We've all known someone who seems to have it all. Remember your school pal who was attractive, affable and athletic? You wanted to hate him, but it was impossible because he was just too charismatic. Of course, forgoing resentment was easier when you found out he had one shortcoming … his marks in school weren't top-notch. Nonetheless, poor grades weren't the sort of thing you'd hold against this guy because he was too great to have around.
Like that friend, the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 seems to have it all — it's attractive, spacious, athletic and incredibly likable. However, the Grand Cherokee SRT8 gets low marks in fuel economy.
Because it's a high-performance SRT8 trim, this Grand Cherokee goes from zero to 60 mph in a mere 4.8 seconds, which is only a bit longer than it takes many fancy sports cars and the SRT offers a lot more space. In addition to having a multitude of family-friendly attributes, this is a two-row crossover that demands to be driven, and its 6.4-liter V-8 roars with delight when you step on the gas. Road and engine noise are kept to a minimum, and if you want to hear the roar of the V-8, simply roll down your window. There are steering-wheel paddle shifters in case you decide to get sporty while driving the kids to and from school, and trust me, you might.
Being friends with the guy who had it all always came with perks, whether it was access to his mountain house or getting into the best parties. The 2012 Grand Cherokee SRT8 comes with perks as well. One of the best of those is the SRT Track Experience, which is a day at a high-performance driving school where you get to develop your own set of skills on the track.
The 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee base starts at $28,120, including a $925 destination charge. The top-of-the-line SRT8 trim has a starting price of $55,595. With the addition of a few options packages that added a DVD entertainment system, performance audio and extra safety features, my test car's price was $65,275.
The Grand Cherokee has always possessed an attractive exterior. The 2012 SRT8 trim augments that with a more aggressive front grille and bumper as well as a hood that's as sculpted as your old school chum's muscles. A couple of heat extractors on the hood are a telltale sign of the car's fiery engine and beastly 20-inch forged aluminum wheels add to its athletic charm.
In the rear, there's a body-colored spoiler, fierce-looking dual exhaust and a power liftgate. My test car was equipped with the available towing package that enables towing of up to 5,000 pounds. The cargo area has 35.1 cubic feet behind the second row and nearly 69 cubic feet with the 60/40-split backseat folded flat.
The SRT8 sits slightly lower than other Grand Cherokees. This matters for form and performance, but not necessarily for function. The SRT8 has a step-in height on the tall side, so you'll have to give small children a boost to climb in. You'll also have to help them with the doors as they're quite heavy and tossed even my 5-year-old around.
The entry-level Grand Cherokee has a 3.6-liter V-6 engine that produces a healthy 290 horsepower, but the SRT8 puts you in control of a 6.4-liter V-8 that makes a glorious 470 hp and uses premium gas. The SRT8's engine is matched to a five-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drive. The Grand Cherokee SRT8 gets an EPA-estimated 12/18 mpg city/highway. Grand Cherokees with the V-6 and four-wheel drive get 16/23 mpg.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Great
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Groove-On
Like your old pal, the Grand Cherokee SRT8 possesses both inner and outer appeal. One of the things I like most about the SRT8's interior is the Nappa leather and faux-suede seats. These supple seats have grip without stick and offer comfort in every seating position. Both front and rear seats are heated, and ventilation is standard on the front seats.
As for the remainder of the cabin, elegant touches like subtle-looking wood panels trim the doors, and the optional leather-wrapped dash creates a softer look and feel than expected from such a sporty car. Italicized numbers in the circular gauges are a reminder that this is no ordinary family hauler, though it's a fast one.
The five-seater comes with a 6.5-inch touch-screen that acts as central command for Jeep's Uconnect system with smartphone, music and navigation integration. I find Uconnect easy to use, which means I never have to reference the owner's manual or pull over to figure things out. My test car came with an upgraded 19-speaker audio system and 825-watt amplifier and an available DVD entertainment system.
While everyone can sit comfortably for long stretches in the SRT8, there isn't quite enough space to fit three child-safety seats across the back row, but you can fit a larger child, who's out of his booster seat, between two convertible seats comfortably. Additionally, the installation of a rear-facing infant seat won't compromise front legroom.
Storage is plentiful. The front center console and rear center armrest also have interior storage for smaller things, and a large glove box comes in handy for other odds and ends. There are four cupholders and four in-door bottleholders throughout the cabin.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
The 2012 Grand Cherokee has been named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. This means it received the top score of Good across the front, side, rear and roof-strength crash-test categories. The Grand Cherokee received an overall safety score of four stars out of five from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It also earned four stars in front and rollover crash tests and five stars in side-impact crash tests.
The SRT8 comes equipped with all the standard safety features that you'd expect such as four-wheel drive, an electronic stability system with antiroll control and traction control, active front head restraints and six airbags.
But there are other safety features that deserve mention both for their practical and performance-related applications. For the practical-minded and those of us with children, there's standard rear park assist, a backup camera and keyless entry. A blind spot warning system, rear cross-path detection and collision alert are available. For the performance-minded, features like electronic limited slip rear differential and Brembo-brand four-wheel-disc antilock brakes make sure things stop and go as smoothly as possible.
The Grand Cherokee has two sets of lower Latch anchors, but they're difficult to use because they seem too close together. This means that a child's car seat covers them, making it tough to get everything properly installed. The tether anchors' placement are also puzzling as they're covered by a snapping (as in ouch! if it snaps at you) flap cover whose movement is hindered by the monstrous rear wheel wells. The snappy flaps are there to ensure everything is nice and flat when you fold the rear seats. They work well for that, but more thought to tether-anchor placement in the future would be appreciated since there are folks who would love to have a car that accommodates their children as well as their lust for power. After all, we parents have to take power wherever we can get it.
Get more safety information about the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 here.
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