Tough on-road machine: Jeep’s Grand Cherokee SRT is a real hotshot

Tough on-road machine: Jeep’s Grand Cherokee SRT is a real hotshot

When I was a young fellow getting seriously into road testing cars back in the 1980s, Brock Commodores were the kings of the Australian roads. On the main straight at Oran Park raceway in Sydney I strove to get standing quarter mile (400-metre) times under 15 seconds from each new Brock as it was introduced, but could never quite manage it.

Fast forward to 2013 and I’ve just done acceleration figures on a hot ‘car’ on the drag strip at Willowbank raceway in Queensland. It ran an easy 13.4 seconds up the strip, almost two seconds quicker than the hot Brocks.

That 13-second ‘car’ was actually a truck, a Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT to be precise. Like the hot Commodore the SRT had a big-cube V8 engine. While the modified Holden had a capacity of ‘only’ 5.0 litres, the big Jeep had no less than 6.4 litres behind its iconic seven-slot grille.

Not only was the Jeep SRT helped by the relentless improvements in automotive technology over the years, it also had the benefit of four-wheel-drive to minimise wheelspin off the line, electronic launch control ensured each of the Jeep’s four tyres got just the right amount of torque from moment to moment through the Quadra-Trac 4WD system. Finally, it was running on sticky tarmac at Willowbank.

OK, it had a lot going for it, but the big Jeep SRT was still a two-tonne truck and it was putting down ridiculously quick times.

I mentioned the relentless improvements in technology, but the engine of the Grand Cherokee SRT (the acronym for Sport & Racing Technology) is still an old-style Hemi V8 without any overhead camshafts or multi-valves. No, siree, this big 392-cubic inch, 460 powerplant has just two overhead valves per cylinder and they’re activated by by old-fashioned pushrods.

Where the technology is evident, though, is in a thoroughly modern electronic fuel injection system.

The Hemi V8 produces 344 kW of power at 6250 rpm (big revs for a large capacity V8) and a handy 624 Nm of torque at 4100 rpm.

Not only did the big Hemi V8 perform to perfection on the dragstrip, it sounded the part as well. After winning my two drag races against other journos (it’s hard to sound modest when you’re talking about a hotrod like this!) I stood at the start line and enjoyed the big V8 roar as others competed. The way the noise echoed from the concrete side walls was simply magnificent.

Out on public roads we loved the sound and feel of the big Jeep, though it has to be said the feel is on the firm side at times on rough and ready Aussie backroads. Near instantaneous acceleration and the fast acting eight-speed automatic transmission made for ridiculously short overtaking distances, making this one very safe SUV.

On the subject of safety, the big Jeep Grand Cherokees have numerous crash avoidance and/or minimisation items. These include Forward Collision Warning with Crash Mitigation; Adaptive Cruise Control; Reversing camera; and ParkSense park assist. The 4WD models also have Hill Ascent Control and Hill Descent Control.

Secondary safety sees the protection of seven airbags (multi-stage driver and front passenger); front seat side airbags; curtain airbags; and a driver’s knee airbag.

Fuel consumption? If you need to ask you should be shopping for something else. Despite having an engine that can revert to being a four-cylinder unit in light-duty running this big machine still likes a drink. Expect to be using 12 to 15 litres per hundred kilometres in normal driving, and even more in around town commuting.

There’s no mistaking the new Grand Cherokee SRT thanks to its sporting body features, with a black, seven-slot front grille. The LED tail lamps have black surrounds. A new design of rear spoiler is integrated into the electronically-operated tailgate. Naturally there are SRT badges, done in the new design for this latest upgrade of the model.

Grand Cherokee SRT has standard 20-inch Goliath polished alloy wheels, 20-inch split five-spoke Spider Monkey alloys are available as an option.

Should you get tired of the sound of the engine, which seems unlikely, the Grand Cherokee SRT has a high quality 19-speaker, 825-Watt Harman Kardon surround sound audio system.

Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT uses an exclusive leather interior in two colours combinations – Black Nappa leather with perforated suede and light slate grey accent stitching as standard, and Laguna leather with perforated suede in Sepia with silver accent stitching as an option. Both leather trim combinations are matched with sporting carbon fibre details on the instrument panel and doors.

Priced at a pretty reasonable $76,000 (plus on-road costs) the hot Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT is something for those who love big and brash stuff in their motoring lives.

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
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