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2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, 2012 Chrysler 300 SRT, 2012 Dodge Challenger SRT and 2012 Dodge Charger SRT Road Tests and Reviews - VIDEO

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2012 SRT Lineup - 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8; 2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8; 2012 Dodge Challenger SRT 392; 2012 Dodge Charger SRT8

2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8; 2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8; 2012 Dodge Challenger SRT 392; 2012 Dodge Charger SRT8

By Marty Bernstein, Senior Editor at Large
The Auto Channel

HOLLYWOOD, CA; In today’s green, higher mpg from smaller engines automotive world, vehicles that are essentially without these attributes may seem to be an automotive anomaly. But the four SRT – Speed and Racing Technology – models are Chrysler Corporation’s re-launched response for a group of auto enthusiasts who feel the need for speed and performance, are willing to pay for it and get good environmental credits too.

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Maestro Ralph Giles, aka the newly assigned president and CEO of Chrysler’s SRT Brand and Motorsports Group and head of Chrysler’s chief of corporate design, detailed the five specific performance hallmarks of the SRT’s to journalists on a Hollywood sound stage.

Every SRT Must Include

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Awe-inspiring powertrains – the industry term for high horsepower and torque ratings to get maximum power and fuel efficiency. An OMG moment when stepping hard on the accelerator.

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Outstanding ride and handling – whether on the road or a race course an SRT must be provide the best and most competent, capable experience possible.

Benchmarking braking – safe and consistent braking with responsive and immediate stopping power at all speeds.

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Identifiable exterior designs – brand styling cues are maintained with aggressive and functional details that are instantly recognized by auto enthusiasts yet maintain the brand’s styling cues and characteristics.

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Race enthused interiors – built and designed for both speed and comfort to enhance the driving experience with materials, craftsmanship and technological innovations and accoutrements including special seating.

And then we began what auto journalists do: first, select one of the four SRTs – we picked the Jeep – then we alternate ride and drive or drive and ride along a set route that is enumerated and specified with mile to go, arrows and other directions. The first leg of the trip took us from Hollyweird past the ubiquitous strip malls, fast food taco stands, to an expressway (not part of the recent 405 carmageddon) to the hinterlands and drive through the canyons and almost mountains surrounding the LA Basin.

In this portion of the trip I was the rider/navigator detailing what the odometer should read and what to do when to my colleague, a reasonably sane and safe driver – some are frankly, very scary and dangerous. It was an exhilarating ride. My thoughts ranged from “this is one hellacious Jeep to this is a Jeep?” From a passenger POV there was little body sway as we made both long sweeping and quick angled turns at speeds sometimes exceeding the legal limits in California. The interior was comfortable, lots of soft touch goodies and some faux carbon fiber coverings too. The seats were fully adjustable and very comfortable, especially in the hip area. There’s an easy to read, large navigations screen and a potent audio sound system. Passenger perspective? Terrific.

Then at the top of mini-mountain I took the wheel and began the descent down. The steering wheel is inspired, note not awesome – I save that word for more majestic descriptions. Its feel is one of absolute control combined with steering ease. Padded where it should be padded, broad where it should be broad, narrow where it needs to be narrow and it’s just right.

Getting accustomed to the downgrades and the power of the Jeep SRT took a few minutes and then – simply brilliant. Slow in, hit the apex faster out with power to spare and under full control. Responsive. Letter perfect performance. And that was on the twisty parts. Great sight lines and good easy to read dial arrangement – well, the odo numbers in light orange color where very hard to read especially with Polarized sunglasses.

Then my drive route took us to an expressway leading to the race track at Willow Springs, CA. Here we’d get to drive all four of the SRTs on the very long 2.5 mile track with major elevation, off-camber and nine turns awaited. Daunting? Yes. Dangerous? Possibly. Race tracks and courses are the auto journalists’ playground. Drive as fast as you can as often as you want, looking really cool, wearing a balaclava and helmet. Add to this the element of four specially designed, engineered and produced vehicles built for race tracks. It’s the perfect storm of fast driving in fast cars.

And drive I did two cars, the Jeep and the Challenger, at speeds I feel able to handle without stressing out or scaring myself silly. Okay, I will admit a few years ago to driving 14 laps in an unrestricted Ford Fusion NASCAR racecar on the Daytona Speedway hitting a top speed of 142, but that was all left turns. After my drive I got experts to drive me. I admire and respect those who are far more capable race-style-drivers than I and prefer to do hot laps with these experts behind the wheel showing me exactly what the vehicle will and will not do. It still can be scary, but not quite as much and I learn a whole lot more.

Watch TACH's exclusive SRT Brand promo video

Universal SRT Elements

While each has its own distinctive body style, there are elements each share:

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Power plus! Under the hood’s of the quartet is a new 6.4-liter V8 (and doesn’t that look odd today?) 470 horsepower hemi-engine with a matching 470 lb-ft torque! Better performance but also improved fuel economy compared to the old powerplant.

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The Dodge Challenger, Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 are topped out at 175 mph. We did not reach that during the test.

Fast too!
The SRT version of the Jeep Grand Cherokee is just 10 mph slower at 165 miles per hour. Repeat: a Jeep that can reach 165 mph! And sticks, really sticks to the road with its 20-inch, highly stylized wheels that’ll stop on with new Brembo brakes

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Racy Interiors
High quality leather and fabrics materials abound that look and feel good. A steering wheel that’s close to perfection and seats that hold one comfortably and firmly. Ambient lighting and great infotainment system adds to the driver and passengers enjoyment of the drive or ride at any speed or road surface.

The sound of speed.
The quartets throaty exhaust notes are not for raucous rockers, they are for classic speed purists who want allegro capriccio (musical terms meaning lively and fast and spirited) in vehicles that are used by many as form of stress therapy.

The SRT Jazz Quartet

Continuing the musical metaphor, each of the SRTs is a solo artist with its own vehicular persona that, depending on personal choice and needs, makes it unique.

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Chrysler 300 SRT8 – this vehicle sets new levels of artistic success with a 4-door, near luxury sedan that’ll blow the doors off most street legal sedans, coupes and two or three from Germany that are known for their power and performance and über high prices. It’s the modern car for the modern Sunday drive with the family that likes to go really fast – 0 to 60 in under :04-seconds range – with comfort, but are equally good the daily commute too.

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Dodge Challenger SRT 392 – an homage to the original 392 Hemi this is the granddaddy of high performance coupes updated and modernized with technology, engineering excellence and look. With the manual transmission think 10 mph over the 175 mph. Scary in red.

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Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 – this is the OMG vehicle! It looks like a Jeep, so you’ll be thinking Jeep, right? Wrong. As you slip in to the drivers or passenger seat there is a palpable feeling a most unique experience awaits … and there is. It’s pure SRT but still has pure Jeep attributes including variable road surface adjustment. Off all the SRT’s this was my personal favorite for driving and riding and handling and of course speed.

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Dodge Charger SRT8 – if the Challenger was the grandfather of speed coupes, the new Charger, especially in black is the Darth Vader of the quartet and any road! Guaranteed its going to get on the nerves when it’s in your rear view mirror.

Maestro Giles has done an outstanding job of leading the SRT Group. There’s not a weak note in any member of this quartet. The only problem those who love the performance, speed, styling and heritage many will have is buying just one SRT.

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SRT Brand