DaimlerChrysler’s Street and Racing Technology group specializes in pumping up the power. But until now it’s concentrated on cars and trucks wearing the Dodge and Chrysler brand. Well, now it’s Jeep’s turn, and the first SUV to get the SRT treatment is the Grand Cherokee. Their SRT8 is a hot rod Jeep aimed squarely at the street.

The Jeep brand is normally associated with the toughing it out “Trail Rated” moniker. But with the arrival of the Street and Racing Technology group’s new 2006 Grand Cherokee SRT8, we can add “Street Rocker” to the Jeep image. That’s because SRT’s first Jeep project has received the full hot-rod tuner treatment. Under the hood, the normal 5.7-liter Hemi V8 gives way to a big bore 6.1-liter Hemi with 420 horsepower and a thumping 420 pound-feet of torque.

SRT engineers boosted the Hemi’s compression, added more aggressive cams, new heads, a larger diameter intake manifold, and then boosted peak engine speed by 20 percent.

To put all that power down without shedding bearings, shafts and gears, SRT beefed up the 5-speed automatic transmission, as well as the driveshaft, rear differential, and transfer case for the full-time single-speed 4-wheel-drive system.

New sport tuned dampers, sway bars and springs drop the SRT8 by an inch, while big 20-inch alloys wearing high performance rubber add extra stick for the pavement.

Punch the go pedal hard, and you’ll hit 60 in only 4.9 seconds. The quarter mile rocks by in 13.5 seconds, ending at 102 miles-per-hour. Easily the quickest Jeep ever.

With so much torque, the SRT8 really springs off the line. There is a touch of rear wheel-spin, until the 4-wheel-drive connects extra power to the front. From there it’s pure adrenalin, with big power on tap anywhere in the rev band. The full-time system also provides high levels of traction in corners, more than we ever expected for a Jeep.

Turn in is coupe-quick, with only a touch of front plow. The rack-and-pinion steering is also quick, but a bit short on feedback. The tail will break loose if you’re not smooth on the throttle, but recovery is amazingly easy with only mild body sway.

Braking shines as well, with the SRT8 stopping from 60 in an average distance of only 125 feet. Impressive for more than two tons of SUV. The big ABS-equipped Brembo discs and 4-piston calipers bite hard, but again deliver minimal feel through a soft pedal. 

On real world roads, the Grand Cherokee SRT8 is as nimble as it is on the track. It can also tow a reasonable 3500 pounds of trailer. The ride is quite firm, and noise levels are higher than its more sedate siblings. This is one rumbling Jeep.

It’s thirstier too, with EPA fuel mileage numbers of 12 city/15 highway. Our lead-footed test drivers averaged only 11 miles-per-gallon.

But trips between gas stations will be short and comfortable, thanks to the Grand Cherokee’s well-equipped cabin. SRT trim adds deep suede-insert sport seats up front, power adjustable pedals, a combination of carbon fiber-look and aluminum accents on the steering wheel, dash, and doors, and analog gauges that feature a 180 mile-per-hour speedometer.

The Grand Cherokee SRT8 also rocks with a 276-watt audio system with 6-disc CD changer and Boston Acoustics speakers. The options list includes satellite navigation and radio, as well as hands-free Bluetooth communications.

Outside, the SRT package adds a deeper front fascia designed to reduce aero lift and improve cooling, plus side sill extensions to help improve down force and a lower rear fascia with a center cutout for a pair of fat 4-inch exhaust tips. It’s an aggressive Jeep from any angle, one guaranteed to surprise any car driver who thinks that all SUVs are slow and clumsy.

Now, if you’d like to pack some Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 power in your garage, the price starts at $39,995. Not bad in a world full of far slower 50-grand plus SUVs. $44,615 will bring our well-optioned tester home. Just watch for speed traps along the way!

The 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 is not just the first Jeep to receive the SRT treatment, it’s also the first Jeep aimed exclusively at high performance street drivers, and as such, it starts the Jeep brand down a new road; an asphalt-only avenue that’s fast, furious, and loads of fun!


  • Engine: 6.1 Liter Hemi V8
  • Horsepower: 420
  • Torque: 420 Lb Feet
  • 0-60 MPH: 4.9 Seconds
  • 60-0 MPH: 125 Feet
  • 1/4 Mile: 13.5 Seconds @ 102 MPH
  • EPA: 12 MPG City/15 MPG Highway