Road Test Review

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If you pay attention to fast cars, you are undoubtedly aware of Chrysler's SRT group. The progenitors of both Viper and Prowler, among other extraordinary offerings, SRT has put forth some of the hottest autos in Chrysler's history.
Starting with the 2012 model year, Chrysler has decided it's time SRT became a brand unto itself, complete with a chief executive officer in the person of Canadian Ralph Gilles (pronounced Jeels)-also Chrysler's vice-president of design.
To mark the introduction of the brand, Gilles is releasing four white-hot models invigorated with outstanding performance-thanks to a new 6.4-litre HEMI V8 engine. This powerplant, when combined with the new methodically crafted suspension systems and the suite of purpose-specified comfort, convenience and infotainment systems, enable the new SRT products to elevate Chrysler's performance image to a whole new plane.

And, while we've seen a version of it before, perhaps the most surprising member of the SRT family is new the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8. At speed on the racing track (yeah, we said on the racing track), the Jeep reeled in track like a winch and dove into corners like an Olympic contender going for a gold medal.

Just as with its Challenger, Charger and 300 stable mates, the Grand Cherokee's 6.4 spins out 470 horsepower-although for the Jeep application torque is "limited" to 465. A five-speed automatic ports power to all four wheels. Absolutely astounding in its abilities, the Jeep SUV demonstrated highly responsive steering, along with amazing braking ability as we hauled it down from triple digit speeds again and again in our attacks on the corners of the course. Happily absorbing all the output the 470-horsepower V8 could muster, the brakes never once showed any sign of fade.

When we got room to run-unfettered by the necessity of changing directions-we saw the Grand Cherokee SRT8 hit 100km/h in just above five seconds and devour the quarter in just over 13. Gilles says it'll do 160 mph (257 km/h) wide open. We believe him.

In the real world, away from race tracks and such, the speediest Grand Cherokee is smooth and comfortable over the road, but a bit on the loud side, as tire roar and wind noise easily penetrate its cabin. The outstanding audio system is capable of masking this however, boasting as it does an available 825-watt, 19-speaker surround sound system from harman/kardon.

To keep the kids busy while you're shattering the sound barrier, the Jeep's available Vehicle Entertainment System (VES) includes a DVD player and a rear seat overhead screen to deliver a variety of programming choices. There are also input ports to connect devices with audio and video output capability.

Paddle-shift controls for the transmission join audio and Electronic Vehicle Information Center (EVIC) controls in their accessibility from the steering wheel. SRT Performance Pages in the EVIC show steering inputs, horsepower, torque, acceleration time, braking distance, g-forces, and one-eighth mile and quarter-mile times, along with expanded engine information.

The SRT leather and suede seats feature sculpted bolsters and adjustable headrests to provide both comfort and grip during spirited driving. The front seats are heated and ventilated; the back seats are just heated.

And, while the previous iteration of the GC SRT8 was strictly a street machine, this new one does off road stuff as well. Now, before you get too excited about that last sentence, we hasten to add we're not talking Rubicon Trail off-road like its hard-core trail-rated brothers. Still though, soft roads and mild trails won't faze the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 anymore.

Another advantage Jeep's 2012 SRT8 has over its predecessor is ride quality. While the previous one was a terrific handler, always ready to clip an apex, it was also liable to compress your spine on tacky tarmac. This new one actually demonstrates compliance over the rough stuff. Plus, it'll tow too!

Rounding out the new SRT family, the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 is, many might say, an answer to a question nobody really asked. After all, as much fun as it was, what's the point of being able to scream around a racing track in an SUV?

Still, for the capabilities it demonstrates, you have to give Chrysler some props. Engineering something like this is not a simple task.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: SUV, Jeep, 2012, Grand Cherokee SRT8, $50,000 - $74,999,

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