May 15, 2012
There's a fork in a road in the hills above Malibu we're extremely familiar with. Veer left and the road twists and turns and climbs high into the hills. Go right and there's a small off-road area that's wide, undulating and pleasantly dusty.
We're at that intersection in our new long-term 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 and we're torn as to which route to take. On the one hand we're in a Jeep, so naturally it has the ability to send power to all four wheels. On the other hand, those four wheels measure 20 inches in diameter and they're turned by a 6.4-liter, 470-horsepower Hemi V8.
Get dirty? Or find out what SRT can do with a Grand Cherokee? It will be a decision that we have to make over and over in the next 12 months as we attempt to put more than 20,000 miles on our newest long-termer.
What We Got
With a starting price of $54,470 the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 is the most expensive member of the Jeep lineup.
Part of that has to do with the way the Cherokee SRT8 is equipped. It has standard Brembo brakes, Quadra-Trac all-wheel drive, heated and cooled leather-trimmed microfiber front seats, LED DRLs, hill-start assist, automatic headlights, heated exterior mirrors, keyless entry and start, a power tilt-and-telescoping wheel, 180-mph speedometer, a 6.5-inch touchscreen display with navigation, UConnect, paddle shifters, USB and 20-inch wheels.
Then there's the engine side of the deal. All SRT Grand Cherokees come standard with a 6.4-liter Hemi V8 cranking out 470 hp and 465 pound-feet of torque. Leather-trimmed seats are nice, but this is why you buy the SRT8.
Our entire existence doesn't take place on dry lake beds or winding mountain roads, though, so we added some options. First up is the Luxury Group II. This $4,495 option pack adds leather-wrapped upper door panels, leather instrument panel and center armrest, a power liftgate, blind spot monitoring, adaptive speed control and forward collision warning. We also ticked the $1,995 box for the SRT High Performance Audio option which drops in a 19-speaker, 825-watt stereo to help acoustically counter the effects of the 6.4. Finally, because this is an SUV after all, we got the $995 Trailer Tow Group IV. This includes a seven- and four-pin wiring harness and class IV receiver hitch, and deletes the rear tow hook while giving us the chance to pull 5,000 pounds.
After adding in the $925 destination fee, our 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 stickered for $62,880. Jeep provided this vehicle for our long-term test, so we didn't have a chance to negotiate that price down any further.
Why We Got It
We've had a number of Chrysler products over the years: a Caravan, a Ram, a Commander, a Compass, two Wranglers and a totally awesome Challenger R/T. As much as we liked that Challenger, it was armed with the adequate R/T-spec 5.7-liter, 372-hp V8. We've never sampled the big-boy Hemi V8 in a long-term tester and frankly, couldn't let that stand. And there's no better place to sample it than in the new Grand Cherokee. With the exception of that 2009 Dodge Viper SRT10, this will also be the first time we've had a long-term test of an SRT vehicle.
In our Full Test of the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8, we wrote, "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 a while you could miss it.'
"That's the mindset behind the 470-hp, 6.4-liter, 160-mph, 5,000-pound, $60,000, 12-mpg 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."
But will we absolutely love it after having to fill up the tank every two days? Or dealing with the antiquated five-speed transmission? Or trying to keep under the antiquated speed limits? Does the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 bridge the gap between performance and practicality in the long run? We're about to find out.
Follow along with the new Cherokee SRT8 and our entire test fleet on the Long-Term Road Test blog.
Current Odometer: 998
Best Fuel Economy: 12.5
Worst Fuel Economy: 11.7
Average Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 12.1