The Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT is a bit of a conundrum. A thundering V8 in a hulk of a 4WD designed with who knows what in mind, offering a thrill in a straight line and some competence off the tarmac – it is head shaking stuff.
Yet because of all this, rather than in spite of it, the SRT is also decidedly likeable.
I’m partial to a V8 despite its impracticality, and the Grand Cherokee SRT offers the sort of value for money and stirring drive that deserves a second glance. A week in the driving seat merely reiterated that view.
The SRT is unapologetically aggressive and with a slimmer refashioned grille, new bumper and arresting bonnet with heat extractors it is head-turning too. Yes, of course it may seem slightly ridiculous but there is also something endearing about its bold brashness too.
On the inside this Grand Cherokee is starting to show its age just a bit, falling short of some of its European rivals when it comes to finish and choice of materials and textures. Still, the cabin is a comfortable place in which to spend time, the SRT’s grand proportions translating into oodles of head and leg room for all occupants.
The special SRT leaning is there to see on the monogrammed leather and suede seats, special flat bottomed steering wheel and the optional 19-speaker premium audio system.
For your $91,000 you also get an array of on-trend technological and safety features as well as more aesthetically pleasing fancies including 20-inch wheels, heated steering and seats, adaptive LED headlights, auto lights and wipers, rechargeable torch and reverse camera just to name a handful.
A 8.4-inch colour touchscreen is the face of the Grand Cherokee’s uConnect infotainment system which is easy to use but not totally trouble free. Shortcut buttons at the bottom of the screen make navigating the system a cinch and you can also access special off-road and performance pages, the latter featuring a G-force metre, lap timer and a number of fluid gauges.
You will find the controls for the heated seats located within its depths – weird place to have them but easy enough to work once you find them.
The graphics are good, colour is uniform and the reverse camera features rear trailer view to make sure your belongings are actually along for the ride. We did find the voice control functionality was not always reliable which can be a little frustrating.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
A thumping 6.4-litre Hemi V8 affords the SRT a sonorous thunder roar, one I might add, just quietly, that is not only thrilling but mildly addictive. It is hardly surprising that given this kind of fire power – 344kW and 624Nm – the Grand Cherokee SRT is not shy on the move, gathering momentum without fuss and then maintaining it just as easily.
An updated eight-speed automatic transmission is a worthy companion and there are paddle shifters should you wish to go it alone.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee has a comprehensive safety package including seven airbags, stability and trailer sway control, Active Emergency Braking, Blind Spot and Lane Departure Warning, Rear Cross Path Detection, Advanced Brake Assist, Rain Brake Support and Park Assist.
While safety systems are invaluable they can sometimes be a little eager which the AEB system proving the case here. Ours was unnecessarily triggered by parked cars in a shopping centre or on the curve of a road and by the palms that line our driveway.
If nothing else, the launch control button in the centre console gives some indication of this beast’s prowess in a straight line, 0-100km in just 4.9sec is no mean feat.
There is no getting away from the considerable bulk of the SRT, yet interestingly enough it still manages to show some finesse around tight corners and is a veritable twinkle toes when it comes to parking in tight spots.
The electronically enabled steering is not exactly light but does offer reasonable feedback and accuracy, the Brembo brakes are more than adept at keeping it in line and the updated eight-speed auto transmission is attuned to every nuance.
You can choose from seven modes, Custom, Auto, Eco and Sport to suit your driving styles and Track, Snow or Tow to suit the conditions. Each mode adapts the stability control, suspension damping and the throttle mapping to produce the required performance.
The analogue speedo to the left of the instrument panel would require the eyes of a hawk to decipher but luckily you are spared from squinting by the digital readout which sits neatly within the tacho.
The front seats are rather comfortable and electrically adjustable with a nice-looking gear stick close to hand and enough storage to soothe. Those in the rear seat are hardly forgotten, able to indulge in heated seats and USB ports and able to avail themselves of the storage offered by deep door bins, net back pockets and cup holders in the pull-down centre rest if needed.
Cargo space in the 782-litre boot is hard to fault, growing to a massive 1554-litres with the 60:40 seats folded flat. The space itself is very usable despite the fact that the button to close the boot electronically is oddly placed. A 12v plug, though, adds to the practicality.
Despite the adaptive suspension, the SRT can feel a little rough on the bumps, almost too firm for a completely comfortable ride and there is at times a fair bit of tyre noise to contend with.
The SRT can shut down four-cylinders when not required in order to save fuel but you are still likely to be a frequent traveller to the petrol station. We found it hard to get close to the official 14L/100km, languishing instead around the 17.5L/100km mark. That seems a fair exchange for the thrill of the V8, but you may not agree.
Reassuringly the warranty is now five years/100,000km with free roadside assist for that time. Service intervals are 12months/12,000km with a five-year capped-price scheduled servicing agreement.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee is bold and brash and fun. It is American after all. It probably doesn’t make sense but with that thumping engine it doesn’t need to. Is it a crazy proposition? Yes, but who cares? If your head is turned by the notion of a good value performance SUV with a powerful engine note, then you may have in the SRT a kindred spirit.
AT A GLANCE
Price: from $91,000 (plus on-road costs)
Engine: 6.4-litre eight-cylinder petrol
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel: 14L/100km (ADR Combined)CO2: 327g/km
Safety Rating: Five Star ANCAP
What we liked:
Punchy throaty engine
Bold, brash and unapologetic
What we didn’t:
Space saver spare
Cheap plastics in some parts of cabin
Firm ride at times