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The Grandest Cherokee

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On: Fri, Aug 20, 2010 at 1:35PM | By: Lou Ruggieri

The Grandest Cherokee

At one point in the not too distant past, the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 was the fastest production SUV on the planet. With an old school pushrod six liter Hemi engine producing 420 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque, it was the sport in sports utility vehicle. With performance numbers like 0-60mph in 4.4 seconds, 0-100 in 11.8 seconds and the ¼ mile in 13.2@104, it could put almost all but the most muscular of muscle cars from the 1960s to shame.

But as it’s been noted several times over, “Racing improves the breed.”  Since its introduction, the Cherokee SRT8 has been eclipsed by its German competitors in the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S and the BMW X5 M that produce almost god-like performance numbers. The Germans outperform the SRT8 in almost every category except price. The once unbeatable Cherokee loses out on horsepower, torque, acceleration, handling, towing capacity, transmission gears, and braking to its foes. 

But fear not, Cherokee faithful; it seems that Chrysler has relocated the entire staff of the now deceased Viper to the SUV department. If the rumors are true, the next Grand Cherokee SRT8 will be, quite simply, the most powerful, meanest, and mind-bendingly fast vehicle to ever bear the Jeep nameplate.  

In the works is a naturally aspirated 6.4 liter Hemi V8 that is expected to have at least 500 horsepower. But, if this motor’s primary mission in life is to compete with the 550+ horsepower German turbo motors, then 500 might actually be a significantly conservative estimate. The all-wheel drive set up is expected to stay, but helping that power get to the wheels will be a new ZF-designed 8-speed automatic that should not only improve acceleration, but fuel mileage should get a little better than the current truck's 12 city/16 highway figures.

Thanks to the newly updated 2011 Grand Cherokee, the SRT8 version will also benefit from many of the same components like the Quadra-Lift air suspension that can increase lift by up to 4.5 inches using air springs that will also provide a better ride. Chrysler says that the new Cherokee’s torsional stiffness is up 146 percent from the previous model, which will transfer nicely to the SRT8, and more than likely improve on the old model’s 0.87g on the skidpad.

Much in SRT8 fashion, the new model will retain the lowered stance, and sportier front and rear fascias. Expect larger wheels and brakes than the current model’s 20-inch rims and 14.2-inch front/13.8-inch rear vented discs.

Also to be expected to stay are the all of the base Cherokee’s safety systems including Electronic Stability Control (ESC), four-wheel Brake Traction Control System (BTCS), four-wheel Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) with rough-road detection, and Electronic Roll Mitigation (ERM). Along with the alphabet soup of safety systems, there are also full-length air bags, seat-mounted side thorax air bags and active head restraints.

There is no official word on when the 2012 Grand Cherokee SRT8 will be revealed to the public, as of yet. But expect it to take on all comers on the auto show circuit by year's end, and then look for it to take back its crown from the Germans shortly thereafter.

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