In many ways, this machine is deeply, comprehensively, wilfully stupid. Let me break it down for you: this is a Jeep wearing semi-slick road-tires, an off-road machine you can’t really take off-road, all suited-up for the track and with a 470hp, 6.4L V8 crammed in the nose.
The fuel economy is criminal. The pricetag is colossal. Both the insurance premiums and the cost of keeping this thing in tires and brakes are too damn high.
That said, it is, without a whisper of a doubt, the most fun I’ve had all year.
So here’s how the launch control works: first, twist the massive dial between the seats from “Auto” to “Track”; then press the large button marked “Launch Control” that’s helpfully illustrated with a drag-strip Christmas tree. It looks like the kind of thing Fisher-Price would come up with.
Then, press and hold the brake and floor the accelerator pedal. Doing so causes the Jeep to hunker down and start growling. There’s no other word for it—it sounds like a mastiff that’s just spotted a squirrel with a steak stapled to it. Then you let go of the brake.
What happens next is roughly akin to applying a cattle-prod to the scrotum of a rhinoceros. With a huge bellow, the Cherokee simply hurls itself off the line, roaring and snarling and momentarily interrupting the spin of the earth. The 6.4L Hemi V8 screams towards the limiter and then—bam!—snaps you back in your seat with a blazing fast shift from the eight-speed transmission.
Howling in disbelief, you keep your foot to the floor, leaving rumpled pavement and shattered windows in your wake. It is, effectively, the Jeep Apocalypse Edition. Women faint, children burst into tears, livestock explode into flames—a hundred clicks per hour comes up in something under five seconds, at a net cost of about an Exxon Valdez’s worth of fuel.
And surprisingly, it also handles pretty well, with sharp steering, massive grip, and brakes big enough to arrest the orbit of the moon. Which is handy, because this car just happens to have the same curb weight as the moon.
The nicely bolstered seats are comfortable, the stereo system has enough punch to melt lead, there’s radar-guided cruise control and if you ease off on the loud pedal, you can even see sort-of acceptable fuel economy in the 10-12L/100km range on the highway. Which is not bad for an Imperial Dreadnaught.
The Jeep Cherokee is a very nice truck, and you can buy it with a sensible and peppy V6, a fuel-sipping diesel, or this bath-salts-propelled madness. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, and is simultaneously the best truck in the entire universe.
2013 Jeep Cherokee SRT
Base Price: $62,995
Price as Tested: $72,695
Brendan McAleer is a freelance auto-writer based out of North Vancouver, BC, and a member of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada. His work appears in BBCAutos, Road&Track, Autos.ca and elsewhere. Follow him on twitter @brendan_mcaleer
Photo courtesy of the author.