2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8: The Ride to Colorado
January 4, 2013
Our long-term 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 spent the holidays in Denver, and when I pulled into my driveway after a week on the road, we'd racked up 2,458 miles and spent nearly 46 hours in the driver seat. Denver is only about 1,000 miles from Los Angeles, but a detour into Monument Valley via U.S. 191 and 163 on the return leg lengthened our trip. It was worth it, too. Monument Valley is an awesome sight in the winter with a dusting of snow. (You're seeing the valley from the Utah side in the above photo.)
All the hours behind the wheel gave us plenty of time to reflect on the ride quality with the Jeep's recently fitted all-season, non-run-flat 295/45R20 Sumitomo HTR Sport H/P tires. On the highway, the ride is pretty livable with these tires. Interstates 15 and 70 were both in decent condition, and given its aggressive suspension calibration, our Grand Cherokee SRT8 offered reasonable compliance. It wasn't busy or harsh over the small impacts, and we could just kind of settle back and pretend we were in one of the normal Grand Cherokees instead of the crazy SRT8 version. Road noise was minimal.
When the pavement condition deteriorated, though, the ride suffered. Even with the more forgiving sidewalls on these Sumitomos, the Jeep is pretty crashy over larger ruts and bumps. This got old quickly on the rougher sections of I-40 in Arizona and California.
Surprisingly, the most uncomfortable part of our trip was just outside of Denver. We were visiting family in the distant suburbs where farmland is gradually giving way to tract housing, so some of the main thoroughfares are still barely improved ranch roads and the Jeep just hated those ranch roads. We saw plenty of current-generation Grand Cherokees in the area, but not one of them was an SRT8. Even if you could afford the SRT8's $60K price tag, it wouldn't make sense to own one here.
Similarly, the Jeep had a pretty hard ride on our light off-roading adventure through Monument Valley's 17-mile scenic loop. I hesitate even to call it off-roading, given that it's a decently maintained dirt road with very few large ruts. There were plenty of Camrys and Altimas on the trail with us, although every time I saw one of them picking its way up the trail, I thought to myself, "Gosh, I'd never drive my Camry on this road." But every single time, I eventually spotted the tell-tale rental car barcode sticker on the car's driver-side rear window. Tourists. Geez.
Thing is, I would drive the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 on this dirt road again if I owned it. No, it's not pleasant on this route, but it's still a real-deal SUV with adequate suspension travel and a passable 8.3 inches of ground clearance. The Monument Valley loop was no challenge at all for it, though it felt appropriate to be in a Jeep as we drove among the magnificent red mesas and buttes. In my later installments, I'll report on fuel economy and tell you how the Jeep fared in a couple small snowstorms.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 17,713 miles