The word ‘mental’ best describes the Grand Cherokee SRT. Known as the SRT8 in the rest of the world (Jeep dropped the ‘8’ for the UK market) it is the most powerful vehicle in the company’s history, sourcing power from a 6.4-litre HEMI V8 rated at 461bhp.
It’s clearly an American brute which has designs on competing with fast, luxurious European rivals such as the Porsche Cayenne S, Range Rover Sport Supercharged and BMW X5 xDrive 5.0i M Sport.
We had the opportunity to review Jeep’s new flagship on the narrow mountain roads in the Piedmont region of Italy — a venue fitting only because of its proximity to Fiat’s (Chrysler’s parent company) headquarters in Turin. Here’s how it stacked up.
The Grand Cherokee SRT features a number of exterior design enhancements over the standard Grand Cherokee, all administered with functionality and increased badassery in mind. Riding 30mm lower than the stock vehicle, the SRT comes fitted with bespoke 20-inch wheels, aggressively flared wheel arches and bonnet-mounted heat extractors to vent the sweltering aggression bubbling beneath.
The characteristic seven-slot Jeep grille — outlined in chrome with black inserts – adorns the front end, while LED daytime running lamps feature just above chrome-trimmed brake cooling ducts. At the rear, a dual sport exhaust system is integrated into a new rear diffuser while a liftgate-mounted rear spoiler not only adds downforce, but also conveniently results in reducing drag — an unintentional benefit according to Chrysler’s vehicle dynamics engineers.
Inside, Jeep couldn’t choose between leather or suede seats, so it went with both, padded them with beefy side bolsters and embroidered the SRT logo on the seat backs. Other design details include a flat bottom steering wheel, leather shift knob, carbon fibre accents, a leather instrument panel and door trims, and race-inspired pedals — all of which enhance the performance feel of the cabin.
Regrettably the quality of the materials, particularly the plastics, is not on par with other vehicles in this segment.
The SRT retains the Grand Cherokee’s interior dimensions, which means there’s a voluminous 782-litre boot and the rear seat backs fold conveniently flat to accommodate larger items across the load area. With the rear seat folded, boot space soars to 1,554 litres.
There are numerous large storage bins in the cabin, including a massive centre console cubby, which stores objects across two levels. The door pockets are large enough to accommodate 500ml drinks bottles and a large compartment at the base of the centre stack is big enough to house just about anything you might have in your pockets.
Performance & Handling
The SRT is a powerful beast. The new 6.4-litre HEMI effectively increases output by 43bhp and 55Nm torque over the 6.1-litre V8 that powered the previous generation, so you can expect fireworks every time your foot meanders near the go pedal.
There are five different driving modes to choose from: auto, snow, tow, sport and track. The latter two are the most useful for explosive performance thanks to the fact they channel 65 per cent of the engine’s power through the vehicle’s rear wheels.
With all cylinders blazing, straight-line performance is brutal; it can reach 62mph from a standstill in a scant 5 seconds — two-tenths faster than a manual Porsche Cayman S. The power delivery is buttery smooth, coupled with a beautifully baritone exhaust note that could only be achieved from a melodious V8. It’s fitting, then, that the exhaust outlets are reminiscent of trumpets.
In Sport mode, the engine management system and transmission calibration is altered to provide a more direct response to jabs of the right pedal, and the adaptive suspension firms up whilst still providing compliant compression. This was our preferred mode. In track mode, the suspension is at its firmest setting and can be quite harsh.
If that power delivery in the default auto mode is a bit too silky for your tastes, the five-speed transmission can also be shifted manually. Unlike other manual shift modes, the transmission actually holds on to gears until the driver decides to shift up, bouncing off the redline and maintaining the gear selected. This is very welcome, particularly on a track where electronic intervention can be a real pain.
While engineers have worked tirelessly to get the SRT’s handling to reflect the car’s power output, there’s simply no getting around that this is a big, heavy SUV. Weighing in at 2,360kg, there is an obvious amount of bulk being hurtled around when cornering. No matter how brilliant the efforts of the SRT team, physics comes into play. Nimble it is not.
The brakes, courtesy of Brembo, feature huge 380mm discs at the front paired with six-piston callipers (350mm/four-piston rear) to ensure all that mass is brought to a standstill safely and effectively. The brake pedal takes some getting used to, though. It’s overly soft when first applied and, under hard application, the car is easily unsettled over uneven road surfaces.
Economy & Environment
Fitted with Chrysler’s ‘fuel saver’ technology, the SRT’s 6.4-litre V8 is able to switch off half of its cylinder bank and run on four-cylinder power. This feature enables the SRT to decrease fuel consumption by 13 per cent over the previous 6.1-litre HEMI engine whilst increasing power and torque ratings by 10 per cent.
Yet even with this increase in fuel economy and decrease in overall emissions, the SRT is still not a vehicle for those concerned with CO2 emissions or mpg figures. Over the course of our (somewhat spirited) drive in the Italian countryside, we achieved an average of 18mpg — not too shabby considering the powerful nature of the beast. Jeep claims 20mpg combined is possible along with 328g/km if you’re interested, which you’re probably not.
Equipment & Value
The Grand Cherokee SRT comes fitted with a good array of standard equipment, including bi-xenon headlamps; rain-sensing wipers; heated and ventilated leather and suede seats; dual-zone air conditioning; a panoramic dual-pane sunroof; and a navigation and infotainment system with 6.5-inch touchscreen that shows DVD video and images from a rear backup camera. An 825-watt 19-speaker Harmon Kardon surround-sound system, voice activated Bluetooth and adaptive cruise control are also standard.
It’s probaby quite easy for novice (or extremely cocky drivers) to get into trouble driving the SRT, so it’s just as well it comes with a host of safety featurs. These include ABS, ESP with electronic rollover mitigation, multi-stage air bags and full-length side-curtain air bags as well as a driver’s knee bag, active head restraints and a tyre pressure monitoring system.
The SRT also features Forward Collision Warning and Blind-Spot Detection with rear Cross-Path Detection. The latter is particularly useful as it alerts you if you’re about to collide with a passing vehicle whilst reversing out of your driveway or a parking space. We found the collision warning system to be overly sensitive, though, shouting at us to brake as we entered a corner without putting the Brembos to use. That could get annoying rather quickly.
The Grand Cherokee SRT is Jeep’s attempt at demonstrating it’s a pony with more than one trick. It makes good off roaders, sure, but when push comes to shove it can also make a damn good performance-oriented hyper brick.
It undercuts the potent Range Rover Sport Supercharged in price, is faster to 62mph and has a higher top speed. Its straight line performance also bests the BMW X5 xDrive 5.0i M Sport and Porsche Cayenne S and it offers more power and torque, though the Germans counter with better driving dynamics and interior quality.
As a powerful straight-line performer that can ferry an Ikea wardrobe, the Grand Cherokee SRT presents good value for money, especially if you don’t mind spending time in petrol stations. And as it’s currently available on special order only, you can be guaranteed not to see many examples swarming around UK roads anytime soon.
Model Tested: Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT
Engine: 6.4-litre V-8 HEMI with Fuel Saver Technology
Power: 461bhp @ 6250rpm
Torque: 624Nm @ 4100rpm
Acceleration: 0-62 in 5 seconds
Top speed: 160mph
Emissions: 328g/km of CO2
Price: £58,995 OTR
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