Let's ponder the dinosaur that is the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8. SRT stands for Street and Racing Technology, which is Chrysler's performance group. And this SUV is all about the street performance. This Cherokee is of limited use for cargo, off-roading and commuting (12 mpg in the city, 16 highway!), but it's an absolute blast to drive.
Appearance: The SRT8 maintains the classic Cherokee look, including the traditional "seven-slot" Jeep grille. Its angular lines are set off by a big front air dam, forged aluminum 20-inch wheels and large chrome dual exhaust tips. Lyra found the whole look a bit dated; Peter liked its unapologetic muscle-car looks.
Performance: We've driven other vehicles with this big HEMI — a 6.1-liter V-8 — so we knew what we were getting: a loud, satisfying exhaust rumble and brute-force acceleration. Peter's family could tell when he pulled into the driveway; this is a vehicle that announces itself. The five-speed automatic (a sixth gear would be nice) shifted smoothly. And it had one of the better manual modes we've driven — it overrides the programming and actually lets the driver control when to shift, letting you really rev the Hemi. Zero to 60? Less than five seconds. The large Brembo brakes give it plenty of stopping power. There also is on-demand four-wheel drive, but let's be frank: There's little utility in this SUV. No, the muscle here is strictly for street. The ride is on the taut side (run-flat tires, stouter suspension), but the 4,819-pound SUV corners nicely and has a light steering feel. Hold on tight when you mash the accelerator.
Interior: Lyra felt there was too much plastic — especially the center console — for a $50k vehicle, but Peter felt there were enough soft-touch details to make it pleasing. We both liked the comfortable, well-bolstered, power-adjustable seats (eight-way on the driver's side and four-way for the front passenger). Lyra especially liked the power adjustable pedals, which are great for shorter drivers. But with options, our tester packed plenty of electronic goodies, such as rear park assist, backup camera, Bluetooth, navigation system and a 30-gig hard drive that can hold more than 4,000 tunes. The Boston Acoustics audio system includes a 276-watt Kicker amplifier with a standalone subwoofer that takes up space in the already cramped rear cargo area. There is an under-deck storage compartment in the rear because the run-flats eliminate the spare tire.
Our 3 favorites
Exhaust note: I'm a big fan of big Hemis and nothing sounds as sweet.
Muscular look: I think the body kit transforms the regular Cherokee's pedestrian appearance.
Manual mode: You can rev this hot rod.
On-demand 4WD: But remember, this one's not an off-roader.
Run-flat tires: No need to fuss with a spare.
Backup helpers: Be confident with camera and park assist.
The bottom line: Chrysler is offering multiple incentives to move 2010 models. A redesigned Grand Cherokee is on the way for 2011 this summer, and the future of the SRT version is uncertain. So now is the time to deal.