- The Washington Times - Friday, August 15, 2008

When the Street and Racing Technology (SRT) division of the Chrysler Group created the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 as a 2006 model, it became pretty clear that they really knew no boundaries — it was the first SRT model Jeep and the first four-wheel drive SRT vehicle, and it remains the quickest, most powerful vehicle in the Jeep lineup, and as such, it provides a surprising off-road and all-weather capability. OK, it’s not “Trail-rated” as most Jeeps are, but it’s pretty impressive nonetheless.

The Grand Cherokee SRT8 displays a more aggressive persona than a conventional Jeep Grand Cherokee. The SRT8 version rides on staggered 20-inch wheels and tires, leading off with a deeper, extended front fascia, and ending with a center cutout for the authoritative, centered 4-inch dual exhaust tips.

Power for this unconventional Jeep comes from a 6.1-liter HEMI V8 that cranks out 420 horsepower and generates 420 pounds-feet of torque — enough to pull a cantankerous stump. It’s capable of scooting from 0-60 mph in either wet or dry scenarios in less than 5 seconds, making it quicker than Porsche’s Cayenne Turbo and BMW’s X5. Power from the 6.1-liter HEMI is sent through a special torque converter to an SRT-upgraded, five-speed automatic transmission only, with specially calibrated, driver-selectable Auto Stick, that allows for either fully automatic or manual gear selection.

In addition to its blistering performance attributes, it still manages to deliver a pleasing ride quality and handling characteristics, along with world-class braking. The first ever SRT vehicle with full-time four-wheel drive was made possible by creating a new transfer case that utilizes the front half of a Jeep transfer case, selected for its capability and light weight, and mated it to the rear half of a heavier-duty case, which was chosen for its ruggedness and ability to house electronic full-time, four-wheel-drive system components. Under normal driving conditions, 5 to 10 percent of torque is directed to the front wheels, but as much of the 6.1-liter HEMI V-8’s torque that’s needed may be directed forward when additional traction or stability becomes necessary. Remaining torque is sent via a heavy-duty driveshaft to a Dana 44 rear axle.

The interior appointments are race-inspired, as are the performance-oriented exterior accoutrements, such as the red finished brake calipers. Extended sills provide yet another functional feature that enhances downforce. The front fascia adds aerodynamic benefits by reducing lift and drag, while directing sufficient air flow to cool the 6.1-liter HEMI V-8 engine - it also helps increase brake-system cooling through integrated air ducts.

New exterior enhancements for the 2008 model year include a refreshed front fascia and grille and new headlamps with a High-Intensity Discharge option. Interior improvements include a new instrument panel with new cluster graphics, a new leather-wrapped parking brake handle with chrome rings, a new SRT-designed steering wheel, new bezel finishes and new integrated rear seat headrests. Optionally available features fro the new model year include: MyGIG Multimedia Infotainment System; SIRIUS BackSeat TV, a Dark Slate Gray interior color, accent stitching for front and rear seats and center console and heated rear seats.

The sporty, yet functional cabin interior of the Jeep Grand Cherokee’s SRT8 features full instrumentation that includes a 180-mph speedometer, a tachometer and temperature gauges, all trimmed with a unique blue accent. Power-adjustable, front seats are deeply sculpted, sporting uniquely patterned performance suede inserts holding occupants securely in position during spirited maneuvers.

Chassis setup includes SRT-tuned dampers, unique sway bars and specially tailored spring rates and suspension bushings. The ride height of the 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 is one inch lower than the Jeep Grand Cherokee, which lowers aerodynamic drag the center of gravity, contributing to vehicle stability.

The SRT8 Jeep Grand Cherokee is loaded with a host of features and equipment, covering the safety and security spectrum as well as comfort and convenience, including such things as: Active Turn Signals, adjustable pedal, Advanced Anti-lock Brake System, Advanced Multi-stage Air Bags, BeltAlert, Brake Assist, LATCH (Lower Anchor and Tethers for Children), Digressive Load-limiting Seat Belt Retractors, Electronic Roll Mitigation, Electronic Stability Program, Energy-absorbing Steering Wheel and Column, Enhanced Accident Response System, Express-up/down Front-door Windows, Four-wheel Brake Traction Control System, Head Restraints in All Outboard Seating Positions, Knee Bolsters, ParkSense Rear Park Assist System, ParkView Rear Back-up Camera, rain-sensitive wipers, Remote Keyless Entry, Seat Belt Pretensioners, Sentry Key Engine Immobilizer Theft Deterrent System, Side-curtain Air Bags with Roll-Detection System, SmartBeam Headlamps and Tire Pressure Monitoring System with Warning Indicator.

The tested had a base sticker price of $40,725 but with extras such as the Navigation and Rear Back-up camera Group, SRT Option Groups 1 and 2, the power sunroof and Destination charge, the final tally rose to $47,380.

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