NEW YORK – Typical Jeep offroading is slow and steady, as the vehicles creep along rugged terrain.

But buyers of the ’12 Jeep Grand Cherokee’s SRT8 performance model show an apparent need for speed. They seem more at home on a race track than a mountain trail.

Why else would someone buy a midsize SUV that goes 0-60 mph in 4.4 seconds and has a top speed that is electronically limited to 155 (250 km) mph?

After skipping a model year, Chrysler’s Jeep division reintroduces the Grand Cherokee’s SRT8 version. It debuts at the New York International Auto Show.

“Dealers and customers called us because we didn’t have an SRT8 version when the new Grand Cherokee came out” late last year,” Jeep CEO Mike Manley says on the sidelines after the unveiling.

He intermittently likens the performance Jeep to a “sports car,” touting its “race theme” throughout.

“And because this goes so fast, we have installed a forward-warning collision system,” Manley says. “If this isn’t all-performance capability, there is no such thing.”

He declines to predict sales, but says the previous version peaked at about 5,500 deliveries a year. “It’s definitely a niche market.”

And one in which Jeep thinks its top-of-the-line model belongs.

“Towards the upper end of the SUV segment, there is a place for a performance vehicle,” Manley says. “BMW, Range Rover and Mercedes-Benz all have them.”

The price is pending for the beefed-up Grand Cherokee. It goes on sale this summer.

“It will broaden our appeal and bring more Jeep customers to showrooms,” Manley says.