2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8: Using This Truck As A Truck
July 05, 2012
Given that our longterm 2012 Jeep GC SRT8 is hi-po trucky wagon thing and not a draft horse the way a pickup is, it does have a tow hitch and so I have been curious about its ability to tow.
Last weekend's 24 Hours of LeMons race at Buttonwillow Raceway provided just that opportunity.
Buttonwillow is 137 miles away from Los Angeles and comprises a slog through urban freeway traffic, a big grade (the Grapevine) and then a long, boring run through the middle of the desert.
The Jeep's console selector has a tow mode that recalibrates the shift points. Once that was selected, I was underway with my load -- my horrible FrankenMiata race car and a steel trailer, plus sundries in the cabin. This is easily within the capabilities of our GC SRT8, which is equipped with the $995 Trailer Tow Group IV option allowing a towing capacity of 5000 pounds.
Power-wise, this thing has plenty, though it falls off the power noticeably with each upshift due to the 5-speed autobox's wide gear spacing. I definitely appreciated the solid brake pedal - very reassuring and easy to modulate. At no point did the brakes go soft due to heat, but then, I employ engine braking whenever possible no matter what I'm driving.
You'd think the GC's firm ride quality would become more compliant as a result of the trailer's tongue weight. That's what I expected anyway. I expected wrong. The firm ride worsened with the trailer. It could be that there's not much bump travel in the suspension, and that this load was enough to put the GC's suspension on its bump stops. It was a pretty punishing ride; not unsafe, just busy and uncomfortable.
Gotta love the passing power, though. Having a large amount of reserve power while towing makes for terrific peace of mind - it really is a stress reducer. Guys who tow a lot will relate.
To keep tabs on the truck, I cycled frequently through the coolant, oil and transmission temp readouts on the GC's handy display. The trans stayed surprisingly cool, no worries there whatsoever. The oil crept up to 260F on the grade (85F ambient, 55 mph and a/c switched off), which is acceptable, but I do wonder what would have happened to oil temps were I towing the full 5000 lb instead of ~3500 lb, and if the ambient air was truly hot.
Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor