Jeep SRT-8 Supercharged--Chicago Cars Direct
Test drive of a 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT 8 with a SUPERCHARGED 6.1 Hemi V8 producing 575 horsepower from Chicago Cars Direct.
Without question, the Jeep is the hottest rod here. Although the two have fairly similar power-to-weight ratios (11.4 pounds per horsepower for the Jeep, 12.3 for the Chevy), the Jeep easily outruns the SS.
This thing explodes when you jump on the gas. The four-wheel-drive system routes the majority of the engine's power to the rear wheels while cruising, and a clutch in the center differential can reroute power to the front wheels if the system detects that the rears are losing traction. Hit the gas, and after a barely audible chirp from the rear tires, the Jeep hurtles forward. From rest to 60 mph takes only 4.5 seconds, which is about as quick as a BMW M3 and a second quicker than the SS. The Jeep passes 100 mph in 12.0 seconds, 2.6 seconds sooner than the Chevy.
Part of the Jeep's acceleration advantage comes from the quick-shifting transmission. It has a manumatic feature that allows manual gear selection, but the automatic mode worked so well that we mostly relied on it. Upshifts and downshifts are quick and much smoother than the Chevy's. As a smack-you-into-the-seat machine, the Jeep's got a definite edge.
It also handles fairly well. We're talking about a 4794-pound sport-ute with a decidedly unsportingly high center of gravity, but it's crisper in the curves than you'd think. On the skidpad, its 0.88 g outperformed the Chevy's 0.81-g score. The SRT8 would have performed better in the lane-change test, but its stability-control system can't be completely disabled. In normal mode, the system clamps down at the slightest slide. Hitting the "off" button allows a little more sliding, but it still intervenes enough that it slowed us down in the lane change.
But in the real world, the stability system wasn't a bother. In fact, this truck is fun in the twisties. Although we didn't put it on the clock as we zipped around our well-traveled handling loop, the Jeep didn't feel much slower than the high-powered sports cars we usually pick for this particular group of back roads. We could carry a lot of speed in the corners. The Jeep doesn't lean much, but you never lose the feeling that you're sitting high in the air.
Thankfully, the brakes are terrific. The pedal has a reassuringly firm feel that's a relief to encounter at the end of a high-speed straight, and the brakes felt up to the task of repeatedly slowing the nearly 2.5-ton brute. We liked the steering, too, which has a tight feel to it. After a few miles of spirited driving, you forget you're in a truck. The responses are sports-car quick, and you drive this Grand Cherokee like you would any other performance car. For example, in one tricky corner we used the brakes to bring the nose down to the corner apex and then squeezed the gas for a quick shot down the following short straight. The choreography was straight out of racing school. That handling precision, however, comes with a stiff ride. The Grand Cherokee swallows large impacts well enough, but humps in the road set the chassis into a harsh up-and-down motion that could bring on nausea. Maybe we're getting soft, but it's uncomfortable enough that we wouldn't want to endure the ride on a daily basis. In the ride category, we gave the Jeep an eight and the Chevy a nine.
Besides the ride, the Jeep also lost points in the utility department. That 3500-pound towing capacity cost it three points, and there's the interior, which is small compared with the Chevy's. The back seats are tighter, and the rear-seat cushion is too low. In rear-seat comfort, the Jeep got four points to the Chevy's five. Plus, the Jeep can't carry as much stuff. With the seats folded, the SRT8 offers 67 cubic feet of space versus 80 in the SS.
Those deficiencies cost the Jeep first place, but it lost by only two measly points. We loved the V-8 rumble and fantastic thrust, but it's still a truck, and we expect more utility. Sure, it looks great and is loads of fun, but you can get that with plenty of cars — a Dodge Charger SRT8, for one.