Take the kids to school, then run a quarter-mile drag race.
Ever since Jeep shoved a 707 horsepower supercharged engine in a Grand Cherokee to create the Trackhawk and Lamborghini released its new SUV, the Urus, it has been difficult to get excited for performance SUVs with comparatively lower power outputs. We've clearly been spoiled by the new crop of "super SUVs" but it doesn't mean having over 400 hp in a high-riding vehicle should feel any less exciting.
The Trackhawk is incredibly impressive but with a starting price of $88,395, it is nearly $19,000 more than the standard SRT-8 Grand Cherokee and far out of reach for most families. But if you still want to buy a fast Jeep on a more reasonable budget, why not get a used Grand Cherokee SRT-8?
Jeep introduced the first SRT-8 Grand Cherokee back in 2006 but we recommend opting for the newer and much-improved WK2 model, which was introduced for the 2012 model year. This SRT-8 was built on the completely updated Grand Cherokee and features a radical new exterior, highly-improved interior, and a new 6.4-liter Hemi V8 under the hood. There are very few tasks you won't be able to complete in a Grand Cherokee SRT-8. It is roomy enough to seat five comfortably with room for luggage, quick enough to be pretty lively on a race track, and still capable of towing the family boat. If there is one downside, you and your family will make frequent gas station stops.
A brand-new Grand Cherokee SRT-8 starts at $68,645, putting it in the same range as less powerful albeit more luxurious SUVs from Europe. But if you are willing to buy a high-mileage used example, you can find one starting at around $20,000. The 6.4-liter Hemi V8 isn't known for any major issues but Jeep's reliability track record isn't stellar. Certified pre-owned examples start at around $40,000 and include a two-year extension on the factory powertrain warranty, bringing the total to seven-years and 100,000 miles.
The main reason why you'd buy an SRT-8 over a standard Grand Cherokee is because of what lies under the hood. The 6.4-liter V8 produces 470 hp (later 475 hp) and 470 lb-ft of torque. Power goes out to all four wheels through either a five-speed automatic or an improved eight-speed automatic on later models. 0-60 mph takes just 4.5 seconds and it can cover the quarter-mile in around 13 seconds. In addition to the massive V8 under the hood, SRT also added six-piston Brembo brakes at the front (four pistons at the rear), SRT performance pages on the head unit, specially tuned suspension, special transmission tuning, and a launch mode.
The interior doesn't differ greatly from a high-trim Grand Cherokee aside from some different trim materials on the dash. You also get SRT seats finished in a mix of leather and Alcantara. It is worth noting the early SRT-8 Grand Cherokees don't have FCA's excellent 8.4-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but it wouldn't be difficult to swap in an aftermarket unit with these features. Since the SRT-8 sits at the top of the Grand Cherokee lineup, it comes with most of the luxury features you'd expect from such an expensive SUV like a panoramic moonroof and heated and ventilated seats.
Jeep chose not to compromise greatly on practicality with the SRT-8, although it obviously loses some of its off-road appeal compared to a standard model in favor of on-road performance. The trunk offers 35.1 cubic feet of storage with the rear seats up and 68.7 cubic feet with the seats folded flat. You'll probably have to stop for fuel often though because the Hemi V8 drinks fuel at a rate of 12 mpg in the city and 18 miles per gallon on the highway.
For around $20,000 to $40,000 depending on the year, mileage, and condition, the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT-8 is an amazing bargain for a family craving performance. Why spend nearly double to get a new Trackhawk when 470 hp should be plenty for most families? Even the oldest 2012 model doesn't look remarkably different from a brand-new Trackhawk, giving neighbors the illusion your family is rolling in a much more expensive SUV when you smoke them from a set of lights.