WTCCSHD: How I Would Relaunch The 2nd Gen SRT Jeep.
How I Would Relaunch The 2nd Generation of the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8
The Current Situation
Before you can fix a problem, you first need to do two things.
Acknowledge the problem.
Read the backstory on the problem.
So starting with #1 first. The main issue is that the Trackhawk came too late and isn't the solution to why Jeep SRT’s get murdered by the competition. The main SRT still gets obliterated.
Why? Well here is point #2, the backstory.
In 2006, Jeep launched the 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8. Starting at $39,300 and offering a 420 HP, 6.1L HEMI V-8 with a 5-speed Auto, it was the first performance SUV out of the gate. (I am aware that the GMC Typhoon is a thing, but it didn’t start an actual car category like the Jeep did. And for anyone who shouts SVT Lightning at me, learn the difference between an SUV & a pickup truck. The only argument I’m willing to hear is about the Porsche Cayenne or the Infiniti FX45.)
Suddenly, after Jeep blessed the world with some good ole American madness, everyone else jumped in or stepped up. Chevrolet Trailblazer SS, Porsche Cayenne Turbo, Land Rover Range Rover Sport Supercharged & Infiniti FX45, all were competitors at the time. Yet in this crowd, the Jeep stood out as having the most bang for the buck.
There were flaws, but what car does not have them. The Jeep was good at doing what it was intended for: obliterating most SUVs in a straight line and in corners. One could make the argument that the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S was the end all, be all but at that moment you would be comparing solid affordable performance to a mortgage payment. And yes, with 520 HP, the Jeep still hanged with that Porsche. It was a nice time for Jeep. So where did it go wrong?
In 2010, the world changed. The automotive industry, in particular, caught a bit of a mental craze as this was the year SUVs started pumping out 550+ HP. The Jeep was falling behind. So what does Jeep do?
Well in 2010, the SUV to beat was the BMW X5M with 555 HP. Jeep got to work on the WK2 generation of the Jeep Grand Cherokee and launched it in 2011. At the same time, some new Gen 3 HEMI’s also launched. So in 2012, when the new, sleeker looking Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 dropped, we expected it to be faster than the old one and compete with the new competition. It did neither. Sure, starting at $54,670, it was cheaper than the competition. And with a new 6.4L HEMI making 470 HP, it was still a fast SUV. But it wasn't German or British fast. And it wasn't Gen 1 SRT fast. All these were painstakingly obvious.
Outside of an ECU change in 2014, boosting power to 475 HP and a new 8-speed auto, nothing significant happened for six years until 2017 rolled around and they put the 6.2L supercharged Hellcat engine into the Jeep, making the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, the most powerful and probably the fastest SUV ever. But as I explained in my OP-ED, the “Inertia Report”, the Hellcat engine isn't sticking around. So when it leaves, we are again left with an underpowered SRT Jeep. I don't like that. So how do you fix this problem? Well I have a plan...cause I’m a smartass.
The Magic #S: 426
What the Car Company Should Have Done!
Let's jump back to 2011. SRT is preparing the new Jeep. This is where we start. The main problem is that the Jeep is underpowered. So we can fix this in two ways.
The first way is to make the 392 more powerful. It can be done. In 2005, Chrysler unveiled a version of the 392 with 525 HP.
The second way, the one I like more, is using the 426 crate engine. The 426 Gen 3 can easily put down figures from 550-600 HP. Or more. And it shouldn't be hard to configure the engine for production use since, as of right now, it's just a crate engine. So we give the 426 all the fuel-saving goods (start-stop, variable valve timing, cylinder deactivation, Eco-mode, etc.). I would also speed up the development of that 8-speed auto.
I’d also have the crew who does the interior work on the Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit to do the interior on any SRT Jeep, with the SRT guys giving minor tips on bucket seats. Recaros will be standard.
All this said, we still put the 392 with 470 HP into the Jeep and launch it like normal, except it will be marketed as the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 392. Why? Because offering various versions appeals to people. Porsche does it with the Cayenne, as you have the GTS, Turbo, Turbo S, and closer to home Dodge currently offers SIXTEEN different versions of the Challenger. And let's not pretend like some of them aren't the same mechanically. And finally, it makes more money for Jeep. So the 470 HP SRT Jeep has a place, notably being the entry level to what will become an SRT lineup. It would compete with the aforementioned Cayenne GTS.
The next year, we drop the 426 Jeep SRT. Marketed as the 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 426, it launches with the new 8-speed auto, 560 HP, and a vengeance to get America back what was hers. And my boys Ralph Gilles & Tim Kunis can get the job done in that regard. The SRT Alpine & Vapor Trim levels still happen in 2013 but only on the 392. But because the 8-speed is out, the rest of the Grand Cherokee lineup, not just the performance ones, get it to.
2014 comes and with it, the ECU change. In the 392, we see power boost by 15 to get 485 HP (in real life, it only got boosted by 5 to 475 from 470) and in the 426, power also gets boosted by 15, from 560 to 575 HP. Nothing notable happens after that.
2015, the Red Vapor trim still happens, but only on the 392 again. 2016 happens and again, only on the 392 does the SRT Night trim happen.
And then we get to 2017. The Trackhawk still gets launched. Why not, Hellcat EVERYTHING!!!!
Now since we are up to the present day, you'll notice I haven't mentioned a single price for any of the SRT Jeeps. This is because marketing can be done two ways. The first, risky way, would be to pull a German. Sell them for way more than they need to be and market them as the most prestigious Jeeps to ever exist. With this mindset, you are completely separating the SRT Jeep’s from the regular Grand Cherokees and as such, you pay the price.
The 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee TrackHawk & 2018 Dodge Durango SRT
With this way of thinking, the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 392 would launch at around 80K. The 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 392 Alpine & Vapor would be around 82K. The 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 426 would launch at around 106K. In 2015 the Red Vapor is 88K, 4K more than the base 392 at 84K. The 426 is 110K. Fast forward to 2017 and the 392 is 96K. 426 is 118K. And the Trackhawk, a whopping 160K. That said, this way is an option. But not the only option.
The option more likely to happen is the one that will get more feet through the door into dealerships. We still market the SRT lineup as the Luxury Performance Brand. We market them differently than the other Grand Cherokee’s. The SRT’s are special. Yet when the 392 launches in 2012, the price stays the same as it did in 2012, at $54,670. 2013 & the 392 is 64K (price jump because of the new tranny) & the Alpine/Vapor models are 66K. The 426 launches at 70K. 2014 & prices stay the same. 2015 & the 392 stays the same, but the Red Vapor is offered at 66K. 2016 & 392 jumps to 66K. SRT Night is 70K. 426 is 75K. And all that stays the same, but in 2017, the 2018 Trackhawk gets sold for an even 86K. (I know that's only 100 more than its current 85,900 price tag, but this is because my OCD loves even #s.)
The Jeep SRT’s are now cheaper, faster, louder and debatably more luxurious than the competition.
In my hypothetical, even after the Trackhawk leaves in 2019, we are left with the 426, which is more than capable of handling business. In this scenario, the Jeep never stopped being dominant, it just took dominance to a new level. And it made Jeep some more money.
You could apply the lesson here to the new 2018 Dodge Durango SRT too. Boost it to 485 HP like it should and call it the 392. Then drop the 426 into it. Why? Regardless of what Dodge says, it will always come in last to the cars it has to compete with solely based on it being a crossover. The 2018 Land Rover Range Rover SVAutobiography with 550 HP. And the Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 with 577 HP. And with the Range Rover comparison, by default, it kind of competes with the Mercedes-Benz G63/G65 AMG to with 563/621 HP. The Durango will in no shape or form compete with those cars in price, luxury, or pedigree. But Dodge is a performance brand with a “Be Like No One” attitude right? You may lack everything else but at least be faster.
And in the Jeep's case, with some simple changes, we could be living in a different world right now. If only I worked for Jeep/SRT. Tim, my # is *****
Please tell me what you thought in the comments, plus any suggestions for how to make this better or for future articles on What the Car Company Should Have Done.
© 2017 Joshua Nightshade