2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 road test: It’s a whole lot hotter than a standard SUV

2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8

2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8

It’s not cold logic that will bring buyers to the dealerships in search of the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8, the  brand’s red-hot sport-utility vehicle.

Left-brainers simply will not comprehend the attractiveness of a ground-pounding, gas-guzzling, 470-horsepower SUV that is filled with luxury features and sells for more than $60,000.

I was reminded of this again and again during a week with the SRT8 in which I was confronted by skeptics with strikingly similar questions.

“Why would anyone buy a car like this?’ asked one friend.

“Who would need a car like this?” asked another.

“What’s the point?” a third wondered.

SRT8 cockpit

SRT8 cockpit

To all of you whose automotive tastes run to the purely practical, there probably is no satisfactory answer. There is no strictly logical reason to buy a rugged, unusually road-worthy sport-utility vehicle that doubles as a premium, high-powered luxury car.

It is sort of like buying a tuxedo to go to a barn dance.

All I could think of to say was, “Well, if you don’t get it, then just don’t get it.”

Of course, I think I do get it.

The Grand Cherokee SRT8 is for the well-to-do car lover who occasionally requires the service of an SUV, but wants one that replaces the ennui of a cheerless driving experience with some of the excitement of a high-performance luxury car.

Here’s some of what the SRT8 can do.

Tramp on the accelerator and the  6.4-liter Hemi V-8 engine’s 470 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque will hurl you from a stop to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds.

Then, slam on the brakes and you will come to a screeching halt in a mere 116 feet.

Now, keep in mind that  this happens in a vehicle that weighs 2 1/2 tons.Talk about breaking the laws of inertia . . . !

Totally irrelevant on modern American roads, but interesting to note for the record, the Grand Cherokee SRT8 has a top speed of 160 mph.

SRT8 cargo compartment

SRT8 cargo compartment

In its own way, but not very successfully, the Grand Cherokee SRT8 even tries to save some money on gas. Cruise along on a level highway and the  V-8 will automatically ratchet down to four-cylinder operation under light loads.

Sounds good, but the EPA estimates 12 miles per gallon around town and 18 on the highway, I averaged an overall 13.5 miles per gallon and that was with no heavy loads and no hilly or off-road excursions. And, yes, that’s using the recommended premium gasoline.

Unlike some pickup-based SUVs, the SRT8 actually drives more like a car than a truck. With a track-tuned independent suspension, a lot of electronic assistants, accurate and communicative steering, and a set of  beefy 20-inch, run-flat, all-season performance tires, this Jeep has a reasonably comfortable and complaint ride over most road surfaces and it won’t let you down when the road snakes along like the letter “S.”

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Nick has been an avid observer of all things automotive almost since birth and has been writing professionally about cars, trucks and the industry for more than 30 years. He is the author of The Essential Hybrid Car Handbook and was the long-time automotive editor for the Reading (Pa.) Eagle and Times. His articles have appeared in a variety of magazines, including The Robb Report and Men’s Health, and he has written for a variety of auto industry-related Web sites. He is also a member and former director of the International Motor Press Assn., a New York-based organization of more than 500 automotive journalists and auto industry executives.

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