2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8: We Finally Drove It In Snow
January 7, 2013
Improved ride quality was our main justification for switching to all-season tires on our long-term 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8. But the other big reason was the upcoming winter driving season. See, the weather in Southern California is just too mild to warrant a full-on set of snow tires, but road conditions change drastically when you head some place like Lake Tahoe or Aspen. And we didn't want to be driving around on our SRT8 Jeep's original equipment summer run-flat tires.
We hit a couple of snowstorms on my recent Colorado road trip. Mind you, they weren't yet the mega-blizzards they'd later become as they moved across the Midwest, dropping only 2-3 inches in most cases. Plus, Colorado's department of transportation has the snow plows out early and often — quite a contrast to the Missouri-Arkansas region where I came of age and learned to drive. You'll wait days for a plow there.
Not surprisingly, the Grand Cherokee SRT8 had no trouble getting around on unplowed streets in suburban Denver on Christmas morning. (No, that's not suburban Denver in my lead photo, but isn't Monument Valley beautiful in the winter?) I turned its selector dial to Snow, which provides a 50/50 front/rear torque split, when I remembered, but the Jeep managed fine in Auto mode, too (it resets to Auto every time you shut off the vehicle). Later in the day, we happened upon a large, empty, unplowed parking lot and you can imagine what happened there.
Temperatures dropped to near zero in the days that followed, so there were icy patches here and there on the drive home. Again, this was no problem, because my spouse and I drove alertly and kept our inputs smooth. Based on this experience, I'd say our 20-inch Sumitomos get the job done, but if I owned the Jeep and planned to make this drive in December again, I'd invest in a set of smaller steel wheels and true snow tires.
And the main reason is that, depending on conditions, tire chains can be mandatory in this part of the country. A full set of chains for a four-wheel-drive vehicle with 20-inch light truck tires is incredibly expensive (and cleverly, nonrefundable). As such, we weren't carrying chains on this trip, and I drove along hoping the weather wouldn't get bad enough to necessitate them.
Also of note is that the Jeep was parked outside overnight in the frigid temperatures, but it started up immediately each morning.
Really, the only weather-related inconvenience we encountered on this trip was that the Grand Cherokee SRT8's California-grade washer fluid froze and the jets wouldn't spray the windshield or back window for nearly a day. This wasn't a surprise and we'd intended to address this before we left L.A., but in our excitement over the road trip, we forgot. Eventually, we splurged on a gallon of washer fluid rated for -30 degrees at a fuel stop in Colorado, and after a couple more hours of driving, the Jeep's washer function was needed again. Our purchase proved especially fortuitous when negotiating heavier snow and truck traffic on Interstate 40 outside of Flagstaff, Arizona.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 17,713 miles