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|Spied: Next Acura TL, Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 Unmasked|
|Written by Rich Truesdell|
|Tuesday, 24 June 2008 05:39|
In the Automotive Traveler garage this week is Subaru's pocket rocket, the Impreza WRX STI, and the price of premium unleaded not withstanding, we decided that it was time for a road trip. And since it wasn't hot enough here at home at 110-degrees, we decided that California's Mojave Desert would be hotter and we were right; our Subaru's thermometer touched 119-degrees and at the same time we encountered a fleet of three of the next-gen Acura TLs, and then less than an hour later, a lightly camouflaged Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8.
When we first encountered the three Acura TLs, we weren't quite sure what we were looking at. They were lightly disguised, indicating that they were close to production; at this stage this level of masking would seem to indicate an on-sale date is less than six months away. The dead giveaway as to what we were looking at? A combination of California and Ohio plates as American Honda has facilities in both states. As the current TL is built in Honda's Marysville, Ohio plant that it shares with the Accord, it didn't take a brain surgeon to figure out exactly what we were looking at.
Our hypothesis was confirmed about an hour later when we were able to get a strong enough cell phone signal and checked out Autoblog who by chance had just posted some out-of-focus camera phone shots of the TL taken in Indiana, which were in turn picked up from Temple of VTEC, a Honda/Acura web site. For those Honda and Acura enthusiasts, we're happy to provide you a clearer look at the next TL, expected in Acura showrooms in November.
What we found interesting, in looking over the comments attached to both the posts on both Autoblog and Temple of VTEC, are that the Acura faithful seem to be decidedly mixed in their approval of the design language that Acura is following for the upcoming TLs. Here's a comment from Patrick over on Temple of VTEC. "Acura certainly needs a better family resemblance as the TL and the new TSX seem to be on a totally different page in terms of design. The Germans are very good at maintaining that family resemblance yet offering those small details that separate each model lineup. They seem to be able to keep their brands signature styling characteristics, implement fresh, new styling while retaining timeless simple lines. Everything seems neat, integrated, uncluttered, taught, classy, purposeful, fresh yet timeless. They have presence, look sophisticated and have that crisp tailored finish to them that looks expensive."
The Grand Cherokee SRT8 presented a different dilemma; we thought we knew exactly what we were looking at the first time we encountered a second caravan of manufacturer test vehicles, several Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8s, a Dodge Challenger, with a camouflaged Jeep Grand Cherokee towing a trailer in tandem with a Mercedes ML towing a similar trailer.
This obviously was a surprise given last year's divorce between Daimler and Chrysler. It seemed unusual that the two companies would be testing together except that the current Grand Cherokee and ML share a common component, their turbodiesel engines. So what did we do? We positioned ourselves for a closer look.
And when we did it was apparent that this was no diesel. Having driven a Challenger SRT8 for 3,000 miles back in April, we knew exactly what we were listening to; a high performance Hemi, possibly bigger than what's currently found under the hood of the current crop of SRT8s.
As the current Grand Cherokee SRT8 offers only a 3,500 pound trailer towing capability with the addition of a Mopar trailer hitch, there's the possibility that Jeep is upgrading SRT8's capabilities in this area, possibly in conjunction with a change in the specified OEM tire. We also believe that the updated Grand Cherokee SRT8 was being benchmarked against the ML, that a trailer was necessary to measure the Grand Cherokee SRT8 under high stress loads against a comparably powered premium SUV, in this case an ML550.
What does this mean? The camouflage on the front of the Grand Cherokee SRT8 would seem to indicate that the limited production Grand Cherokee SRT8 will get a new front fascia (the Jeep engineers were probably confirming that the nose job had no ill effects on cooling) at some point in the 2009 model year, possibly with a bump in horsepower. Might the SRT8 engines be getting some sort of gas-saving multi displacement system to de-activate four of its eight cylinders? Possibly, but when the Grand Cherokee SRT8 was launched we were told that the system wasn't compatible with the hyper-performance Hemi.
One other supposition? That along with a new front fascia the refreshed Grand Cherokee SRT8 might be getting an updated all-wheel-drive system. This seems like a long shot, investing anything more than a relatively inexpensive cosmetic update on what is very much a niche, halo vehicle in the Jeep lineup.
The best news: the Mopar boys aren't throwing the babies out with the bathwater; in spite of fuel prices, high performance SRT versions remain in the development pipeline, and they may very well be working on ways to make them more fuel-efficient.
And our impressions of the Subaru? I'm handing off the Impreza to Managing Editor Brandy Schaffels tonight when she drops me off at LAX for my flight to Michigan to attend Chrysler's 2009 What's New program Thursday at the Chelsea Proving Grounds. There you can be sure I'll be asking questions of my contacts in Jeep Engineering, who I'm equally sure will be tight-lipped as to what we saw yesterday in the Mojave Desert. Brandy and I will be covering the Impreza WRX STI in next Friday's "She Drove, He Drove" segment. Coming up next? Our driving impressions on the Cadillac CTS, coming this Friday.