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First drive: Hottest Jeep Grand Cherokee blasts-off

Hammer time: The Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 combines a hefty SUV body with a massive 6.4-litre Hemi V8 engine and seriously quick sub-5.0 second zero-100km/h sprint time.

Oft-delayed Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 missile launched at $76K


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4 Oct 2012

JEEP'S fastest and most powerful model – the new Grand Cherokee SRT8 – has finally touched down in Australia, priced from a lower-than-expected $76,000 (plus on-road costs).

This pricing makes the SRT performance flagship only $6000 dearer than previous top-of-the-tree Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland in either petrol or diesel, and nearly $10,000 less than the previous-generation SRT model in 2006.

All this will be music to the ears of the more than 250 local buyers who have already laid down deposits of up to $20,000 to get their hands on first examples.

The Detroit-built SRT8 arrives months later than expected, having been originally slated for local launch in May this year but twice delayed due to heavy demand in its US home market.

Hitting the Australian market with no apparent price-point rivals, the thundering SRT8 is lower and more lairy than the rest of the regular – and record-selling – Grand Cherokee range, and is powered by a mammoth 6.4-litre Hemi V8 producing 344kW of power and 624Nm of torque.

This engine, matched to the Chrysler 300 SRT's five-speed paddle-shift automatic transmission, is enough to send the large and luxurious SUV from zero to 100km/h in 4.9 seconds – only two-tenths shy of the $247,500 Porsche Cayenne Turbo – and on to a top speed of 257km/h.

Compared with the regular Grand Cherokee, the SRT8 sits 25mm lower on different, racier suspension with Bilstein adaptive damping, has stickier Pirelli tyres, larger six-piston front/four-piston rear Brembo brakes, a new exhaust system and a menacing body kit claimed to assist downforce.

According to Fiat Chrysler Australia managing director Clyde Campbell, the launch of the SRT8 has sparked substantially more interest in US brand, which is already enjoying huge 217 per cent sales growth on its normal Grand Cherokee range so far this year.

“We’ve been fielding enquiries on this vehicle since January,” he said. “And it’s no wonder – this car is a stunner any way you look at it.

“The SRT8 Grand Cherokee is at the top of its game in every conceivable way – great looks, great handling, unbelievable power and sensational pricing.”

Mr Campbell said that with the first 250-odd examples sold out, new buyers will have to wait for the first of the 2013 models that will arrive early next year.

Fiat Chrysler Australia is seeking supply of about 1000 units for all of 2013 – a figure that Mr Campbell is philosophical about getting – giving Australia 25 per cent of total global production, which SRT will opt to keep deliberately low to foster exclusivity.

The new Hemi engine has 10 per cent more power and torque than the old SRT8 Grand Cherokee – which went on sale in 2006 priced much higher at $85,990 – but a new exhaust system and cylinder de-activation brings combined fuel consumption down 13 per cent – albeit to 14.1 litres per 100km.

As well as extra pace and lower fuel use, Jeep promises the new SRT8 will be more refined and handle better than the old one, partly because of a 146 per cent improvement in torsional stiffness and SRT-tuned adaptive dampers that help the big Jeep return 0.90g on a skidpan.

The dampers are managed by Jeep's Selec-Track system, which has five button-operated driving modes – auto, sport, track, tow and snow – which also adjusts the stability control (dialling up the ESC helps in snow), throttle modulation and where the transfer case directs engine torque.

Despite the lack of adjustable suspension, low-profile 20-inch wheels with Pirelli run-flat tyres and firmer suspension, Jeep claims the SRT8 is still a capable off-road beast as befits the badge, and unlike the old model, the new SRT is also rated for towing loads of up to 2268kg.

Making room for a towbar has, however, required the company to relocate its signature SRT centrally mounted tailpipes.

The hydraulic steering system has been 'performance-tuned' with a new heavy-duty pump and cooler, and revised gearing is said to improve feel and on-centre response.

The large Brembo brakes – 380mm ventilated at the front and 350mm ventilated at the rear – are 30mm and 20mm larger in surface area than the regular Grand Cherokee units, and are painted bright red for some extra flash.

Jeep claims the changes to the exterior styling are not just for show, but also improve down-force and engine/exhaust cooling. Notable additions include body-coloured wheel flares, dual bonnet vents, twin sports tailpipes, aluminium wheels, a lower front lip and LED daytime running lights.

The cabin gets more chrome and genuine carbon-fibre highlights, a heated steering wheel, Nappa leather and suede bucket seats, SRT logos and a display screen that can show detailed feedback on the engine, as well as gauging 0-100km/h sprint times, cornering g-force and braking performance.

Standard features include a 16.5cm touch screen with navigation, a 40 GB hard drive and USB/Bluetooth, park assist, reversing camera, keyless go, automatic headlights and wipers, memory seats and dual-zone climate control.

An upgraded 19-speaker, 825 watt Harman Kardon sound system and a dual-pane sunroof are both available as optional extras.

The comprehensive list of safety equipment includes seven airbags, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, electronic roll mitigation, forward collision warning and brake assist.

Jeep Grand Cherokee pricing*
SRT8 (a)$76,000
*Plus on-road costs

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