2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8
2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8. Click image to enlarge

Test Drive: 2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8
Test Drive: 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Manufacturer’s web site
Jeep Canada

Review and photos by Peter Bleakney

Photo Gallery:
2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8

Big SUVs that aspire to be sharp handling, ferocious road machines live on the lunatic fringe of automotive reality. As do many of those who buy them. These rigs flip the bird at all things rational folks hold dear — like good fuel economy, the law of the land, and, yes, the laws of physics.

Which is not necessarily a bad thing. Think how mundane our automotive landscape would be without a few nut-bar rides to spice things up.

Exhibit A is the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 — a 470-hp, 470 lb-ft 6.4L Hemi-powered all-wheel-drive 2336-kg brute that has all the eco-cred of a can of Silly String.

And yet, because this hot-rod version of Jeep’s mainstream SUV is so good at what it does, I find myself somewhat smitten. And with a base price of $55,095, the SRT8 is an absolute steal when looking at those overseas overachievers.

2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8
2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8
2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8. Click image to enlarge

Before you dismiss the notion of comparing a muscle-bound Jeep to a 100-grand-plus BMW, Mercedes-Benz, or Porsche, note that the Grand Cherokee’s platform is Mercedes-derived in its origins.

Compared to the previous Grand Cherokee SRT8, this version ramps up the civility and tones down the rawness. It’s taller, wider, although a bit shorter, and has packed on over 200 kg. Compensating for this weight gain is the 6.4L Hemi (up from 6.1L) that adds an additional 50 horses and 50 lb-ft to the equation.

The cabin is roomier, and like all Chrysler products since Fiat took the reins, the Fairy Godmother of interiors has paid a visit. The design is simple and elegant, with a pleasing look and feel of quality. Standard issue in the SRT8 includes real carbon fibre accents, navigation, heated multi-function steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, and heated rear seats. All stuff that would have a Porsche salesperson wringing his or her hands in glee.

The $2,995 Luxury Group II package layers on deluxe door trim, stitched leather dash top, adaptive cruise, blind spot warning, forward collision warning, and powered liftgate. This tester also had the $750 tow package — something you couldn’t get in the previous version because of its central exhaust outlets.

2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8
2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8
2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8. Click image to enlarge

Fire up the Hemi and it fills the cabin with a warm, purposeful rumble. Not too loud — just enough to let you know there’s something lurking under foot. Plant said foot and this Jeep howls and bolts like a full-moon werewolf.

For a tall, 2336-kg ute, the Jeep Grad Cherokee SRT8 has a remarkably buttoned-down feel. It’s eager to change direction and the steering has a natural heft. Having driven this vehicle in anger at the Willow Springs Raceway in California on a previous occasion, I can attest to its impressive track prowess — for a tall-and-heavy SUV, of course. Credit the adaptive Bilstein dampers, rear-wheel torque vectoring, 295-mm wide tires all around and killer six-piston Brembo brakes.

The GC SRT8 will pull more lateral gs (.90 g) than any other SRT vehicle.

New for 2012 is Select-Track (Track, Sport, Auto, Tow, and Snow) that optimizes the dampers, stability/traction control, transmission mapping, and Quadra-Trac On Demand 4WD bias for the selected conditions.

In my experience, when paddle shifters are connected to a transmission other than the twin-clutch variety, the tardiness of response renders them to the status of mere decoration. Not here. Even though the Grand Cherokee SRT8 has an automatic transmission with only five gears, tugs on the paddles have the gearbox hammering upshifts and snatching downshifts with usable urgency. An eight-speed auto is reportedly on the way that should benefit both performance and fuel economy.

2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8
2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8. Click image to enlarge

As a daily driver, the GC SRT8 is refined, has a decent ride, and largely comes across as a very swift luxury SUV. When not playing hooligan, the Hemi slips into 4-cylinder Eco mode quite often, signaled by an icon on the central display and a change in exhaust note. Transport Canada fuel economy numbers are 17.1 L/100 km city and 11.4 L/100 km highway.

Its observed 15.8 L/100 km thirst (and $2,000 gas-guzzler tax) notwithstanding, the 2012 Jeep GC SRT8 never failed to put a grin on my mug. Yes, I know it is a completely ridiculous rig, but it delivers on its questionable mandate with such competence, comfort and yes, value, so I have to tip my hat to the SRT engineers.

Pricing: 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8
  • Base price: $55,095
  • Options: $5,485 (Luxury Group II, $2,995; Trailer Tow Group IV, $750; Brilliant Black Crystal Pearl paint, $150; SRT High Perfromance Audio and Navigation Group, $995; Dual-Pane sunroof, $1,495; 295/45ZR20 three season tires, $100 )
  • A/C tax: $100
  • Freight: $1,500
  • Federal Green Levy: $2,000
  • Price as tested: $65,180

  • Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee

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    Crash test results
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
  • Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)
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