Chrysler's Street and Racing Technology (SRT) team has unveiled its latest hot rod at the New York Auto Show, the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8. The SRT designation means this SUV is more about being a pavement burner than a trail rider. With that stated, this high performance tall wagon still serves a purpose.
The basis for any SRT car is a big engine. This Grand Cherokee gets an upgrade from its predecessor's 6.1-liter HEMI V-8 to a 6.4-liter unit. Power also gets bumped from 420 hp to 465 hp. Chrysler says this SUV is capable of 0-60 mph in 4.8 seconds and will run the quarter mile in the mid-13 second range. Even with the nearly 11% jump in power, those performance figures are not too much better than the last Grand Cherokee SRT8. This Grand Cherokee is no slouch off the line, but the weight gain of the current vehicle is likely to blame for why it doesn't blow the doors off its predecessor.
Where Chrysler says the new Grand Cherokee SRT8 really shines over the previous generation is fuel economy. The new suv uses active exhaust management to better utilize the cylinder deactivation system. Chrysler says this results in a 13% improvement in gas mileage, which should bring about 12/16 mpg city/highway.
An SUV's high center of gravity is an enemy to performance road handling, and so Chrysler has lowered the SRT8's ride height by one inch. This Grand Cherokee also receives an adaptive damping suspension managed by Jeep's Selec-Trac. This system also controls the transmission shift strategy, transfer case torque proportioning, stability control, electronic limited slip differential performance, throttle control and cylinder deactivation to automatically tune the dynamics of the vehicle. The result is a sport suspension setting that can achieve .90 g on the skid pad, which is a new record for a Jeep.
Speed and agility are usually not at the top of the list for traditional truck and SUV buyers. Those needing utility out of their sport/utility vehicle will likely be discouraged by the lowered suspension that suggests this should not be purposely taken off-road. The final nail in the off-roading coffin is the SRT8's 20-inch wheels that ride on performance-minded Pirelli PZero run-flat tires. So although this Grand Cherokee comes standard with Jeep's Quadra-Trac on-demand four-wheel drive, its best use is for traction when roads get slick.
The 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 is not supposed to be the replacement for any ranch vehicle. Instead, with a price expected not to break $50k, this is the value-minded American answer to the German performance SUVs. For example, the $92,500 Mercedes ML63 AMG has a similar 0-60 time and fuel economy to the SRT8. The Jeep and Mercedes even share components because this Grand Cherokee was developed under the Daimler-Chrysler era. Outside of the family tree, the SRT8 still comes near some pretty impressive competition. The $106,000 Porsche Cayenne Turbo has a 35 hp advantage over the Grand Cherokee SRT8, and it is only 0.4 second faster to 60 mph.
Compared to the standard Grand Cherokee, the SRT8 receives exterior upgrades that are most noticeable in a front end that carries less chrome. This is a one-piece front fascia that contains new LED daytime running lamps as well as a body-colored front grille with black screen background. Along the side there are body-colored wheel flares and side sill cladding. The rear comes with a new liftgate spoiler and lower air diffuser.
One outside improvement that is encouraging for traditional SUV buyers is the dual exhaust pipes have been moved from the center to a more functional placement at both edges. This means that unlike its predecessor, the 2012 Grand Cherokee SRT8 will be available with a towing package rated at 5,000 lbs.
Inside, Jeep takes care of the driver with standard suede sport seats and leather-wrapped heated steering wheel. There is also a feedback computer system that keeps track of items like steering input measurements, horsepower, torque, 0-60 mph time, 60-0 mph braking distance, g-forces, and one-eighth mile and quarter-mile times. To remind everyone that they are riding in a performance SUV, Jeep has replaced some dash panels with carbon fiber. Although this is the top-of-the-line Grand Cherokee, Jeep will still provide options for everything from extra leather inserts to its large dual-pane sunroof called CommandView.
We will have more details, including an exact base price figure, when the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 gets closer to its showroom debut this summer.