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First Drive: 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8

Posted in Vehicle Reviews on November 1, 2011
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Photographers: Courtesy Chrysler Group LLC

Zero to 60 in 4.8 seconds. Sounds about right for a Shelby GT, but a 5,000-pound SUV? And a Jeep?

Yep, the next generation of SRT goodness has arrived for model year 2012, and included in the mix along with the Dodge retro muscle-cars is the WK2 Grand Cherokee SRT8, which gets the new 470 hp 6.4L V-8. The 392ci OHV engine (yep, it’s a pushrod motor, running 10.9:1 compression) also delivers 465 lb-ft of torque at 4,300 rpm, with 90 percent of that available at 2,800. Top rated speed is 160 mph, and tow rating is 5,000 pounds. Backing the engine is the W5A580 five-speed automatic and Magna MP3010 full-time single-speed transfer case, which transfers torque front to rear at rates varying from 50/50 to 35/65, depending on conditions and drive mode.

One of the coolest features of the new SRT is the “Selec-Track” adaptive suspension system, which utilizes five different driver-selectable drive-mode settings—Auto, Sport, Track, Snow, and Tow—to readjust things like torque proportioning, throttle control, cylinder deactivation, and shock valving on the fly. This really allows you to fine-tune the vehicle’s handling to tractive demands—in wet weather, for instance, or when towing—to optimize mileage, and to get power most efficiently to the 45-series Pirelli P-Zero all-season tires on 20-inch five-spoke aluminum rims.

No, we didn’t wheel it—SRT Grands don’t have a low-range gear, and you can’t raise the suspension with this model, though it does have the electronic rear brake limited-slip—but we did get a chance to whomp it around some hot laps at the Big Track at Willow Springs Raceway recently (the verdict: We’re lame. The vehicle isn’t), and the Grand was a truckload of fun. With the adaptive suspension set on its stiffest setting (“Track” mode) and the stability control disabled (thank goodness for that option), the SRT8 Grand Cherokee had no trouble keeping up with the equally-powerful-but-much-lighter-in-weight SRT Chargers and Challengers that were clogging up the track and preventing us from lapping the competition. (Okay, we made up that last part). The Pirelli P-Zeros and massive 15-inch Brembo six-piston-front binders proved their worth in and out of the corners, with great adhesion, predictable grab and progressive pedal feel, and the SRT-tuned rack-pinion steering proved its mettle more than once, keeping us from getting black-flagged off the course when we entered a corner on the high side too fast (this only happened once, really). We didn’t get it to 160 mph, but nailing 130 on the straights was easy, with plenty of extra power on tap. Away from the track, the SRT is a soothing respite to the bustle of noisy city traffic—nicely soundproofed, luxuriously appointed, and a pleasure to drive.

As you might imagine, the sleek and aerodynamic SRT8 (drag coefficient: .39) is stuffed with all sorts of creature-comfort goodies, with awesomely firm Nappa leather-and-suede seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddle-shifters, carbon-fiber accents on the instrument panel and door trim, onboard entertainment system and, as an option, an 825-watt, 19-speaker (!) Harman-Kardon surround-sound stereo system with GreenEdge speaker and amplifier technology, which increases the system’s efficiency while trimming weight.

Starting at a base price of $54,470, the new Jeep should be available at your local dealer by the time you read this. For what you get, it’s a lot of vehicle for the money, and one which we could see ourselves happily soaking up many long-distance highway miles in. Racing, on the other hand . . . okay, we’ll stick to rockcrawling from now on.

Quick Specs
Vehicle/model: 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8
Price as tested: $54,470
Engine: 392ci OHV V-8
Rated hp/torque (lb-ft): 470/465
Transmission: W5A580 5-spd automatic
Transfer case: MP 3010
4WD system: Full-time single-speed
Low-range ratio: N/A
Frame type: Unitbody
Suspension, f/r: Short/long-arm IFS, A-arms, Bilstein shocks/multilink, control arms, stabilizer bar, Bilstein shocks
Axles, f/r: 7.7-in/9-in, electronic brake LSD
Axle ratio: 3.70:1
Max crawl ratio: 13.28:1
Steering: SRT-tuned rack-and-pinion
Brakes, f/r: 15-in Brembo vented discs, six-piston calipers/13.8-in Brembo solid discs, four-piston calipers
Wheels: 20x8.5 forged aluminum
Tires (optional): P295/45ZR20 Pirelli P-Zero
Wheelbase (in): 114.8
Length (in): 191.3
Height (in): 69.1
Base curb weight (lb): 5,150
Approach/departure angles (deg): 18.5/22
Minimum ground clearance (in): 8.3
GVWR (lb): 6,500
Payload (lb): 1,350
Interior cargo volume (cu ft): 68.7 (rear seats folded)
Max towing capacity (lb): 5,000
Fuel capacity (gal): 24.6

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