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Kudos to the fleet-footed spies in Death Valley who managed to score some shots of the next Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8.  The top-shelf version of the Grand Cherokee has not officially been given the green light; not surprising considering the base model's consistent declining sales.

The Grand Cherokee had a lower total volume of sales in America for only three of the last 12 years.  Increases were seen in 1999 with the introduction of a new version, in 2002 with the release of the Sport, Overland and Special Edition trim levels, and in 2006, when the first full year of sales for the SRT8 began.

Now, Jeep is desperately trying to revitalize the sales figures for the Grand Cherokee.  Whereas over 300,000 units of the SUV sold in 1999, only 50,300 sold in 2009.

This could be how the new SRT8 model comes into play, which will bring both serious buyers and those with casual interest to the showroom floors.  Our spies caught a glimpse of the car's new front end in a rapid-fire ambush when padding was removed.  It clearly features changes to the front bumper, which is now bigger and has a fuller lower half, and changes to the hood.

The next SRT8 is believed to be using a 6.4-liter HEMI V8 engine that churns out 505 horsepower (377 kW) and up to 510 ft-lb (691 Nm) of torque.  With numbers like that, it is not surprising the SUV was being matched against a BMW X5 M.  The X5 M features a 555-hp (414-kW) engine, and at 5,082 lbs (2,305 kg), it is rather heavy.  Only the Grand Cherokee Limited and Overland models with a 5.7-liter engine weigh more.

If Chrysler can keep the SRT8 model's weight down, the SUV will give the X5M a run for the money.

Gallery: Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 spied

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