The jury is still out on the 2014 Jeep Cherokee's wild new design, but having driven it we can report that it's an engaging vehicle with a balanced chassis
. And now there's talk of a high-performance model to broaden the vehicle's appeal.
It's true that Jeep already has a halo model in the range, the Trailhawk (pictured), a rugged off-road variant headed to Australia in May 2014 along with the rest of the range. But don't rule out a low-slung, high-performance street version of the Cherokee just yet.
The Chrysler Group's hot shop, SRT, has a well-established tyre-frying large SUV, the Grand Cherokee SRT8
, powered by a hairy-chested 6.4-litre HEMI V8 engine that punches out a bruising 344kW and 624Nm, and a Cherokee SRT4 could be the next logical step for the sub-brand.
Steve Bartoli, Jeep's Head of International Product Planning, was in California during the Cherokee's launch when he confessed that an SRT-tuned Cherokee would be "a lot of fun".
"I think the chassis has a lot of legs to it," said Bartoli.
When asked point blank if an SRT-tuned model was in the picture, he responded: "The suspension is really good, nothing's impossible especially with that platform. I think we have a lot of flexibility with it."
The product planning boss ruled out the 6.4-litre V8 engine used by bigger brother, Grand Cherokee, saying it simply wouldn't fit, which leaves the door open for a high-output four- or six-cylinder powerplant to slot into the engine bay.
The most powerful engine currently available to the Cherokee is the new 3.2-litre Pentastar V6 that develops 199kW/316Nm. It's a lusty engine but lacks the torque and efficiency of Subaru's 177kW/350Nm turbocharged 2.0-litre engine.
Greg Howell, the lead designer on the 2014 Jeep Cherokee project, lent his weight to the idea, opining that a high-performance Cherokee tuned by SRT could work.
"They will try just about anything. I don’t think anything's off limits to SRT," he stated.
"They'll try and see if the business case makes sense. And if we can make money on it – it's gotta make money not just break even – we'll go for it."
Howell cautioned that such as a vehicle would also have to "make sense for CO2 and stricter emissions regulations" making a smaller, turbocharged four-cylinder engine like that in the Forester XT a more likely proposition than a larger capacity six-cylinder engine.
Read the latest news and reviews on your mobile, iPhone or PDA at carsales' mobile site...
Don't forget to register to comment on this article.