It’s rare that you look forward to the moment when the traffic lights go amber, the intersection just out of reach, all to await the takeoff as the lights turn green. It happened to me recently.
The reason? The Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT.
Sure, the Jeep is not a sports car, but that’s what makes it so enjoyable. In the same way it’s fun to punt an underpowered stick-shift hatchback along a mountain road, the Grand Cherokee SRT shrugs off its limitations, and proceeds to put a smile on your face that simply will not fade.
The source of all these endorphins? A 6.4-litre “HEMI” V8 sitting in the nose, pumping out 344kW and 624Nm of naturally-aspirated grunt. Sent to all four wheels, it shrugs off its 2289-kilogram mass, propelling the SRT to 100km/h in under 5.0 seconds – a bar that even many sports cars fail to limbo under.
It’s not lost when it arrives at a kink in the road, either. The wide Pirelli run-flats, Bilstein adaptive dampers and Quadra-Trac SRT all-wheel-drive system allow it to claw at the bitumen when the laws of physics would rather it let go. It feels utterly planted on a winding country road, proving especially adept at hill climbs where that engine really shines.
The rides suffers for all this body-control, however, getting quite fidgety over rougher surfaces.
The steering is meaty without being too heavy. It’s definitely let down by the 3.6 turns lock-to-lock, requiring more input on a tight road than you’d expect, and a lot of arm twirling when parking.
The steering wheel is large and thick, and adorned with so many buttons that you’ll find more hidden on the back. It’s even heated, perfect for those Antarctic getaways.
Taking charge of the slick eight-speed auto with the comically small shifters behind the wheel is highly recommended, unlocking the heights of the rev range without doing the same for the speedo. Shifts are crisp and quick, and the rev blips on the downshift mean you’ll be dropping the drivers window frequently.
What’s wonderful is how accessible the excitement is, a simple breath on the throttle is enough to awaken the beast. The entertainment is instant, and even keeping within the city speed limits, the growl from up front is always present, making the rather excellent sound system almost redundant.
The other creature comforts are merely a bonus. The Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT really is the value meal, with few omissions. Ventilated seats, heated steering wheel, adaptive cruise control and auto-braking systems are all present and accounted for. Such luxuries are optional on some of its pricier rivals, unavailable on others.
Everything is visible and accessible across two LCD displays, an 8.4-inch touchscreen in the middle, and a 7.0-inch widescreen display in the instrument cluster.
The graphics are poor and the centre screen washes out very easily, but where the interfaces lack refinement they make up for in utility. Satellite navigation, iPod and Bluetooth connectivity are a given, but extra touches like the ability to have the SRT read your incoming text messages aloud are quite useful additions.
As an SRT, it gains all sorts of Gran Turismo tech features, including G-meters, lap timers, and even a launch control function. The centre screen can display a big speedo, too, which makes it slightly easier to keep this ever-willing SUV under the limit.
It’s tempting to call out the low-quality plastics throughout the cabin, but there’s just enough leather and equipment to distract from the cheaper elements.
The biggest flaw would have to be the seats, though it took the comment of a colleague before it became apparent. They’re big and bolstered, but they are very firm and a touch flat, not exactly the kind of pew you want for a trip along Sydney’s battered roads, or a long cross-country journey. The Grand Cherokee Overland model has far softer seats, which cosset rather than punish.
It’s a trade-off to be sure, but you won’t have to put up with them for long, however, as you’ll be getting out a lot. An awful lot.
All this performance in a big, heavy SUV comes at a price: fuel consumption. Gently cruising with a bit of stop start traffic, the average barely dipped below 20 litres per 100 kilometres. Exploit even a modicum of its potential, and the average climbs as fast at the tank empties.
Nothing with these bonnet vents – looking like flared nostrils on the nose of an angry bull – was going to be anything but a binge drinker.
Add the pumped guards, fat Pirellis and big Brembos on each corner, the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT leaves no questions about its intentions.
The thirst for 91-octane (yes, not premium!) fuel is almost intolerable, but more so for the inconvenience than the cost. The 93-litre fuel tank could barely keep the SRT on the road for more than 400km at a time.
Things look up when you consider just how cheap the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT is compared to its rivals. The closest would likely be the BMW X5 xDrive50i with it’s 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8, which starts from $134,900 (plus on-road costs), a whopping $54,900 more than the SRT’s $80,000 (before on-roads) sticker price.
Even with it’s average fuel economy of 25L/100km, you could travel a fair distance on the money saved!
With its brazen looks and riotous engine note, the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT a modern-day American muscle car, no question about it. The fact that it’s loaded with kit and can handle a bend makes it all the more a performance bargain, but the ear to ear smiles every time you step on the gas is the clincher for me.
CarAdvice’s Jin Tee also got his hands on the SRT, here’s what he thought.
To begin with, I fell in love with the looks as soon as I saw it. It has such an aggressive grille and the functional nostrils add to the appeal. To the trained eye, it was clear this was not your ordinary Grand Cherokee.
The 6.4-litre V8 HEMI is the perfect engine to match the looks. It’s hard to keep from planting your foot into the ground to hear it purr.
As a result, over the weekend I had the Grand Cherokee I managed to put $120 worth of fuel through it. You’ll need to decide for yourself if an ear-to-ear grin is worth the dough.
The auto’s extra three gears (compared to the previous version) may be Jeep’s way of off-setting the fuel consumption, but it basically idles on the freeway at 90km/h in seventh. In Eco mode, it makes use of all eight. Off-the-line it will start you in second, and quickly run you up the cogs utilising the ridiculous amount of torque.
Parking the thing wasn’t as bad as expected. Auto-tilting side mirrors and a reverse-view camera with proximity sensors definitely helped, but you’ll need to be gentle with the throttle as a small stab can send you flying into whatever is behind or in front of you.
The interior was great – I don’t know how it will weather after a few years of ownership, but it’s something you don’t complain about once you hop in. There are a considerable differences when compared to the lower spec Overland, making it obvious you’re in a special version of the GC.
The rear seats were very upright in the previous generations of the Grand Cherokee, I was glad to find out Jeep added a reclining function for the back row.
Safety is taken care of, too, with a blind-spot assistance system that helps when you’re trying to weave through traffic and merge lanes in this monster of a car.
The radar-based active cruise control worked well but was a little confusing to set up initially. The media unit adds a lot of value to the interior, with a decent user interface and even some gimmicky SRT performance apps. The multitude of options and settings let you really set the car up the way you want.
To really put it to the test, CarAdvice has previously taken the SRT and an Overland to the drags. The results were as expected – the SRT is a beast. Check out the dragway face-off video here.