Review: 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 is Exhilarating and Expensive

front view of 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8Longtime readers know that TFL Car is fond of mashups. You know, pitting one vehicle against its seemingly complete and polar opposite.

While I don’t have the video to prove it, I certainly just experienced one wholly mammoth of a mashup when I swapped a perfectly responsible and fuel-efficient Toyota Prius c for a week behind the wheel of the completely irresponsible, thirsty and unbelievably thrilling 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8.

Here’s a quick side-by-side comparison of these completely unrelated vehicles:

• Toyota Prius c: 99 hp
• Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8: 470 hp

• Toyota Prius c: 46 city/53 highway/50 combined
• Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8: 12 city/18 highway/14 combined

0 to 60 Speed (manufacturer’s specs):
• Toyota Prius c: 11+ seconds
• Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8: 4.8 seconds

A Sports Car Wearing an SUV Suit
Just minutes after swapping the Prius for the Grand Cherokee SRT8, I felt a bit dizzy. After a few days I realized that dizziness had transformed itself into giddiness. And having just watched the Grand Cherokee drive away from my house, I felt genuine pangs of sadness.

What an amazing and logic-defying Jeep. The Grand Cherokee SRT8 makes you forget everything you think you know about Jeeps. This is something else entirely. Something that makes virtually no sense for Jeep to build but something so many drivers—especially men—covet deeply.

Here’s why: the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 is fast. It’s powerful. It’s beautifully designed. It’s sporty and handles well enough to draw natural comparisons to the BMW X5 and the Porsche Cayenne. But it costs a whole lot less, which makes the Grand Cherokee SRT8 the super SUV for the common man. And this common man is impressed enough to realize I just gushed about this car for three straight paragraphs—and I’ll stand behind every word.

rear view of 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8
Rear view of the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8

Business in Front, Party in Back
Have you heard of a BIFPIB? All proud mullet-wearing men know that BIFPIB stands for “Business in Front, Party in Back.” That’s the Grand Cherokee SRT8 in an acronym. The 6.4-liter V8 HEMI engine is all business with an engine note pure and sonorous enough that Jay-Z should sign this rumbling engine to a five-record deal today.

That V8 engine delivers 470-horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque. Toggle the selector to Sport or Track mode, mash the pedal and breathe in the fun of getting pushed backwards into your seat. There’s more giddy-up, gravitas and good old-fashioned patriotism in this Jeep than nearly everything else that wasn’t Paul Revere’s ride. More ability to reach the electronically limited 155 mph in a Jeep than should be logically, mechanically or humanly possible.

The SRT8 is a hoot to drive and you and your passengers may find yourselves whistling catcalls and shouting at alleged sports cars you leave in the dust when you push the SRT8 to its limits.

Your passengers will be treated to a comfortable, luxurious cabin that also belies virtually everything you think you know and expect in a Jeep. Highlights include heated and cooled front seats plus heated rear seats. Double-stitched leather seats with suede inserts that proudly wear an embroidered SRT badge. Plus, an available rear DVD screen with two sets of wireless headphones that will keep the kids happy while you practice left-hand turns on a nearby track. And if you choose the $1,995 SRT High-Performance Audio package, you’ll pick up an 825-watt amp to power 19 speakers scattered throughout the cabin. Like I said, this Jeep represents serious business in front and a comfortable party in the back.

front seats on 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8
Leather and suede surround the SRT logo on the front seats of the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8

Built for the Streets
Be warned that the Grand Cherokee SRT8 does have its limits. One of those is the fact that unlike every other heavy duty Jeep you know and love for its near-shocking off-road capability thanks to locking rear diffs and systems like the Quadra-Lift air suspension that enables the driver to adjust the ride height or Selec-Terrain that allows you to dial in your suspension settings based on terrain, the Grand Cherokee SRT8 is built for the blacktop and track.

Here’s a little visual proof. The first image shows the Selec-Terrain system on an off-road-focused Jeep Grand Cherokee. You’ll notice the settings include Auto, Snow, Sand/Mud, Rock and Sport. Plus, you’ll see the Quadra-Lift settings to adjust the height, a 4WD Low setting and a hill-descent button to set a low speed as you safely descend a mountain.

Selec Terrain control on Jeep Grand Cherokee
Selec-Terrain control on Jeep Grand Cherokee features multiple off-road settings (image source: Car and Driver)

Now look at the settings for the SRT8 model. Only two shared settings remain: Auto and Snow. The rest have been replaced by Sport, Track and Tow. In fact, there isn’t even a setting for 4WD Low because, well, that’s not why the SRT8 exists. Put simply, the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 was built to take your breath away on the highway and track as it simultaneously forces you to smile with maniacal glee.

Selec terrain settings on 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8
The Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 Selec-Terrain settings are optimized for track and sport driving

Best of all, you can buy your own fully loaded 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 for only $65,275. I say only because that’s a whole lot less than you’ll spend for a BMW X5 or the Porsche Cayenne Turbo, both of which push well into six-figure territory. Are any of those three performance SUVs absolutely necessary for daily driving? Not a chance. But they are pure, unexpected fun and sometimes that’s more than enough to justify a little irrational exuberance.

Brembo brakes on 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8
Brembo brakes help slow down this powerful and heavy Jeep

5-Speed Transmission and 14 MPG Combined
There is one obvious gripe with the Grand Cherokee SRT8: the five-speed transmission. A new 8-speed transmission is rumored to be in the works for 2014 and that will help shifts and fuel economy. During my week of driving, I covered just under 300 miles and averaged 14.7 mpg. That’s right where the EPA projects most drivers will end up after averaging a measly 12 mpg in the city and 18 on the highway. That’s the price you’ll pay to enjoy the satisfying rumble of the V8 engine and you’ll struggle to improve upon that average in either the BMW or Porsche.

On the recommendation scale of:
– Buy it
– Lease it
– Rent it or
– Forget it

I give the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee a BUY IT!

Life is full of choices and compromises and frankly, many of those choices aren’t all that fun. If you’ve read this far, you’re already irrational enough to fantasize about pulling the trigger on a high-performance SUV that gets crappy gas mileage and is ridiculously satisfying to drive. Most of us will never buy the BMW X5 M or Porsche Cayenne Turbo simply because most of us can’t justify spending well over $100,000 on any vehicle. But at $65,000 for a loaded Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8, maybe you can make an exhilarating exception.

MSRP: $54,470

As tested: $65,275

Michael-waterman-photoMichael Waterman’s first car was a 1978 Ford Fiesta. Not particularly prestigious, but awfully fuel-efficient. He’s still a fan of efficient, practical vehicles, especially those that can hold their own in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains where Michael lives and writes about cars. He’s the former Executive Editor of and also writes about cars at When he’s not covering cars, he writes about music at