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2009 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 Review

2009 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8  (select to view enlarged photo)
2009 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8

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Model: 2009 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8
Engine: 6.1-liter SRT HEMI V8
Horsepower/Torque: 420 hp @ 6200 rpm/420 lb.-ft. @ 4800 rpm
Transmission: 5-speed automatic with manual mode
Wheelbase: 109.5 in.
Length/Width/Height: 195.1 x 84.3 x 66.7 in.
Tires: 255/45ZR20 (F)/285/40ZR20 (R)
Cargo volume: 34.5/637.4 cu. ft. (rear seats up/folded)
Fuel economy: 11 mpg city/14 mpg highway/10.7 mpg test
Fuel capacity: 20.5 gal.
Sticker: $49,095 (includes $730 destination charge and $6,365 in options)

The Bottom Line: The Grand Cherokee SRT8 is what it has always been; one of the best four-door SUVs available (for a time it was the only one). It's a great package, but 86 the SRT8 and go with a good V6 or V8 with not so much power.

The Grand Cherokee has always represented the top-of-the-line in sport utilities. While its styling has remained conservative, while others have gone more modern or aerodynamic, the GC has always remained true to its heritage. After all, it was one of the first four-door SUVs around, and remains one of the classics.

That said, I don't know if I'm that thrilled with the SRT8 version of the GC. The Grand Cherokee is available with four engines besides the 6.1-liter HEMI V8 ion the S RT. For example, there's a 210 hp 3.7-liter V6, a 305 hp 4.7-liter V8, a 357 hp 5.7-liter V8 and a 215 hp 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6. My choice woul dbe the 4.7-liter V8 because it has adequate power without getting too crazy.

Now I'll admit it might be a generational thing, but I feel the Grand Cherokee is not the type of vehicle that's suited to SRT8 treatment. It works fine in a Dodge Charger or Chrysler 300 (all of which will be reviewed at a later date), but for the Grand Cherokee, which has a more practical end use, I'd forget about it.

However, one of the advantages of the SRT8 treatment is front bucket seats that offer incredible side support. These aren't Recaro seats by any means, but they're a lot better than the standard seats. They're also heated, which made the first spell of wicked winter cold a little more bearable.

The SRT8 also offers humungous 20-inch rims and ti res, but I believe it's possible to get around with slightly smaller tires.

Being a Grand Cherokee, the SRT8 drives and handles like a quality SUV. The suspension has been beefed up to accept the additional power, but it's not too hard to make the ride uncomfortable. In fact, my wife commented several times how nice the GC was to ride in.

The enormous power reached all four wheels through a 5-speed automatic transmission that has a nice manual mode. To shift manually, simply tap the gear ever to the right or left for upshifts or downshifts and away you go. The four-wheel drive is Quadra-Trac Active On Demand 4WD, Jeep's proprietary system, and it's good.

I liked the instrument panel, which brought back memories of all those British cars I used to drive in the 1950s. The instruments are clear and easy-to-read.

Rear legroom in the Grand Cherokee is tight. I found my knees were butted up against the back of the front seat. While the transmission tunnel hump in the back is fairly low, it still isn't low enough for an adult to sit in the middle. It would be great for someone whose feet don't reach the floor, however. there's a pull-down armrest if there isn't a center passenger. the rear seat backs also fold to increase cargo capacity, although we found the volume behind the second row seats to be more than adequate. With the seat backs up, there's 34.5 cubic feet of cargo capacity, 67.4 cubic feet with the seat backs down.

Headroom in the back is excellent.

We liked the audio system, which is easy to understand and find stations. The screen flips forward to access the CD player. The navigation system also offers both 2D and 3D maps, so that you can get a good idea of the streets and roads in your vicinity or get an idea of what's in the distance. My son-i n-law said he prefers the 3D view, while I prefer the 2D view, so it's a matter of personal preference.

On feature I found unacceptable with the Grand Cherokee was its fuel economy. While driving with a Jeep engineer at Chrysler's 2009 vehicle introductions, he noted (with pride) that economy had improved by 1 mpg in the Grand Cherokee. This was when gas prices were near $4 a gallon. The "economy" numbers in our tester were 11 mpg city/14 mpg highway and 10.7 mpg test, all of which are simply too low.

Again, a smaller engine would solve the economy problem, at least to a small extent, while eliminating jerky starts.

2009 The Auto Page Syndicate

MORE: Jeep Reviews, Jeep Specs, Jeep Prices