Still America’s beast.
It can be argued that the propagation of crossovers and SUVs has been driven by customers’ pragmatic concerns. Automakers’ efforts to add sexiness and actual sportinessto the sport-utility genre has produced awesome products on its fringe, such as the bawdy, Hemi-powered Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. In SRT form, the Grand Cherokee is transformed into a fat-fendered caricature of itself that blows the mental processors of most sane people. But as it turns out, buckets of charisma can be found on the far side of common sense.
The model debuted as the 420-hp Grand Cherokee SRT8, which ran from 2006 until 2011. The 470-hp, second-gen version landed in 2012 like a meteor; its suffix was abbreviated to SRT for 2014, the same year it received a mild facelift and a new eight-speed automatic complete with launch control. Since then, the 6.4-liter behemoth under the hood has found 5 more horsepower and another 5 lb-ft of torque, for totals of 475 and 470. With a cosmetic freshening for 2017, the SRT Jeep has become the highly evolved offering it is today.
Over the years, the hot-rod Grand Cherokee has been subjected to numerous C/Dcomparison tests that it never wins, primarily because the only other brands nervy enough to fill an SUV’s engine bay with this much horsepower also bring a commensurate amount of luxury, refinement, and pedigree, all of which the Jeep hasn’t been able to match.
That said, none of those previous Grand Cherokee SRT test vehicles had an interior as handsome and luxurious as the one in this particular example, with its saddle-colored hides, carbon-fiber trim, and microsuede headliner accompanied by a slew of options, including a panoramic sunroof ($2095), a dual-screen rear-seat entertainment system ($1995), and a premium audio system (also $1995). Even after adding a $995 trailer-tow package, an $895 set of Pirelli P Zero Run Flat summer tires wrapped around a $1295 set of 20-inch wheels, plus the $1295 Brembo brake calipers, our Jeep’s seemingly ambitious $78,455 as-tested price is still tens of thousands of dollars less than any similarly equipped high-performance SUVs from Porsche, Land Rover, or Mercedes-Benz.
But SRT customers aren’t usually interested in the value proposition as much as the performance delivered, and this Jeep does not disappoint. Sixty mph is dispatched in 4.4 seconds and the quarter-mile in 13 flat. In 30-to-50-mph passing acceleration, we measured 2.9 seconds, and 50 to 70 took 3.2 seconds. These are explosive numbers by SUV standards—although, subjectively, the Jeep doesn’t really feel as fast as it is. For jobs beyond straight-line acceleration, Jeep provides multiple driving modes that vary front/rear torque distribution from 50/50 in Snow and Tow modes to 40/60 in Auto, 35/65 in Sport, and 30/70 in Track.
Those fancy red six-piston front and four-piston rear Brembo brake calipers and the aforementioned P Zeros yanked this 5291-pound beast down from 70 mph in 168 feet, six feet longer than in our last test, while lateral grip was 0.87 g, remarkable for such a massive, high-riding vehicle; we only wish the quick steering offered at least some road feel.
Had we wanted to, we could have towed a 7200-pound trailer, but we just wanted to haul ass, which explains our 14-mpg average fuel economy for our two weeks with the truck, most of which was spent blasting from stoplight to stoplight. We’ll admit to being intoxicated by the sounds of that snarling Hemi, some 83 decibels worth entering the cabin at wide-open throttle. On the highway, however, the SRT chills out to a luxury-car-like 69 decibels at 70 mph, thanks to active noise cancellation, which also helps mask the aural annoyances when the engine has entered cylinder-deactivation mode.
We love the thick, flat-bottom steering wheel; the deeply sculpted front sport seats; and the nifty SRT Performance Pages available in the 8.4-inch Uconnect infotainment system. Even the revised styling, which some of us didn’t like at first, has grown on us. And others appear to agree, based on the slack-jawed stares that two nearly identical versions of this Jeep garnered as we rumbled around Los Angeles and Michigan.
This time around, our experience with the Grand Cherokee SRT was seasoned by the daunting awareness that, as crazy as this truck is, things will get crazier once the Hellcat-endowed version starts trolling the streets. The fringes of the crossover world are about to get more awesome than ever.