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SUV Showdown: Infiniti FX50S Vs Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8

When life gives you lemons, you’re supposed to make lemonade. When your press car suppliers give you two 400ish horsepower SUVs, you make hoonade.  The recipe? Take equal parts Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 and Infiniti FX50s, stir vigorously on a pre-dawn canyon drive, whip mercilessly on the semi-abandoned roads of California City, and let simmer on a long freeway drive home.

While most other sites are content to review just one vehicle at a time, we’re running them head-to-head. In addition to the typical week of toodling around town, we decided to put these bruisers through their paces both on and off the pavement. We woke up insanely early and took the scenic curvy canyon route out of LA out to California City for a little dirt-road hoonage. Muscle cruisers like these are useless if they can’t cover freeway mileage with ease, so we took the straight-line route back into town. Today’s Part I will focus on initial impressions an canyon driving. In Part II, we hit the dirt. Part III wraps it up.

I spent most of my time in the FX50, while Rob helmed the Cherokee. Jeff? He insisted on tagging along in a 556hp supercharged Hurst Camaro that you may see in a few pictures (more on that another day). We debated the merits of the cars all day (and for a few after), and rather than formulate one unified opinion, we’ll just let you in our our dialog. So here goes…

The best part of wakin' up...

Tim: I picked up the bionic catfish at night. The orange looked classy in the dark, the streetlights reflected off of its curves, the 390hp 5.0L V8 burbled to life gracefully, and the well-appointed interior treated me just right. The next morning, when I showed it to The_Missus in the glaring sun, all she could say was “guuah!“. Such is the FX50s. Not unlike high fashion, sometimes the shape and styling work, sometimes they (really) don’t. Mildly appealing is not an option.

After spending a few days getting used to the FX, I knew it made great noises and handled impressively for a crossover. But after flogging it through the canyons, I moved from impressed to astounded. The steering’s weighty and precise and the seat bolsters can be cranked to Overzealous Grandma Hug. Visibility’s great. Body roll? What’s that?

One complaint: The upshifts from the flappy-paddle 7-speed auto were slow enough that I couldn’t get from 2nd into 3rd quick enough on the exit of a sharp corner. After a few too many rev-limiter bounces while waiting for a shift, I just gave up and left it in 3rd the whole time. Turns out it wasn’t that big of a deal anyway, as the 5.0’s rarely short on power, regardless of RPM.

Rob: Climbing into the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 I was first struck by how low the thing is. The trail-rated Grand Cherokees are all hiked up like a tortoise traversing a patch of prickly pear, but the SRT8 is hunkered down like it’s hiding something. A flick of the keyless key and you find out just what that is. The Jeep’s 420-bhp 6.1-litre hemi V8 spins to life with an unearthly growl, scaring near-by children and causing old women to cross themselves. There’s no mistaking the muscle car lineage when dropping the shifter down into D (no fussy gates or flappy paddles here) and put a toe into the go button. The first time I did it, I was doing 30 before the ‘wow’ had even escaped my lips. With a little practice, I could launch it in a manner that wouldn’t cause respectable folk to raise an eyebrow over, and that wouldn’t alert the po-po. But in an impromptu drag race, dropping the hammer brings upon God’s own fury and I managed a 4.9 second sprint to sixty if the amazing toy in the dashboard is to be believed.

The 5-speed autostick shifts with authority and, while you can slap the shifter back and forth like it’s Faye Dunaway in Chinatown, it’s a little difficult to do so when the brutal acceleration is slamming you back into the big leather and alcantara driver’s throne, so I pretty much left it in D and used the loud pedal as the primary mode of communication with the big beast. The Jeep’s preferred hunting ground is the highway where its ride is like buttah, but throw a few twisties at it and the big Jeep starts to complain- pushing hard and scrubbing off all that glorious speed the hemi under the hood has provided. If the Jeep SRT8 were a beverage, it’d be Everclear, the power is that intoxicating, and driving it provides such a head-clouding kick.

Tim: I cannot disagree. First time I heard it fire up, I was brought back to high school, remembering 15″ subs bumping the opening to Outkast’s “Wheelz of Steel”. I thought the FX made good noises, but the Jeep takes its lunch money in the audio department for sure. But, just like the typical lunch-money taking bully, the Jeep cannot dance. Any particularly engaging set of twisties was followed by a wait for the Jeep to catch up. Not so tough now that we’re in the hills, huh?

Rob: I can totally see the Jeep as the tee shirt-wearing bully to the Infiniti’s chess club protege teacher’s pet. Each seems so similar in their objective, but arrives at the goal in a totally different manner. While they both were born to eat highway miles, the FX does so with the serenity and lack of drama of a refined high-end sportster- which is exactly what it is. The Jeep, on the other hand, is like a freight train, unperturbed by imperfections in the road and resistant to tramlining despite rolling on some impressively wide meats. That was not what I expected from a Jeep, and it says a lot about the changes Jeep’s engineers have made to create the SRT8.

[Coming up tomorrow: we arrive in California City and put each vehicle to the test on an endless grid of semi-paved roads. Here’s a little teaser…]

[Click through to Part 2 and Part 3 of our SUV Showdown]

  • I like the FX50 but there is something about the Jeep. It has this "in your face, couldn't give a fuck about niceties, just get on with it" air to it. And it can surely eat some "sports cars" for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And then ask for seconds. All the while drinking gas like it's going out of fashion.

    I always had a sweet spot for it since they've launched that thing a few years ago and still love it. BTW, I came across one of these the other day on the M25 motorway here in the UK. Came screaming all the way, right up to the bumper of my Focus pool car. It looked like an '07/'08 model.

  • The Jeep is so completely un-Jeep-like according to my personal criteria that I should be scoffing at it, but being a Hoon I think that it absolutely defines PAH, just like the GMC Typhoon. Yeah, I want one bad. While we're spending imaginary money, I'd like a WWII Willys MB to park next to it. Life would be good.

  • The first time I saw a SRT8 Jeep, its was black. I stopped to look at it, and questioned to myself, "who needs something like this? Is it I?" Ever since that first encounter, I have had a crush on the Jeep. For sheer brutish, unapologetic style that it emotes.

    I do really like the curves of the FX50. It is sleek and sexified. Hooniverse doing a comparo is fucking awesome, BTW.

  • Lotte

    Hmm, this style of review is…familiar…where have I seen this before?…

    I am eagerly waiting for part 2 and 3, thanks!

    • "Like a tortoise traversing a patch of prickly pear" or "slap the shifter back and forth like it’s Faye Dunaway in Chinatow" sounds a bit Troy Queef -ish, but that's of course not a bad thing at all. Moar dabs of oppo, I say.

      • The only problem with that analogy is that these aren't econo-model diesel hatches. I think that the Jeep especially is more likely to make you its bitch and spank you.

  • Al Navarro

    Love the photography and look forward to parts 2 and 3….

  • James

    I live in California City and own an 07 Jeep SRT8 so I am going to have a look around and see if I can find this test. .

    • We were out there a couple weeks ago.

      You'll see a little more tomorrow…

  • Nice work, fellas. It makes me feel weird to say it but I've kind of had a soft spot for the Jeep since it came out. The FX50 makes expensive noises but it still looks like a shoe.

  • 400HP in each yet 3500lb towing capacity…
    400HP SUV yet 30 cu. ft. average rear storage (seats up)
    400HP SUV yet 65 cu. f.t average rear storage (seats folded)

    The lowest common denominator indicates loads of fun, sacrificing some utility.
    What is a Sport Utility Vehicle with less utility? A Sport Vehicle….

    So the question I'm waiting for this article to answer is: Are these good Sport Vehicles? Initial impressions indicate more research is required. I can't wait for Part II and III.

  • OK, now you're whetted our appetites.

    Your "high fashion" remark about the FX50 is on the money. The entire FX series is hideously ugly to me, but the FX50 makes up for that by being a smooth, powerful beast. When you're sitting inside it pressing the loud pedal and making baby seals (or Al Gore) cry, I guess what it looks like from the outside suddenly becomes a distant memory.

  • I love how the Jeep uses the regular GC's back bumper, but instead of using that cutout in the middle for the trailer hitch, it's for the exhaust.

    Can't wait for the rest!

  • SRT8. The vehicle for dyslexics who are unsure of their sexual identity.

  • This is absolutely great 😀 Thanks for posting this!!!

  • Arnold Bano Opsal

    I like both the Jeep GC and the Infiniti Fx50. I would not mind owning either one and based on the test, both are rugged. pre owned nissan

  • bigphish_angler

    That fx50 kind of reminds me of a used juke on steroids. However, the specs you provided here takes it much further away from its crossover cousin performance-wise. Now I want to test it out.