Ever think, what really defines an icon?
Longevity? Popularity? Legacy?
The answer likely will differ depending on who you ask. That is, once you get past the obvious such as historical figures like Martin Luther King Jr., entertainment legends such as Madonna, and sports figures like the great coach Vince Lombardi.
Sure, no automobile even begins to measure up to those mentioned above (not even close). Still, as car enthusiasts we often find ourselves assessing the value of some vehicles by the same criteria — and while opinions might differ on whether the Jeep Grand Cherokee fits the bill of “icon” when it comes to automobiles, the allnew 2012 model takes direct aim at all naysayers.
SHE’S GOT THE LOOK
Take for the starters the look of the new Cherokee SRT8, which despite keeping much of the original design intact that people have grown to love over the years, completely ups the ante on the SUV. Key exterior design features include a new, SRTexclusive, body-color wheel flares and side sill cladding; a one-piece front fascia with new LED multifunction daytime running lamps, and a body-colored front grille with a unique black screen background and chrome bezel inserts.
The front grille is also painted in gloss black and a newly designed underbody belly pan features integrated brake ducting to improve cooling and fade performance. Then, there’s that newly sculpted hood with functional dual black heat extractors for additional engine cooling that ensure no mistaking the Cherokee SRT8 for anything else on the road.
Rear design elements include a new dual-sport exhaust system featuring 4-inch exhaust tips. The 2012 model also feature s new split 5-spoke, 20-inch forged aluminum wheels riding on Pirelli tires.
Inside, the new 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee completely redefines the idea of sport and luxury for an SUV.
It features new SRT-styled Nappa leather and suede seats, with sculpted bolsters and adjustable headrests, an all-new, leather-wrapped, heated steering wheel that features a unique satin chrome rim section, and standard paddle-shift controls flanked on both sides of the new contoured palm rests with easy accessibility to all audio and Electronic Vehicle Information Center (EVIC) controls. Heated (front and rear) and ventilated (front) seats are standard.
The new model also features an SRT-exclusive Performance Pages that show instant feedback on steering input measurements, horsepower, torque, 0-60 mph time, 60-0 mph braking distance, g-forces, and one-eighth mile and quarter-mile times, along with expanded engine information for true performance buffs.
If you’re into cool views the Cherokee SRT is also available with a Command View dual-pane sun roof provides twice as much glass surface than a standard sun roof. The new Cherokee SRT is also available 825-watt, 19-speaker premium SRT performance audio surround-sound system from Harman Kardon new for the 2012 model, which is worth the trip to the dealership to experience in itself.
FIRE HER UP
All that said, the real beauty of the all new 2012 Grand Cherokee SRT-8 lies in how it performs on the road, which is “unfrickin’” believable for a SUV. I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to use that word. Engineered as the most powerful, technologically advanced, high-performance Jeep vehicle ever built, the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 is powered by Chrysler Group’s all-new 6.4-liter HEMIV-8 that pumps out a heart-throbbing 470 horsepower and 465 lb.-ft. of torque.
That’s an improvement of 50 horsepower and 45 lb.-ft. torque over the 6.1-liter HEMI V-8 it replaces.
The Cherokee SRT8 runs from 0-60 mph in 4.8 seconds, 0-100-0 mph in the mid-16 second range, and has a top speed of 160 mph, and brakes from 60-0 mph in 116 feet.
The ride and handling for the 2012 Grand Cherokee is night and day over the previous model with enhancements like an improvement of 146 percent in torsional stiffness versus the previous model, which is that solid feeling you get from a vehicle when driving it on the road.
Standard fuel saver technology and a new active valve exhaust system makes the new Cherokee SRT8 a little easier to swallow at the pump with improved fuel efficiency of 13-percent increase on the highway — and an extended range of 450 miles on one tank of gas.
In addition to the steering wheel mounted paddle shifters, the SUV also features a standard floor mounted auto stick giving the driver the ability to shift manually if given that urge for a manual.
The new Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 also has a trailer tow rating of 5,000 lbs. and features new SRT high-performance Brembo brakes for more stopping power as well as 45 safety and security features.
To top it off those who buy the new Grand Cherokee SRT8 will receive one day of professional driving instruction from the Richard Petty Driving Experience, which if you aren’t already will surely make you a believer.
• $54,470 (base price)
• Better fuel economy
• More horsepower
• 0-60 mph in 4.8 sec
• New Harmon Kardon audio system
Marcus Amick is an automotive lifestyle writer and analyst. He can be contacted at Marcus@WheelSide.com.