Despite mounting production problems, Jeep is considering a Cherokee SRT

2014 Jeep Cherokee
Jeep has already delayed production of the all-new Cherokee twice and now it's considering an SRT variant, proving the old adage: if at first you don't succeed, make it faster and more complicated.

With its crossover platform and otherworldly styling, the 2014 Jeep Cherokee is a controversial car. It may get more controversial.

To-date, Jeep has delayed the launch of the all-new Cherokee twice. Now word comes that it might make the 4×4 crossover even more powerful and complicated.

At the Cherokee’s launch event, Chrysler officials told Australia’s Motoring that a performance version, tuned by the company’s Street and Racing Technology (SRT) division, is a possibility.

Jeep Head of International Product Planning Steve Bartoli said a Cherokee SRT would be “a lot of fun.”

“The suspension is really good,” Bartoli told Motoring, “nothing’s impossible especially with that platform.”

Cherokee lead designer Greg Howell said that SRT has the capability to do an unorthodox vehicle like this; it would simply be a matter of making a business case for it.

The 6.4-liter Hemi V8 that powers the Grand Cherokee SRT would definitely be out of the picture – it simply won’t fit in the smaller Cherokee’s engine bay – and Howell said low CO2 emissions would be part of the design brief of a Cherokee SRT anyway.

That means this performance crossover would most likely be powered by a version of the 2.4-liter turbocharged “Tigershark” four-cylinder engine, not the 3.6-liter “Pentastar” V6.

In stock form, the Tigershark produces 184 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque. An SRT version would obviously have a higher output. The question is: what other modifications would a Cherokee SRT get?

So far, SRT hasn’t built a production off-road performance vehicle; it even turned the Grand Cherokee into a street-going hot rod. A similar Cherokee would be more hot hatch than hot rod, so it’s hard to tell if that approach will be as novel the second time around.

Jeep fans may not be able to cope with two street-biased performance vehicles (not to mention the Compass) in the lineup, either.

The Cherokee wasn’t meant to please the faithful, though; if it was, it wouldn’t look like something driven by a Cylon soccer mom. Jeep is trying new things with this car, and an SRT model would definitely be something new. It might also benefit the rest of the Chrysler line.

If SRT goes through the trouble of developing a performance powertrain around the 2.4-liter Tigershark, it would make sense to transplant that powertrain into other cars, just as it did with its Hemi V8 models.

The Dodge Dart also uses the Tigershark, and a performance version of that car could be a lot of fun. It could bring back memories of the old Neon-based SRT-4, or possibly resurrect the GTS badge from the 1960s.

SRT making the move from muscle cars to sport compacts could definitely benefit enthusiasts, even if they don’t know what to make of the Cherokee SRT.