There are few vehicles that frighten me. There are fewer still that are equipped with four-wheel drive. The 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 frightened me because it defies my laws of physics. It simply performs beyond logic. Then again, it is a vehicle that is hard to logically pigeonhole.

Like the rest of the 2012 batch of SRT8 ground-thumpers, the Jeep Grand Cherokee comes with the awesome, 470-horsepower, 6.4 liter HEMI V8. This one produces a paltry 465 lbs-feet of torque. That’s down five pounds of torque from the rest of the new SRT8 line. But none of the rest of the line has all four wheels doing their thing.

Not only is this Jeep Cherokee SRT8 much better than the vehicle it replaces, it is one of the most stable sport-car-wagon-SUV-things I’ve driven. Yes, even better feeling than the mighty BMW X5 M. On the track and on the road, the cornering is flat, predictable and easy to modulate, once you get used to it. It’s not exactly a low-slung sports car and that’s what might throw some of you.

Asking the bigger questions
The trick is that you have to recheck your thoughts on what the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 is. It’s not an SUV. Yes, it has a setting for snow and towing (up to 5,000 lbs) and it also has settings for sport, track and auto. All of these settings change the power delivery, traction control and just about every other facet of the Cherokee SRT8’s personality. Seriously, turn the knob near your elbow and experience a different animal with each click. What this Jeep should be considered is an all-wheel drive sport wagon that’s tall in the saddle.

It’s frightfully fast and explosively exciting.

Once you get used to tearing through a corner with up to .9 G’s of controlled force, you can begin to delve deep into the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8’s multifaceted persona. The acceleration is extreme, with my measured 0 to 60 mph times falling near the automaker’s claim of 4.8 seconds. Power in sport and track mode takes the normal 50/50 split power front and rear and changes it to a track-friendly 35/65 split. In this mode, you can actually feel the rear-end urging the push while the claws of the front wheels dig into the ground with gusto. Maximum velocity comes quickly, far faster than I was expecting.

This thing weighs over two tons; you would think that it takes forever to stop. Nope. With massive 15 inch discs and the clamping power of Brembo 6-piston calipers up front, along with 13.8 inch discs clamped with four-piston calipers in the back, the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 stops from 60 to 0 mph in 116 feet. Impressed? Let’s add the adaptive dampening suspension system (ADS) that tightens the shocks quickly with the push of a button.

jeep review

Overall steering feel is good. I had a pretty good idea of what the front end was doing. Placing the tires where I wanted them to go on the track was as simple as point-and-click. On the road, everything feels relatively comfortable and I lost track of the fact that this baby is packing 470 hp. That is until one of my colleagues passed me in a Challenger SRT8. I flipped the new paddle shifter down two gears and punched it. In less than a mile, I was on his butt and ready to pounce. Realizing that the speeds were a tad excessive, I backed off and everything became tranquil.

It isn’t what one would call subtle.

Looks like a Grand Cherokee, only better
The exterior design is outstanding. I especially like those fantastic-looking 20 inch wheels wrapped in sticky Pirellis. The body kit is for aerodynamic purposes and looks less obnoxious than the last-generation model. The hood has a functional aero fold, helping with aerodynamics and engine heat dispersion.

As for the interior, it’s all business with only a few touches of flair. I dig the French stitching and the chunky, metal-infused steering wheel. I don’t dig the chunky looking shifting leaver. It’s one of the few throwbacks to the old Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 and this vehicle deserves better. It also deserves a few more gears, which I hear are coming soon.

The Chrysler gear-heads did their homework on this one and it shows. It’s going to upset many purveyors of sporty European equivalents. No word on pricing, but the 2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 came in at a tad under $45,000. If Chrysler Group LLC can keep this bad-ass around 45K then it will be a deal and a half.

Want to see the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee in action? Check out this first drive video review from TFLCar’s Roman Mica: