2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 4x4 On The Road Review By Steve
2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8
2012 JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE SRT8 4X4
By Steve Purdy
This is my first experience with the redesigned Jeep Grand Cherokee
(on the market for about a year now), and it just happens to be time for a
good, long road trip – 600 miles, door-to-door – from our
southern Michigan headquarters to a relaxing condo on the Cumberland
Plateau, about 45 minutes west of Knoxville, Tennessee. I see by the window
sticker that our SRT8, high-performance, high-zoot SUV, is rated at only 18
mpg on the highway. We’ll see if we can beat that number.
This is the fourth generation of the Grand Cherokee that has always
been a uni-body design rather than the typical SUV with a body-on-frame
design. This mid-size, 5-passenger, four-wheel drive CUV (usually
considered to be an SUV) without extras starts a bit over 27 grand. Our
loaded “SRT8” with all the power and panache you’ll ever
need plus a couple of costly packages comes in at a solid 61 grand.
Our trip to the Cumberland Plateau, with a day trip to the Smokey
Mountains, will offer a variety of driving environments and experiences,
from the nearly non-stop freeway jaunt each way to the challenging
serpentine forest roads in the mountains. We’re expecting to catch
the tail end of the rich fall colors as we make our traditional visit to
Cades Cove high in the Smokey Mountain National Park.
The SRT designation refers to sreetable raceablity enabled by
technology. This Grand Cherokee SRT8 has the new, 6.4-liter Hemi V8 making
a solid 470 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque (without resorting to
artificially boosted aspiration) enhanced by suspension and handling
characteristics that make it competent on a race track as well as limited
off-road circumstances. The 5-speed automatic transmission, an older unit,
is tough but not particularly efficient.
We began this adventure on a colorless late fall day entering the
fast-paced rural freeway near our Michigan base. Our fall colors are long
gone. Acceleration down this generous ramp felt subdued and entirely
civilized until I buried the go pedal. It launched like a rocket with a
roar and a rumble. My pretty wife reminded me that it sucks a lot of gas
when I do that. I assured her, though, that you, our astute readers, need
to share that experience. So it’s my responsibility to experience
that for you, and report. Let’s just call it “adrenalin on
We also have “on demand” four-wheel drive and an
electronic limited-slip differential, along with every conceivable
electronic control to keep you out of trouble – ABS, traction
control, Adaptive Dampening Suspension and stability control. And, we have
a Selec-Trac that prioritizes all of the electronic controls for five
different driving modes from “Track” to “Snow.”
With the former engaged you can achieve .90 g on the skid pad and a 0-to-60
time of 4.6 seconds. Road and Track tested it against competitors and the
SRT8’s lap times and quarter-mile times beat the Porsche Cayenne S
and BMW X5. Not bad credentials. Those both cost considerably more than
This kind of 600-mile cruise can acclimate one to a vehicle
quickly. Nine hours in this pleasant, exceptionally quiet, well-designed
and well-executed cockpit passes quickly on this familiar drive. Controls,
readouts and gauges were reasonably intuitive but a long way from the best
in the market. The standard adaptive cruise control didn’t always
readout what I told it to do, and the trip and performance computer systems
were a bit awkward to scroll through. Just about everything we needed was
there, though, including the cumulative mpg readout that continued to
disappoint me - with the message, not the presentation. By the end of the
trip we knew where to find everything and how to use it. The learning curve
was a bit excessive.
Among the high-performance elements of the Grand Cherokee SRT8 are
Bembo brakes and Pirelli run-flat, 20-inch, Z-rated tires. The lower stance
and low, sexy sport cladding will limit off-roading by reducing ground
clearance. The flashy, 20-inch by10-inch-wide, five double-spoke cast
aluminum wheels fill the wheel well nicely on this big trucky thing.
Driving though Cincinnati on I-75 became a real challenge. Our big, fat,
wide tires wanted so badly to follow the exaggerated grooves in the
pavement that the whole truck thrashed back and forth like an angry gator.
Not far north of Knoxville we began to see increasingly intense
colors remaining in the autumn woodlands – bright red sumac, multiple
shades of oak leaves and plenty of remaining soft maples in their yellows
and oranges. Our day trip to the Smokey, and Cades Cove in particular,
revealed even more color interspersed with a variety of evergreens. Even
better, each time we stepped out of the car, and cruising around Cades Cove
with the windows open, we were treated to wafts of leafy autumn aromas.
Passing back through the National Park to Gatlinburg we have 25
miles of twisties where, if you push it hard, you might make 50-mph on some
sections. Out of consideration for my pretty wife’s comfort I did not
push as hard as I would have liked, but I can say without equivocation that
this thing handles great with its revised fully independent suspension
– tight, just enough feedback, under control and exhilarating.
I’m not going too fast, though, to enjoy watching the swift mountain
streams beside the road roil and gush through their rocky beds with just a
few fly fishermen snagging their lures in the overhanging trees.
In spite of not having a full frame under it we find a towing
capacity of a decent 5,000 pounds and payload of 1,350. We can load it up
with 69 cubic-feet of stuff with the second seat folded and 35.1 cubic-feet
with it in position. This would be a comfortable and accommodating way for
two couples to travel even if they were all golfers hauling four sets of
Now – back to the fuel economy issue. The Grand Cherokee SRT8
features cylinder deactivation to boost fuel economy. We can feel it kick
in and out going down the road. The EPA rates this 5,200-pound CUV at 12
mpg in the city and 18 on the highway with premium fuel. We maxed out at
16.4 mpg on a couple of our highway tanks and considerably less when more
stop and go was involved. It has a 24.6-gallon tank, but with this kind of
mileage we still have only about a 350-mile range at best.
Jeep’s new car warranty covers the powertrain for 5 years or
100,000 miles and the whole car for 3 years or 36,000 miles.
While we can say the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 is a great value at
60 grand compared to some of its German competitors, you’ll still
have a considerable carbon footprint.
Built in Detroit (some would say, “as God intended”)
you certainly get patriotic points.
Just keep that gas card handy.
ęSteve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights