Jeep Cherokee 'SRT4' under consideration

words - Feann Torr
The Chrysler Group's skunk works outfit, SRT, mulls over Subaru Forester STI rival
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.

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Published : Friday, 27 September 2013
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