While it's typically run by a troupe of Ferraris and Lamborghinis, this year's coast-to-coast Bullrun Rally had an unusual new contestant: the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8. To show off its high-performance capabilities, Jeep entered the sporty SUV in the annual road rally, which ran from Las Vegas to Miami alongside a host of high-dollar luxury and exotic cars.

But, despite lacking bright red paint or an Italian pedigree, the Grand Cherokee SRT8 fit right in among Bullrun contenders. Driven by current NASCAR driver and former off-road racer Robby Gordon, the SRT8 features Chrysler's all-new 6.4-liter Hemi V8, capable of 470 horsepower and zero-to-60 times of less than 5 seconds - a figure on par with some of today's fastest high-performance sports cars.

"This is a fantastic opportunity to highlight the capabilities of the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8," said Mike Manley, president and chief executive of Chrysler's Jeep brand. "With Robby Gordon pushing the limits, the world will see that the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 really is the ultimate performance SUV."

Famous for sometimes-illicit high-performance driving and wild parties, the week-long Bullrun Rally has mellowed in recent years as media and police attention has increased. Nonetheless, drivers of more than 200 cars paid a $20,000 entry fee to participate in this year's rally, which wrapped up Friday, July 15 after a week on the road covering more than 2,500 miles.

The rally's increasing popularity even inspired a reality TV series shown on Speed Channel, also called Bullrun. The show, which disallows navigation systems and discourages speeding, follows 12 teams on a coast-to-coast race. One team is eliminated each week, while the overall winners take home a $200,000 grand prize.

Jeep says the 2012 Grand Cherokee SRT8 will be priced from $55,295 when it begins arriving dealers later in the summer. In addition to its monstrous V8 powerplant, the Grand Cherokee SRT8 will feature upgraded brakes to improve stopping power and adaptive suspension for better cornering.

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Jeffrey Archer is fortunate to have turned a passion for cars into a career. His wide-ranging automotive experience includes work for automakers and dealers in addition to covering the news. When not writing, he spends his time searching for unique cars on AutoTrader.com.

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