2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 First Impressions

2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT82012 Jeep Grand Cherokee

The online Urban Dictionary explains “hoonage” as: “Aggressively flogging a car, but in a manner that stops just short of reckless.” Not all of us are gifted enough to fully exploit a car and earn points while putting a car slideways at an intersection. Fear not, Jeep has you covered.

Yes, my friends, the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 has been tailor-made for those of us not quite capable of drifting, heel-toeing, and doing burn-outs. The GC SRT8 is Jeep's Swiss Army knife: it handles, it growls, it'll go off road and it has the same effect on neighbouring cars as does a low-flying plane.

The GC SRT8 does not present like a typical Grand Cherokee. However, looks are not especially important as hoonage can be achieved using a regular, run-of-the-mill Civic. I will get back to styling a little later so if looks are important to you, you'll be somewhat served.

The 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 is a 6.4L HEMI V8. Up from 6.1L from the previous truck, the new engine now pushes out 470 hp (up from 420) and 465 lb-ft (up from 420). Given these specs, you can clearly see why this SUV so effortlessly flies. And here's how you win: The GC SRT8 features a variable torque-split, full-time AWD system and a 5-speed automatic transmission.

2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT82012 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Translation: Crush the go-pedal as hard as you can and hold the steering wheel straight. Without strain – other than trying to keep your head from slamming against the seat's headrest – the GC SRT8 will launch to 100 km/h in 5 seconds every time and anytime. You can line up with any car this side of a Porsche 911 Turbo or Nissan GT-R and you'll win – every time. Nice, eh? This thing is really fast, and the gearbox easily keeps up with the driver's demands.

If straight-line racing isn't always in the cards and you enjoy slicing through apexes (lapping on a track, in other words), the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 will not disappoint here, either. Thanks to its front and rear Bilstein adaptive damping suspension and massive P295/45R20 tires, this truck can pull up to 0.90 g on a skidpad. This is near Hyundai Genesis 2.0T and Chevrolet Camaro V6 numbers. I'm impressed as you'll be.

The other major player in this numbers game is the truck's revised chassis. It is now 146% stiffer than it previously was. This change is immediately obvious on the road as the GC SRT8 feels smoother, quieter and far more solid.

Another important mentionable are the large Brembo brakes that can bring the 2,336-kg (5,150-lb) SRT8 to a stop from 96 km/h in only 116 ft (35.4 metres). That's roughly a normal North American male's height longer than a Ferrari 360 Modena.

2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT82012 Jeep Grand Cherokee

The variable torque-split transfer case can be manually influenced by a rotary knob that will vary torque split (surprised?) with five preset modes including “Track.” Insert smiley face here. In most cases, “Auto” will do all the work for you as it can channel power any which way. What I mean to say is that with the help of the Jeep's standard Quadra-Trac, active on-demand, four-wheel-drive system, 100% of the available torque can be sent to one wheel.

All of this translates into a very mean driving machine that can also perform admirably well off the beaten path. A quick run through a short, muddy, off-road path demonstrated that the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 is all show and all go – anywhere that is.

And on the subject of looks, the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 has it all going for it. It's lower by an inch, although the impression is that it's more than that because of its unique 20” wheels. More design elements include a one-piece, LED-laden body and black-coloured front fascia, rear spoiler and oversized dual-exhaust outlets.

If I was to complain here, I'd say that I far preferred the central dual pipes on the old truck. And on that note, I'd add that the 6.4L is not as vocal as the 6.1 it replaces. The throttle really has to be mashed in order to get more sound... Wait, forget what I said.

On board, drivers and passengers alike are treated to the same well laid out and assembled dashboard as in regular Grand Cherokees, with the exception of some SRT8-specific front seats.

The Grand Cherokee SRT8 is no bargain, but at $54,995, it's one of the fastest, most versatile and powerful SUVs/CUVs available.