Chrysler’s non-Viper SRT cars are all variations on a simple formula: add big power, big brakes and firm suspension to mainstream vehicles to create factory hot-rod sleepers. And the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 is the biggest sleeper of them all.
The Jeep is unique among SRTs in that it offers standard all-wheel-drive. Drop a 470-hp Hemi into a Dodge Charger or Challenger and you get a vehicle that wants to do a burnout for three blocks every time you stomp the gas. In the Jeep, though, that 6.4-liter V-8 deploys its power with ruthless efficiency. When I climb into the SRT, the onboard performance computer shows that someone cracked off a 0-60 run in 4.2 seconds. And this is a 2013 model—next year brings the eight-speed ZF transmission, which will make the big Jeep even quicker. Might we see a Jeep running sub-four-second 0-60 runs? That seems entirely possible.
While the SRT version of the Grand Cherokee does without the height-adjustable suspension and Kevlar-reinforced sidewalls of the more off-road-oriented versions, it can still navigate a rough dirt road in a way that honors its SUV roots. Which got me thinking, naturally, about moonshine and the Jeep’s suitability as a bootlegger car.
Back in the days when Junior Johnson was serving time for bootlegging, liquor runners wanted a vehicle that combined power, a healthy cargo capacity and low-key styling. And, oh yeah, a bit of ground clearance would be nice, too, for accessing backwoods stills and overland shortcuts.
The Grand Cherokee SRT8 would appear to succeed on all counts, making it an awesome weapon for illicit cross-country whiskey transportation. But I figured that I’d better find out by sending my moonshine-running cousins, Lance and Randy, out for a track test — a dirt-track test. Then they headed into the woods to assess the Jeep’s shortcut-taking ability. As for that 0-60 timer, they claim they managed a run in 5.7 seconds. Which doesn’t sound that quick until you consider that there was no pavement anywhere in sight. For all-weather, all-terrain American speed, the Grand Cherokee SRT8 is as good as its gets.
Sorry, General Lee, but if I need to straighten the curves and flatten the hills in a modern Mopar, I’m not choosing a Dodge. I’m climbing in the window of a Jeep.