In 2005, Jeep decided to make a bold move, introducing a Grand Cherokee that’s primary focus wasn’t off-road use.
The first Grand Cherokee SRT was about the kind of speed and responsiveness that drivers look for in high performance vehicles.
And over time, the vision expanded to include a level of luxury that you won’t find in many other SUVs on the market.
The unique thing about the Grand Cherokee SRT is that it can handle off-road challenges, haul heavy loads, and induce a hefty dose of adrenaline while at the same time making you feel like pampered royalty.
This one-of-a-kind SUV hits a niche that no other set of wheels fits into. Whether you’re looking for a vehicle that knows how to make a commotion or one that gives you the finer things in life, the SRT is it.
Take a look at how it started out at Miami Jeep dealers and how it turned into the asphalt-eating SUV it is today.
The Big Debut
The first glimpse of the Grand Cherokee SRT8 that the public got was on the Regis and Kelly show in New York. It was in March of 2005, and the all-new version of the SUV made a 30-second appearance along with other up-and-coming models from a variety of manufacturers.
But later in the month, the SRT8 made a truly grand entrance at the New York Auto Show and was given a formal introduction to the public and the press.
The muscular model went into production for 2006 in November of 2005, and a total of 3,172 were built and sold with a base price of $39,995.
The entire goal was to create a performance SUV that was mind-blowing yet affordable to target a whole new market, and the plan worked.
The first production run of the Grand Cherokee SRT sold out fast, and the super aggressive SUV quickly became the SRT lineup member with the most demand.
It was definitely unlike any other vehicle that people had seen before. Powered by a 6.1-liter HEMI V8, the original Grand Cherokee SRT8 pumped out 420 horsepower and could roar from 0-60 in under five seconds, an incredibly impressive feat for a vehicle of its size.
The SUV was also lower than its base model cousin, giving it the more balanced stance necessary for handling maneuvers at high speeds.
A slew of other specialized touches, such as large Brembo brakes, a tuned suspension, and 20-inch wheels, all contributed to the Grand Cherokee SRT8’s exceptional abilities as well.
Luxurious Upgrades Abound
In 2007, there were a few minimal changes to the Grand Cherokee SRT8, including the addition of available Remote Start and a rear backup camera.
However, 2008 brought with it a wave of upgrades that began the powerful SUV’s transformation into a much more lavish vehicle.
Jeep had recognized that the crowd of high-end buyers they were attracting would definitely be further pleased by adding a lot more luxury features to the package.
And so, the 2008 model was offered with a plethora of new touches. Softer surfaces, heated seats with accent stitching, a leather-wrapped parking brake with chrome rings, upgraded navigation and audio systems, a larger rear DVD player, and steering-wheel mounted cruise control were just a few of the upgrades.
A series of snazzy new finishes were also made available that year, giving buyers plenty of options to help them turn heads.
2009 and 2010 models were fairly unchanged. The SRT8’s aerodynamics continued to be improved, and its front fascia was set up to reduce drag and increase airflow to the engine and brakes. The SUV remained an unrivaled performer in its segment.
But despite its loyal following, the SRT8 did not appear as a trim level in 2011. Sales were hindered by rising gas prices, and Jeep felt that the Grand Cherokee SRT8 was in need of a makeover. Luckily it wasn’t absent for long; the model made its return a year later with a brand new attitude.
Making a Serious Comeback
Completely revamped, the version of the SRT8 that took the stage in 2012 was the most expensive and most extravagant trim for the Grand Cherokee.
Its 6.4-liter V8 HEMI delivered 470 horsepower and was paired with a five-speed shiftable automatic transmission.
Paddle shifters and performance tuned steering made the SRT8 particularly pleasurable for drivers who love sharp handling.
A modified version of Jeep’s SelecTerrain System also came as part of the package, providing extra traction in off-road settings.
And in 2012, Jeep also produced two special edition models of the SRT8 called the Alpine, which had a Bright White Clear Coat finish, and the Vapor, which had Brilliant Black Crystal Pearl Coat exterior paint.
On top of their exclusive finishes, the Alpine and Vapor also came brimming with a number of other enhanced features.
In addition to the SRT8’s usual hallmarks, the special edition models sported blacked-out grilles, unique alloy wheels, and leather and suede interiors.
2013 ushered in yet another successful year for the SRT8 which continued to pack more performance and luxury than the other SUVs on the market.
The SRT8 had all of the latest technology, a mouth-watering exhaust note, enough gumption to make 60 miles per hour in about five seconds, and pretty much every amenity you can think of.
The 2013 Grand Cherokee SRT8 also came equipped with the latest safety features including adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, front parking assist, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross-path detection.
A New Name
In 2014, Jeep dropped the “8” and officially named the high powered version of their popular SUV the Grand Cherokee SRT.
The 2014 model really demonstrates just how far the SRT has come in terms of design and engineering throughout the last decade.
While fuel economy has remained a concern for all SUV manufacturers, the Grand Cherokee’s new eight-speed automatic goes a long way toward addressing the issue.
The transmission also serves up seamless transitions which go along well with the extremely comfortable ride the SUV has to offer. 2014 SRT models are four-wheel drive only, and they come with all the best off-road goodies.
Tough Brembo brakes, a limited-slip rear differential, adaptive suspension, and 20-inch wheels set the Grand Cherokee SRT apart from other SUVs that can only remain composed on the pavement.
In addition to its name change, the 2014 model also made a move from the Jeep lineup and officially became part of the SRT brand.
The switch came with a ton of perks such as the strongest motor ever offered in a Grand Cherokee, SRT-exclusive suspension settings, a “launch” mode inspired by professional driver techniques, upgraded transmission software, and SRT badges and insignia.
Having just been enhanced with so much SRT gear, the Grand Cherokee SRT SUV saw few changes for 2015.
However, the latest models do have a couple new things worth mentioning. First, a boost of five horsepower is a nice touch. And HD Radio has also been added as part of the vehicle’s Uconnect infotainment system.
This rare SUV just keeps getting better each year, and we look forward to finding out what SRT has in store for the future of the Grand Cherokee.
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