Performance is a popular catchphrase being used by every car and truck manufacturer, however, there are varying methods of engineering, marketing, and eventually delivering that seat of the pants feel we all desire. No better example of this different ideology is apparent than in the new 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 and Dodge Durango R/T. Think of the SRT8 as the All-Pro linebacker with freakish speed and strength, while the Durango R/T is the all-purpose running back that does every task well, but won't be dropping any jaws in the scouting combine. After a week with each SUV, we came away impressed to see the direction and definition of performance from the Chrysler family tree.
JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE SRT8
$63,975. That's the as-tested price of our SRT8 press fleet mule. Now that you've been hit in the gut by that staggering blow, here's what that price will get you: 470 awhp, 0-60 mph in a mind-blowing 4.6 seconds, luxurious cabin that outclasses its competitors, and a chassis that will inspire so much confidence you'll look in the rearview mirror expecting to see Jimmie Johnson behind the wheel. If Sir Isaac Newton were alive today, he'd have to go back and review his laws of gravity and motion. This 5,223-pound SRT8 shouldn't be this quick, agile, or invigorating—but it is.
A drastic improvement upon the uncivilized first generation SRT8, the redesigned chassis is more compliant when desired and track-ready when needed, thanks to its on-the-fly Selec-Track suspension system. Traction control can be manually overridden, and when "Track" is selected on the suspension rotary dial, the SRT8 turns into an all-out, fire-breathing, Hemi-powered machine that boys grow up dreaming about. When it's time to load up the family, turn the dial to "Auto" and cruise in comfort. Never has transforming the attitude and performance of a daily driver been so easy. We've officially renamed it the "Fun Dial."
Inside the cabin, Jeep's class-leading interiors are on full display with splashes of real carbon fiber adorning the door panels and dash, real brushed aluminum providing the contrast against a black vinyl-lined dash, and a thick leather-covered steering wheel with paddle shifters for the five-speed auto, featuring audio and cruise control buttons flanking the horn button. Always a joy to occupy, the Nappa leather and suede-covered SRT8 seats are both comfortable and supportive—a combination which is a must for this machine. A 19-speaker, SRT-specific Harman Kardon surround sound system tries its best to overpower the sweet sound of the 392ci V-8. It does an admirable job of reproducing the Top Gun theme music before unleashing the Hemi in a very uneventful AWD launch from stoplight to stoplight. Speaking of that Hemi engine, it's amazing.