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Grand Cherokee on the right track
Jeep stalwart has tons of giddy-up
Published Monday, May 7, 2012 1:23 am
by Winfred B. Cross

There are times when I get out of a test vehicle and just shake my head. Why did they do this? What was the purpose? The need?

Jeep's /Grand Cherokee SRT/8 produces 470 horsepower from a 6.4-liter Hemi V8 engine.

Most of the time thatís a bad thing, but in the case of the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT/8, it was a mighty good thing. No one needs 470 horsepower and 460 pounds-feet of torque in an SUV. No one. No one needs a SUV that has a suspension setting called ďtrackĒ which will allow you to throw it around your favorite oval.

No one needs a 6.4-liter Hemi V8 that can propel you to 60 miles per hour in 5.1 seconds. Nope. No one needs any of that, but thatís exactly what Chrysler Corp. gives you in this Grand Cherokee.

Iím soooooooo glad it did.

This was the most fun Iíve had in an SUV ever! The menacing looks got me from the word hello. The hood with massive air vents. The body kit add-ons. The 20-inch Pirelli tires. The dual exhaust. The black metallic paint. The really big brake calipers. Yep, that was enough.

Of course, when I opened the door I got much more. The leather and suede recaro-like seats, the stunning dash and options enough to open your own auto parts store were waiting.

And. That. Engine. Push the start button and you get an exhaust note that will make Mustang Cobra owners turn heads. Itís a deep, throaty musical note that is intoxicating. Give it some gas and you are off to the races. Yep, this thing flies on the highway. As I said, expect to see 60 mph in about five seconds. Gather your courage, hit the ďtrackĒ setting for the suspension and approach speeds that will keep your license in the hands of the po-po for a long, long, loooong time.

You can enjoy the Grand Cherokee SRT/8 at normal highway speeds but you will draw LOTS of attention, especially if the person beside you is driving any Chrysler product. The car is stunning, but all who own a Dodge or Chrysler know how special and sometimes rare SRT/8 vehicles are.

Actually, none of the dealers had such a Jeep on their lots when I drove this thing earlier this year. Once the salesman stopped drooling, I asked how much it was since I didnít get a window sticker.

More on that later.

The SRT/8, like all Grand Cherokees is based on the current Mercedes ML vehicles. Benz still owned Chrysler Corp. when this model was under development so using the chassis was a no-brainer. It also pushed the company to offer better interior trim, switchgear and build quality. This Cherokee is a beast in all categories.

Alas, the one area it really sucks at is gas mileage. Jeep claims 12 miles per gallons in the city and 17 on the highway for a combined 14 mpg. Uh, how Ďbout no. The best I got according to the onboard calculator was 12 mpg at any point.

Seriously, anyone looking to buy this vehicle isnít thinking green, just black, which will be the color of the tire marks left each time you launch toward the street. Nope, environmentalists should stay far away.

The SRT/8 gets all of the equipment available on the Overland trim level and adds all that stuff I said you donít need at the beginning. Thatís at a hefty $54,495. Add the extra packages (included rear DVD, heated steering wheel, high-dollar stereo and a gazillion other things) and I think the vehicle approached $65,000.

Too much? Back off a few options and you can stay under $60,000. Thatís still less than the zooted-out Mercedes, BMW or Porsche models that may not have any significant performance advantages. I said it. May be incorrect, but I said it.

Iíd own this Jeep in a heartbeat if it came with itís own field. Still, if I were looking for a high performance SUV, Iíd look very, very closely at this Cherokee SRT/8.


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