2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee
I thought a hot rod Jeep Grand Cherokee would be a bit like the Dodge Ram SRT10 - power overkill just for the heck of it. Driving the Grand Cherokee SRT8 for 800 miles in three days, however, really opened my eyes.
What I discovered is that the Grand Cherokee SRT8 is not a four-wheeled caricature, but a delightfully impressive road car of the first magnitude. Of course I expected the 420-horsepower Hemi V-8 to be a giggle, but I was totally surprised by its ability to unload its power in such a sophisticated way. Acceleration was awesome. Jeep says the SRT8 hits 60 miles per hour in less than five seconds, and that makes the SRT8 quicker than a Porsche Cayenne Turbo or a BMW X5. It is priced lower than either.
So the power was a given, but the road holding, and ride quality, was not at all what I expected. Zinging down the interstate or roaming back-country two lanes, the SRT8 felt as solid as if it were carved from a billet of aluminum. The suspension was firm without the kind of harshness one expects from 20-inch wheels and a low-to-the-ground stance. The SRT8 felt more like a car from its sister company Mercedes-Benz than a Jeep.
Huge Brembo brakes, a deep front spoiler and bucket seats complete the transformation from standard Grand Cherokee to SRT8.
Best of all, the SRT8 has a base price of $39,995, and the nicely optioned test car still only listed for $45,630. That's thousands less than its European competitors.
The 6.1-liter version of the Hemi is the same engine used in the Chrysler 300 SRT8 and Dodge Magnum SRT8. This brute has a wonderful sound and even more satisfying manners. The dual exhausts that exit in the center of the rear fascia not only look cool, but they emit a lovely burble that is loud enough to be enjoyable yet not all all intrusive after hours at highway speeds.
One drawback to an engine with this much power is less-than-exciting gas mileage. The EPA numbers are 12 miles per gallon in the city and 15 on the highway. I beat that average while cruising at 70 or more.
It's natural to categorize a Jeep as an off-road vehicle, and while most certainly have that capability, the only dirt the SRT8 will see is from a dusty road. The full-time four-wheel drive system is tailored for pavement use, and it does a fantastic job of putting all 420 horsepower to the pavement with very little drama. Floor the throttle from a stop and the SRT8 squirts ahead.
Find a twisty country road and the SRT8 carves the turns with the grace of a figure skater. Never did I sense that I was driving a tall, heavy SUV. Rather, the SRT8 felt like a hunkered-down European sedan.
The SRT8's cabin looks racy, but in an understated way. The light gray leather seats were deeply sculpted for great support, and the suede inserts do a nice job of holding you in place during spirited driving. The seats had a wide range of adjustment, including additional lumbar support for long drives.
The Jeep SRT8 is one of the nicest road cars in the Chrysler Group. Sometimes the biggest surprises are the ones we least expect, and I didn't expect the SRT8 to be so terrific.
The base price of the test car was $39,995. The test car was equipped with the optional power adjustable pedals, navigation system, satellite radio, heated seats, side-curtain airbags, dual-zone air-conditioning and power sunroof. Options brought the sticker price to $45,630.
Three years or 36,000 miles.
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