Coming over the top of a hill seems only natural in any Jeep, but trying to rotate all 5150 pounds going into Turn Four, maybe not so much. It feels like it is always chasing that apex, and when I find myself past it, it's hard to pull it back in line. I have to ride it out. The Jeep likes to be muscled, but in a fight it's going to win. I unwind that new flat-bottomed thick-rimmed SRT wheel a bit and get it composed. Foot down gets me down that hill fast. Stand on the brakes and don't over run Five. It is downhill but comes back up to meet me at the apex. Get the wheels straight and the SRT8 pulls out of Five like a frightened freight train.

The apex of Six is right at the crest of a rise. Although the aerodynamics have been reworked on the SRT8, physics still wins here. That deep front valence normally keeps the Jeep planted at high speeds. On straight roads, Chrysler rates top speed at 160 mph, drag limited. Just touching triple digits over this rise, it is possible to get tires off the pavement. Even with the rubber handicapped, the Jeep still feels safe. It stays pointed in the right direction and doesn't try to step out at touchdown. Back on terra firma, speed builds rapidly. Seven flashes by as merely a kink in the back straight. At these speeds I begin to wonder if I have any friends brave enough to sit in the back seats of the Jeep. Even though the new SRT front seats are roughly the size of living room recliners, backseat passengers have nearly as much space as front-seat occupants.

Reaching 125 mph at the end of the back straight, I use just a touch of the brakes to set up for Eight. It's a long right-hander and the fastest turn on the track. The Jeep will happily drive through here at 110 mph. It takes a deep set on the outside wheels and I stay in the middle of the track because it will move around a bit. I scrub off enough speed in the beginning so I can stay on the gas in the turn. The Jeep uses an electronically controlled clutch pack center differential to move power front to back, so I don't have to worry about all that torque blasting the rear tires loose. In normal operation it splits power 35/65 front/rear, but it can put it wherever it will be used best. Staying in the power stabilizes the car and allows the torque vectoring rear differential to do its thing. While some of the bumps can be harrowing, the biggest concern is the exit. The Jeep averages more than 0.8 g here. As good as the huge bolsters look on the new seats, I find myself sliding around in them. I unwind and drift out while braking for Nine. I could be brave and pitch it sideways to scrub off speed, but even as confidence-inspiring as the Jeep is, that is a test of nerves in an SUV going 100 mph.

Nine is tough; it wants to suck me inside way before the apex. Patience is everything, especially in the Jeep. I keep it out there a little longer until I think I'm going to die, count to two, then turn in. Even at these speeds, if the brakes are carried in, the car will rotate. It is a yeehaw! moment once I realize I am going to live through it. I clip the apex without sticking a tire in the rut and grab a boot-full of throttle. There's a whooptie just after the apex that will try and unsettle the car even more. I affectionately refer to this turn as the Car Wrecker. Aim for the pit entrance. The Jeep unweights, but stays more composed than some sportier cars I've had the pleasure of scaring myself in here. As it rotates just a bit from the bump, it points me right down the straight. Now I get to do it again.

There are a few improvements on the Jeep that weren't made for faster track times. The new 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 goes to even greater lengths to save on gas. The exhaust system was redesigned to utilize a variable volume muffler allowing the new cylinder deactivation system to be used in a greater range of operation. The engineering team is claiming a 13-percent increase in highway fuel economy and the vehicle can now get 450 miles out of a single tank of gas. Fuel economy is important to some people, but they probably won't be buying one of these.

While Mr. Gilles may stand by his assertion of the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 as being delicious, I think I need a description that includes expletives. This thing isn't a cupcake. This is a steak cooked over a fire. It's a meal, not a snack. If I have to keep it clean, I'll go with "succulent."


2012 JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE SRT8
BASE PRICE $55,300 (est)
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door, SUV
ENGINE ENGINES 6.4L/470-hp /465-lb-ft OHV 16-valve V-8
TRANSMISSION TRANSMISSIONS 5-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT 5150 lb (mfr)
WHEELBASE 114.8 in
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT 191.3 x 77.1 x 69.1 in
0-60 MPH 4.8 sec (mfr est)
EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON 12/18 mpg
ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY 281/187 kW-hrs/100 miles (est)
CO2 EMISSIONS 1.37 lb/mile (est)
ON SALE IN U.S. September 2011