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Brand New Jeep Cherokee

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Tim O'Brien | Jun 6, 2008

When The Insider isn't out having tuxedos tailored so that the logo-emblazoned socks he received from his favourite manufacturer are never revealed—even when executing a flykick—he's putting yet another unsuspecting car through the TMR Grinder. Here's an old favourite.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT-8, with 6.1-litres of stonkin’ HEMI V8 on tap, “ain’t no shrinkin’ violet my friends.” Hell no, even at idle it strains at the leash with a lumpy ill-tempered growl. Light it up, let it off the chain, and it launches like a pack of hounds.

This thing is ferociously quick. A product of Chrysler’s ‘Street and Race Technology’ performance division, the SRT-8 Cherokee is one of the world’s fastest four wheel drives.

How fast? Well, despite having the aerodynamics of a block of flats, it will sprint to 100k/ph in a shade over 5 seconds dead (faster, it’s claimed, than the Cayenne Turbo and more than able to suck the doors off your mate Lenny’s hot HSV). Keep the shoe in, and it will keep hauling all the way to 245 km/h (the mass of air it is shovelling along ahead of it at that speed doesn’t bear thinking about). And, thanks to the Brembos lurking behind each of the 20inch rims, it will also pull up from 100k/ph in less than 125 feet. Not bad for a two tonne behemoth.

jeep-grand-cherokee-srt8_01

A quick glance at the numbers explains things: the hemispherical-head 6.1 litre V8 under the bonnet of the SRT-8 produces a whopping 313 kW and 569 Nm of torque. Under load, at full roar above 5000rpm, that wonderful HEMI bellows like a raging bull. It’s got to be one of the best bent-vee sounds you’ll ever hear. And my gosh, it’s got some toe.

Should you be called upon to ‘floor it’, you’ll need to have some excuses ready unless you’re on the race track—“Er, um Orificer… I woz jist restin' me foot and it … er… took off… (gulp).” (No, I don’t think that will cut it.)

But all that power does have its benefits. Like when overtaking. In this caboose, being hung out on the wrong side of the road is an altogether brief affair.

Cars like this mess with the head. There is something sinful about all that power, and performance car handling, in a vehicle the shape of a very large brick.

jeep-grand-cherokee-srt8_04

Did I mention fuel consumption? Best not to think about it. Jeep reckons you can get 16.4 l/100km on 98RON, but stay off the load pedal. It’s a simple matter of physics: moving all that mass, at all that speed, requires energy, and lots of it.

But the story of the SRT-8 is not just about grunt. Its stability and all-round dynamic capability can throw up a few surprises.

To keep things pinned to the tarmac, the Cherokee SRT-8 features a full-time four-wheel drive system that channels 90 per cent of power to the rear wheels. Torque is sent to the front wheels when sensors detect rear wheel spin. A quick round trip, Melbourne to Portland and Mt Gambier, showed that Chrysler has the torque split and suspension tuning pretty right for Australian roads. Put it hard into a corner, and the SRT-8 performs credibly. All that mass means that some understeer is inevitable, but thanks to its lowered stance and sports-tuned suspension, the SRT-8 sits harder and flatter than any other boxy ‘fourby’ we can think of. As an added bonus, the Bilstein monotube shocks produce an impressive ride over ‘highway chop’—the small undulations common on many secondary roads.

On a long drive it’s comfortable and effortless. Inside, there are the trimmings expected of a premium product: leather everywhere, brilliant sound system (Boston Acoustics), cargo cover, the works.

jeep-grand-cherokee-srt8_06

But you know what the funny thing is? Despite having been on sale for twelve months or more, and despite being one of the most gut-thumping, ball-tearing, blood-rushing V8 drives you can find, hardly anyone knows anything about it. It’s like it is Jeep’s own little secret.

Ask your friends—bet they’ve never heard of it. I bet—whenever they think of the Jeep Cherokee—they think of horse floats, cardigans and horse-people in silly pants with names like Roger and Meredith who call each other “darling” and who snort when they laugh.

So, tell them about the Grand Cherokee, this one, the SRT-8. Tell them that this is one fat truck.

In fact, anyone who’s drawn to the gruff rumble of a V8 at idle can’t help but notice the SRT-8.

“That’s the toughest Jeep I’ve ever seen,” a young console attendant in the small servo off the Western Highway said. He wasn’t wrong. With deep front skirt, fat low profile 245/45 ZR20 all-season rubber on 20inch rims, massive central twin pipes (stainless steel) and throaty HEMI V8 rumble, the Grand Cherokee SRT-8 drew onlookers wherever it was… young blokes, seventeen or eighteen or so, couldn’t get enough of it.

When was the last time we had that reaction from a Jeep? Try never.

jeep-grand-cherokee-srt8_02

At $85,990 it’s not the least expensive ‘fourby’ around but a snip compared to its major competitor, the Porsche Cayenne. And capable of running just as hard. With only 60 vehicles ear-marked for Oz, there are not many left in new car showrooms now. (Check with carsales.) If you do find one, the second you fire up that amazing HEMI, you’ll be feeling pretty chuffed with yourself.

But please, don’t even think about taking it off-road. Only the deranged would put it to work on a fire trail or, worse, shackle it to a caravan.

In fact, don’t think of it as a four wheel drive at all, think of it as a street machine. It’s a cruiser for the mad and the bad.

jeep-grand-cherokee-srt8_03

(And be warned: if you’re at the lights and a Cherokee SRT-8 sidles up alongside you, and there’s a bloke at the wheel with an irritating ‘smug bastard grin’ on his face, don’t be foolish unless you’ve got some really serious kilowatts on tap: just walk away my friend, walk away.)

- The Insider

specs1

Engine

6.1 V8 Hemi 8 Cylinders

• Compression Ratio 10.3:1

• Cylinders 8

Cubic capacity (cc) 6063

• Bore x Stroke (mm) 103.0 x 90.9

• Valves 16

• Power bhp/rpm 313 KW @ 6000

Torque lb ft/rpm 569 Nm @ 4800

Fuel

• Type Premium Unleaded Petrol 98 RON

• Delivery Sequential electronic multi point injection returnless

Gearbox

• Type Automatic • Gears 5

• Gear ratios 1st 3.59 2nd 2.19 3rd 1.41 4th 1.00 5th 0.83 Rev. 3.16 Axle 3.55

Suspension

Front Short-/Long Arm (SLA) independent design with gas-charged twin-tube coil-over shock absorbers, upper and lower control arms and stabiliser bar

Rear Live axle, five-link with tubular track bar twin-tube coil-over shock absorbers and stabiliser bar

Steering

Rack and pinion, power assisted

Overall steering ratio (variable) 16.5:1 Overall steering ratio (full lock) 14.6:1 Lock to lock (turns) 2.85 Turning circle (kerb to kerb) (m) 11.3

4x4

System MD146 SRT, Single-speed Electronic On-Demand 4 x 4, electronically controlled clutch pack torque transfer Ground Clearance rear axle (mm) 178 Approach/Departure/Breakover Angles 15.8° w front air dam installed/19.7°/9.7° min Max Wading Depth 508mm @ 8kph Low range ratio N/A

Brakes

Front Power assisted ventilated discs with ABS, EBD Rear Power assisted solid discs with ABS, EBD Electronic Stability Program ESP Four-channel antilock with active wheel speed, vehicle speed, steering wheel angle, yaw rate, and lateral acceleration sensors, vehicle stability management, traction control, deactivation switch and EBD (4WD)

Wheels & Tyres

Tyres: Front/Rear: 245/45 R20 Wheels: Front/Rear: 20 x 8.0

Dimensions

Height min/max (mm) 1710 Length (mm) 4785 Width (mm) 1870 Wheelbase (mm) 2780 Track front/rear (mm) 1605 Overhang front/rear 855/1105

Weights & Capacities

Kerb weight (kg) 2171 Gross Vehicle Weight (kg) 2750 Max. Payload (kg) 480 Max Towing Weight braked (kg) 1587 Max Towing Weight unbraked (kg) 750 Max. Roof Load (kg) 68 Fuel Tank Capacity (Ltr) 77.7 Luggage Capacity (Seats Up) (Ltr) 978 Luggage Capacity (Seats Down) (Ltr) 1909

Performance

Max. Speed (kph) 245

Fuel consumption (ADR8101) 16.4

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