One of the not-so-secret weapons lurking in the Jeep arsenal gets launched at the 2011 New York Auto Show--the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8, the version with Chrysler's headiest HEMI V-8 tucked under the hood.
The last SRT-powered Jeep was an in-your-face engineering exercise, and the new one's even more insistent: displacement is up from 6.1 liters to 6.4 liters, total power's floated up to 465 hp, and 0-60 mph times have been chopped to 4.8 seconds, according to Jeep's own estimates. Top speed's pegged at 155 mph.
Underneath, it's mostly the same goodness we found in our first drive of the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee last year. The new Cherokee's benefited from some family-style helpings of Mercedes-Benz technology, and it shows up in a much more rigid body shell, much-improved steering feel and ride quality, and in the far finer grade of trim applied to the cabin.
The SRT8 Grand Cherokee stops by the parts bin once more, for more of the pieces that also grace the ultra-HEMI Chrysler 300 SRT8. Paddle shifters are standard, and so is an adaptive suspension teamed with the all-wheel-drive system that governs how the Cherokee responds to on-road and off-road conditions. The modes of operation range from Auto to Sport, Track, Tow and Snow. If it sounds familiar, the 2011 Ford Explorer has grafted similar controls on its drivetrain, though not its shocks. Jeep says if needed, it can steer 100 percent of the drivetrain's torque through a single wheel, thanks to a limited-slip programming loop embedded in its stability control system.
The SRT8's towing rating remains a relatively heavy-duty 5000 pounds.
The SRT8 Grand Cherokee tops off its brute powertrain with 20-inch wheels and run-flat tires; Brembo brake calipers; a suspension lowered by an inch; and the usual cladding and SRT logos, as well as a spoiler on the tailgate. The cockpit's stuffed with a heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel that powers through telescope and tilt functions; a pair of suede-and-leather front seats; carbon-fiber-look trim; and an overlay for the touchscreen-driven infotainment system that displays acceleration and cornering data--perfect for bright, clear track days with you and your maxed-out tongue weight.
Options include a very large panoramic sunroof and a Luxury package with more leather trim, a power tailgate and a tech package with blind-spot monitors, adaptive cruise control and forward-collision warning. A Harman Kardon audio system with 825 watts of thrust, a 10-inch subwoofer and 19 speakers bumps and grinds away on the options list, supporting the standard Garmin navigation system and Sirius satellite radio and Travel Link service.
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