2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 Full Test

By Scott Oldham,

Allow us to quote the great philosopher Ferris Bueller, who once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop to look around every once in awhile you could miss it.”

That’s the mindset behind the 470-horsepower, 6.4-liter, 160-mph, 5,000-pound, 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8. This muscled-up SUV is about enjoying today, right this very moment. It’s about wanting, reaching and grabbing. Pure automotive hedonism. And we absolutely love it.

Let’s go for a ride.

The Track Numbers

The last time we drove a 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 we spent an afternoon flogging it on the big track at Willow Springs Raceway. And we went home impressed with the Jeep’s speed, stability and agility.

Track mode is the most aggressive setting in the Jeep’s five-mode Selec-Track system. Controlled by a large knob on the console, the Selec-Track system integrates with all systems that can affect performance — stability control, suspension damping, shift logic, torque split, rear LSD operation and more. Largely, its management of torque split and suspension damping yield the biggest influence in control.

The five settings are Auto, Sport, Track, Snow or Tow (it can pull 5,000 pounds). In Sport and Track Mode the truck’s dampers are stiffened for more control, and its all-wheel-drive system sends more power to the rear wheels for additional agility. In Snow the torque split is 50/50 front to rear, but in Sport and Track it’s 35/65.

Mountain Road

But on the street, the differences between Auto, Sport and Track settings are minor. Truth is, it doesn’t really matter which mode you choose; the Jeep SRT8 takes to a mountain road like Hef to healthy blondes.

Body roll is very well controlled. Steering is intuitive and has good weighting. And turn-in is very quick. Jeep’s engineers have dialed a slight bit of understeer into the truck’s cornering behavior to keep you feeling confident, even at a serious pace with the ESC turned completely off. Finding the grip limits of the Jeep’s 20-inch Pirelli P Zeros is fun, not terrifying.

And the AWD kills any dreams of power oversteer. Once you get this big beast turned, you just wood the throttle and hang on. If you drive it off the road backward, then you’ve mistakenly put it in Reverse. Even in Track mode its stability is remarkable.

But the best part may be under the hood. This 6.4-liter Hemi V8 is further proof of the power of the pushrod. It makes 470 hp at 6,000 rpm and 465 pound-feet of torque at 4,300 rpm. And it sounds as if Apollo tuned the exhaust. (Um, he’s the god of music.)

Living With the Beast

This new Grand Cherokee SRT8 is a big bunch better than it was. It handles better, stops better, drives better and rides better. It’s also built better and is more comfortable than the truck it replaces.

Remember that commute thing? Well, if you can live with the gas mileage this is great daily driver. It feels solid. Rides like a German performance sedan. And it has a luxurious quality missing from its predecessor.

Sure there are still a couple of plastic bits you wish were actual metal, but Jeep has gone the extra mile when creating this interior. The gauges are just right. The carbon-fiber trim is real. Heated front and rear seats and steering wheel are standard. The well-shaped sport seats are also power-adjustable, ventilated and covered in a suede/Napa leather combo that feels rich.

Other standard stuff includes a nav system, satellite radio, bi-xenon headlamps, bright pedals, the SRT Track Experience and power heated memory multifunction mirrors, because we all need those.

 

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