Who are we kidding? Dropping a 465-horsepower, 6.4-liter V-8 into an SUV in order to make a track-tuned people mover — particularly when the national average for gasoline inches closer to the 4- or 5-dollar-a-gallon metric — is a touch insane.
Ironic, then, that the new 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 may be the most rational iteration of Jeep’s performance tuned SUV yet.
In context, that isn’t exactly a monumental feat. The previous SRT-tuned Grand Cherokee, built between 2006 and 2010, was a no-holds-barred performance machine, but sacrificed virtually everything — ride comfort, capability, and fuel economy — in order to deliver mind-warping performance numbers.
This second-generation SRT, built from the new WK2-platform Grand Cherokee, appears to be the best of both worlds. Undoubtedly, the performance is still there (0-60 mph can be reached in a scant 4.8 seconds, while top speed is electronically scaled back to 155 mph), but from what we can tell, the vehicle is almost as tractable as any other Grand Cherokee.
For starters, it can now tow. While the previous-generation SRT8 was good at hauling mostly derrierre, the 2012 SRT8 has Chrysler’s blessing to tow 5000 pounds, an increase from the 3500-pound rating bestowed on the last model and actually on par with a regular Grand Cherokee equipped with a 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6. Believe it or not, there’s actually a standard receiver hitch packed between those gaping exhausts and beneath that classy valence panel.
Secondly, it won’t necessarily beat your passengers into a pulp. The introduction of adaptive dampers at all four corners means the driver can now select from a handful of suspension settings, some of which actually cater to street — not circuit — surfaces. Unlike the last SRT8, which offered users a single choice of stiff, the firmest chassis tuning is accessed by means of a Track setting, while other positions promise to offer a little more compliance over rough roads.
Chrysler also promises the 2012 SRT8 will be more fuel-efficient than the last model, which earned a whopping 12/16 mpg (city/highway) rating from the EPA. Numbers for the new model haven’t been released, but thanks to the advent of a cylinder deactivation system — something previously applied to Chrysler’s 5.7-liter V-8s but not its larger SRT-spec 6.1-liter motors — those figures should be marginally higher.
Assuming, that is, you can keep your right foot from pinning the accelerator to the floorboards. But when you’re in a 465-horsepower SUV capable of ripping to 60 mph in no time, you’d be crazy not to occasionally — or even regularly — goose it.