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If the Central Intelligence Agency was looking for a turnkey solution to the ultimate getaway vehicle, it would be this – the 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT Night.
This limited edition version of Jeep’s full-size, hot-rod SUV certainly looks the part. Armed with a factory-fitted stealth styling pack and a $97,000 price tag (plus on-road costs), it’s a hefty $7000 more than you’ll pay for the standard SRT.
Jeep says it created the SRT Night edition of its powerhouse SUV as a reaction to the popularity of aftermarket black packs being added to the vehicle by Grand Cherokee owners.
It was clear owners wanted a tougher look, and Jeep duly responded.
The first thing you’ll notice is the exclusive 20-inch satin black forged alloy wheels – dubbed “5Ten” due to the split five-spoke design, used to showcase bright red Brembo brake calipers – six-piston up front and four down the back.
Up top, there’s a huge dual-pane panoramic sunroof with a fixed rear pane and tilt-sliding pane, which undoubtedly adds a greater sense of space to what is already a comfortably large cabin.
The Night package boasts a host of black exterior elements for that more aggressive look and starts with the seven-slot Jeep grille that’s cloaked with the gloss black rings and satin black grille surround.
Lower down, the front fascia is black too to match the gloss black side window surrounds. To cap that Night theme off, all the badge work (bar the trademark red Hemi badge) is fashioned in satin black – front, rear and sides.
Inside, the Night package replaces the standard 9-speaker Alpine audio system with an 825-watt, 19-speaker Harman Kardon unit with active noise cancelling. There’s super-soft Laguna black leather upholstery, which also covers the centre console lid and door armrests.
The changes aren’t just aesthetic either. There’s an all-new electric power steering system that’s new to the entire Grand Cherokee line-up, following its debut in the latest Chrysler 300 SRT.
Underneath, the SRT Night benefits from some new lightweight suspension components, including aluminium front knuckles and hollow stabiliser bars on the front and rear.
There’s also more noise-suppressing acoustic glass in the vehicle, which now includes the front windscreen and rear windows that works in concert with the noise cancelling audio.
Changes have been made to the instrument cluster, with an exclusive design for the SRT Night that now sees a large tachometer centrally mounted, while the speedometer sits on the left side of the seven-inch cluster.
Revisions have been made to the SRT Night’s Performance pages too, with more gauges and more telemetry than ever before, along with new features that include the ability to pre-set the launch control rpm level to between 1500 to 3500 rpm.
For added safety and security there’s a new Valet mode, which is activated by punching in a pin code that essentially locks out other drivers from accessing full power and the most aggressive performance settings.
As part of the program, the engine is remapped for a maximum 4000 rpm, while the transmission locks out first gear, as well as upshifting earlier than normal.
Traction, steering and suspension are set to their least aggressive settings, while the paddleshifters are disabled along with several other restrictions.
Also exclusive to the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT Night is a 20-inch space-saver spare wheel, which, just like its bespoke wheel design, has been specifically designed to highlight the Brembo brake caliper behind it.
Under the bonnet is the same monster-size 6.4-litre naturally aspirated V8 “HEMI” pumping out the same 344kW and 624Nm of proper chassis-twisting torque. That’s more than enough grunt to propel this all-wheel drive Goliath from 0-100km/h in a claimed 4.8 seconds.
It’s price/performance ratio is better than any of its rivals – and by some margin.
Take the BMW X5 50i, priced from $152,500. Its 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 makes 330kW and 650Nm – but it’s no quicker to 100km/h, despite its premium price point.
It’s a similar proposition from the Mercedes-Benz stable. The $127,900 GLE500 packs a 4.7-litre twin-turbo V8 with 300kW and 600Nm – good for a 5.3 second sprint from 0-100km/h.
Despite using the same drivetrain as the standard Grand Cherokee SRT, Jeep claims the lightweight suspension components of the Night package help to reduce its kerb weight, which should mean even faster acceleration times at the Sydney Dragway, but not before a drive through the National Park, South of Sydney, to get reacquainted with the Jeep’s road manners.
We'd forgotten how good this thing sounds when you give the throttle a decent prod. It’s one-half battle tank and one-half old-school muscle car and the tempo rises alongside the rev counter.
It goes hard too. In fact, you’d never know you were hauling around more than 2.2 tonnes of high-riding luxury SUV, given the lag-free throttle response and its ability to cover ground – quickly.
There’s tremendous traction as all four wheels grip the tarmac and make light work of the tight twisty sections in these parts. It’s the combination of the extra-wide Pirelli run-flats and Quadra-Trac SRT all-wheel drive system that allows this Jeep to seemingly defy the laws of physics as we know it.
Even the hairpins are easily demolished thanks to an excellent electric power steering system that feels meaty, quick and more responsive than the previous system. Body control is also very well sorted, with little or no body roll experienced, despite its rather enormous on-road profile.
Unfortunately, there’s a price to be paid for such complete body control, and it comes in the form of a firm and often fidgety ride over anything but a smooth surface.
Sure, there’s a decent variety of all-new drive modes available (Custom, Auto, Sport, Track, Snow, Tow, Eco) but none of the suspension settings offer the kind of compliance you might expect of a luxury SUV, notwithstanding the SRT’s strong performance bent.
The cabin, though, is a nice place to be. The list of standard equipment is truly exhaustive, and the Laguna leather upholstery is beautifully soft and supremely comfortable. Highlights include heated and ventilated seats (second row is also heated), heated steering wheel, adaptive cruise control and auto-braking systems are all standard fitment.
It’s a brilliant value-for-money proposition, which is why it’s a shame to have to call-out the cheaper plastics that are found scattered around the cockpit, namely the front seatback plates and bottom door trims.
Arriving at Sydney Motorsport Park there was a bit of a surprise in store – an off-road rally-cross-style circuit to prove the SRT Night can also cover off rough and muddy terrain at solid pace. Grip levels were surprisingly good and the big Jeep lapped it up with ease, refusing to bottom out through a sizeable dip at speed. More impressive than we would have believed of this model.
The Dragway, though, is where this monster-powered jeep is supposed to shine and it didn’t disappoint.
Engage Sport or Track modes, hit the launch control button, left foot hard on the brake pedal and nail the throttle. Release the brake as the Christmas tree lights up the third orange globe, and you’re gone.
Jeep claims mid 13-seconds for the quarter-mile run, but we were clocking as low as 13.1 seconds, with regular runs in the 13.3 second range – certainly well under factory claims.
There are some that might choose to quibble about the $7000 premium for the SRT Night over the standard Jeep Cherokee SRT, but for those that want the ultimate Jeep with a stealthy look and even more kit, it’s still the bang-for-buck performance SUV king.