Just a few years ago there was a self-help craze over the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series. The idea was that the compiled stories served to heal the inner child of readers looking for a fresh perspective on life, much like a grandmother’s homemade, fowl-based concoction would supposedly eradicate the common cold…or some such malarkey. In any case, the series flourished and has gone on to include titles like Chicken Soup for Every Mom’s Soul,Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover’s Soul,Chicken Soup for the Baseball Fan’s Soul, and the long awaited A 6th Bowl of Chicken Soup for the Soul. But there’s much, much (too much?) more, with editions focused on military wives, Canadians, Christian women, horse lovers, Latter-Day Saints, mothers of preschoolers, prisoners, and one sure to be seen throughout the stands at Talladega, Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul. Consider the series to be the duct tape of the Barnes and Noble universe – one-stop shopping for whatever ails ‘ya. (Dude. You are spending way too much time in the self-help section – Ed.)
Another example of taking a simple, successful idea and exploiting and milking it for all its worth is DaimlerChrysler and its seemingly limitless use of the reintroduced Hemi engine, often accompanied by an SRT badge. Truth is, DCX had little to write home about prior to its launch of the 300 and that heralded V8 under the hood, but today there are Hemis and/or SRTs for everyone. Among the bunch is the 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT-8, an SUV from the highly-regarded off-road brand but which lacks Trail Rated nomenclature, tows 3,700 pounds less than a regular Grand Cherokee, and has the interior quality of a 1980s rental car yet stickers for $40,000, or $45,000 with some equipment tacked on. But yes, it goes fast, so forget practicality and the 12.3 mpg as-tested fuel economy.
Much of the Jeep’s SRT hoopla revolves around a thirsty 6.1-liter, 16-valve, Hemi V8 with a cast iron block and aluminum heads that generates a healthy 420 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 420 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,800 rpm. The EPA suggests that drivers of this muscular Grand Cherokee will see 12 mpg in the city and 15 mpg on the highway; we achieved 12.3 mpg in mixed conditions, thanks in part to those pesky bricks that always found their way to our right shoes. Among the technologies responsible for putting power to the street are a five-speed manually-interactive automatic transmission, traction control, stability control, and Jeep’s Quadra-Trac on-demand four-wheel-drive system. Marrying the SRT-8 to curvaceous roads are shiny 20-inch alloy wheels wearing Goodyear Eagle RS-A 285/40 run-flat tires out back and 255/45s up front. A performance-tuned rack-and-pinion steering system works to keep this Jeep pointed in the right direction, while a four-wheel antilock disc brake setup, with components by Brembo and supplemental stopping power courtesy of electronic brake assistance, helps the 2006 Grand Cherokee SRT-8 come to a quick halt. Keeping it afloat is a short/long arm front suspension and a multi-link setup with a track bar in the rear, all performance tuned and resulting in a one-inch reduction in ground clearance. Unlike the rest of the Grand Cherokee lineup, this hairy gorilla only tows a max of 3,500 pounds instead of the usual 6,500-7,200 pounds and is not Trail Rated.
To get all of that bullish hardware one must simply opt for the SRT-8 trim: there are no derivatives or variations. Instead, this brute ute starts at $39,995 (including a $695 destination charge) and delivers standard front fog lights; leather and suede upholstery; front sport bucket seats with driver’s side power height adjustment; leather and faux carbon fiber interior accents; a tilt and telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel; center-mounted dual exhaust pipes; a six-disc CD changer and MP3 player; and body-color exterior pieces including a grille insert, rear spoiler, lower body kit, and power heated mirrors. Like most other Grand Cherokee models, the SRT-8 also features a split-folding second-row seat, a reversible cargo floor, steering wheel-mounted radio controls, a tire pressure monitor, and a trip computer. Options are few and include front-side and side-curtain airbags; a DVD entertainment system; a DVD-based navigation system; and the SRT Option Package which adds Sirius satellite radio, a rear parking sonar system, front-side and side-curtain airbags, a power sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control in place of standard air conditioning, heated front seats with memory, rain-sensing wipers, and power-adjustable alloy pedals. Don’t forget about the Inferno Red Crystal Paint that runs an extra $225.
As luck would have it, our SRT-8 test truck was dipped in that special paint and included the SRT Package ($3,195) and the navigation system ($1,200). With the destination charge added in, the total sticker price came to $44,615. That five-figure tag is far from being value’s dance partner, but for drivers who can afford to fill the 20.5-gallon gas tank with $3.50 premium fuel every 250 miles or so, cost and efficiency are likely of little concern.