by: Mike Ginsca
Take a normal, common vehicle and dump a big engine in it. That has been the strategy of American auto manufacturers since the invention of the automobile. And in this day and age, it’s no different. The Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT is the latest everyday vehicle to receive a racing derived engine along with bigger wheels, bigger brakes, and a bigger grin on your face.
Performance – What Jeep’s engineers have done with the Grand Cherokee SRT is take out the standard V6 engine that it originally came with and stuffed a massive 6.4L V8 engine. The naturally aspirated V8 produces 470 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque. The 0-100 km/h test gets done in just 4.6 seconds thanks to all-wheel-drive, 295 wide tires (that’s 295 wide rear and front tires, yes you read that correctly), and a launch control system. Now when’s the last time you saw a “launch control” button in an SUV? Engaging it is very simple. Press the button, left foot on the brake, plant your right foot on the throttle, release the brake and feel what astronauts feel when the space shuttle launches. There are faster vehicles out there that can reach 100 km/h but for an SUV that tips the scales at 2,336 kg, it is an impressive feat. Everything about this SUV is over the top and outrageous, including the way it drives.
You are aware of the fact that you’re in a high riding SUV and that it has a hefty weight, but every time your foot goes near the throttle, it doesn’t matter. The engine’s massive torque always pushes your body into the back of the seat. When you’re not being squished by the acceleration, you’re being tossed around from side to side because this big SUV can actually go around corners. As mentioned earlier, massive 295 section wide tires envelop all 4 wheels. The wide tires provide excellent grip and through corners you may think to yourself “Why am I not going faster?”. Coupled with the AWD system and rock hard suspension, the Grand Cherokee SRT will go faster around corners than your brain thinks it can. Braking is also an impressive feat thanks to Brembo calipers on all 4 corners that look like vicious caged animals behind the black 20” wheels.
Comfort – Jeep has definitely improved the interior of the Grand Cherokee over previous generations but for an almost $80,000 vehicle when new, it’s still lacking some higher quality interior materials. Yes, you do get leather and suede but you also get some touches of cheap feeling plastics on the dash. The Uconnect infotainment and climate control system is surprisingly intuitive to use and takes away much of the physical buttons and knobs that would otherwise clutter the center console. You also get the SRT performance telematics system with your Grand Cherokee SRT which measures things like 0-100 km/h time, lateral G’s, and braking times (among other things). The cabin is also surprisingly well insulated. You can listen to your music on the 19-speaker sound system but it’s not so well insulated to the point here you can’t hear the engine. So you have a choice, listen to Justin Bieber or put your foot down and listen to the snarling V8. I think that’s a pretty obvious choice.
However it’s not all good inside the cabin, especially on the move. Because of the heavy engine and performance oriented nature of the Grand Cherokee SRT, the suspension is uncomfortably hard regardless of what road you drive over. Also shifting done by the 8-speed automatic transmission makes for just as an uncomfortable drive. The Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT has different drive modes but it really doesn’t matter which one you’re in because none of the modes offer a silky smooth transmission shift.
Odds and Ends – Although Jeep’s engineers missed in a few areas of the interior, the exterior is a home run. It looks like a menacing beast, like something that Lucifer would drive if he were to walk on the Earth. There are nice touches all around the SUV from the blacked out taillamps to the Brembo brakes peering though the wheels to the vents in the hood that really do look like a monster’s nostrils.
However there are some idiotic features that make you wonder why that’s even there? First, is the fact that this SRT has an “Eco” mode. Putting an eco mode on a vehicle like this is as daft as drinking only beer because it hydrates you. Official figures put fuel economy at 16.6 L/100km in a city and it doesn’t get any better on a highway at 10.7 L/100km. Another feature it could do without is the “joystick” style shifter. This style of shifter has been linked to countless accidents, injuries, and some fatalities because of the un-intuitive operation. Push it forward to try to put it into Reverse and you’ll accidentally hit Park. The rotary shifter from the Chrysler 300C or 200S would have been much better options to go with or just a boring, traditional gear selector.
“What’s the point of having an SUV like this?” you might be asking yourself. The honest answer is because you just can… and maybe bragging rights has a little something to do with it as well. It may not be perfect. It may not be for everyone. But somehow it works and it slaps the face of the more expensive luxury brands with its cheaper price tag and “devilish” performance.
Thank you to Eagle Ridge GM for providing the vehicle. www.EagleRidgeGM.com
Editor at large and gearhead. Can drive anything on 4 or 2 wheels... sometimes 3 wheels too.