THE JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE SRT IS THE AUTOMOTIVE EQUIVALENT OF BRUCE BANNER IN HULK MODE - JUST A NORMAL EVERYDAY SUV TRANSFORMED INTO A SNORTING, SNARLING BEAST.
With the 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT Night Edition, the visual package has been given the once-over with black exterior accents, a set of satin-black wheels and Brembo brake hardware.
Refined and brutal at the same time, the Grand Cherokee SRT Night occupies a space that only much more expensive high-performance SUVs from Europe dare occupy.
Vehicle Style: Large performance SUV
Price: $97,000 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 344kW/624Nm 6.4 8cyl petrol | 8sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 14.0 l/100km | Tested: 15.8 l/100km
When it comes to high-performance SUVs, you might be inclined to think of Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Porsche, and maybe even Range Rover, but to put your family into one of those requires a shockingly high entry ticket.
Leave it to America then to offer the same kind of brutal performance at a much lower price tag, with off-road specialist Jeep applying the Street and Racing Technology treatment to the Grand Cherokee.
Not that it hasn’t crept up over the years, priced at $77,000 when it first appeared in 2013, the current Grand Cherokee SRT now starts at $90,000, and for the optioned-up SRT Night the ask is $97,000
But, with a full suite of advanced driver aids, high specification levels, and simply monstrous performance, the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT Night Edition still manages to hold its title as a bargain buy in performance and luxury terms.
- Standard equipment: Nappa leather trim, dual-zone climate control, radar cruise control 7.0-inch configurable TFT instrument display, eight-way power adjustable front seats with heating and cooling, heated rear seats with adjustable backrest angle active noise cancellation, panoramic sunroof with powered blind,
- Infotainment: 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen, satellite navigation, AM/FM/DAB+ radio, single CD player, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, 19-speaker Harman Kardon audio
- Cargo volume: 782 litres to rear seatbacks, 1554 litres seats down
If it’s pure square-meterage you’re after, the Grand Cherokee has plenty of space. As far as SUVs go, it’s at the bigger end of the scale, and with only two rows of seats, no-one need be squeezed in.
The front seats are armchair-like, big, broad and comfortable enough to sink into on a long trip without any pinch-points, but with enough bolstering to keep occupants from sliding out when the heat is on.
And speaking of heat, the front and rear seats are heated, as is the steering wheel, with the fronts cooled as well. You’ll also find that full leather in the Night Edition replaces the partial leather of the regular SRT.
The colour scheme inside is black-on-black, befitting its performance positioning, with carbon highlights in the dash and doors, but at night an illuminated SRT logo in the steering wheel feels a little tawdry in an otherwise premium interior.
Ahead of the driver a 7.0-inch configurable instrument cluster displays vital information, while the centre screen, at 8.4-inches houses Fiat Chrysler’s Uconnect infotainment system with controls for navigation, entertainment, and vehicle functions.
The Night edition also comes standard with a dual pane panoramic sunroof and a thumping 19-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, normally a $3900 option package.
Cargo space behind the powered tailgate measures 782 litres behind the rear seats, or 1554 litres with the seats folded.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 344kW/624Nm 6.4 litre naturally aspirated V8
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, all wheel drive
- Suspension: Selec-Track adaptive damping
- Brakes: Four-wheel disc brakes, grooved front rotors, Brembo calipers
- Steering: (type, electrically assisted, variable-ratio rack, etc, turning circle)
- Towing capacity: 2949kg braked, 750kg unbraked
The engine under the bonnet of the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT is pure Americana. No forced induction, no downsizing, just good old fashioned, naturally aspirated, large capacity Yee Ha!
In fact, there’s 344kW of power at 6250rpm and 624Nm of torque at 4100rpm - no small amount of get-up-and-go, even considering the the SRT’s circa 2.2 tonne weight.
There’s a few different ways to approach such a monster.
In full Hulk mode there’s launch control, which rockets the SRT from standstill to the legal limit in 4.8 seconds, as well as an array of performance timing apps that make the Grand Cherokee SRT feel more like a sports sedan than a family SUV.
Of course, it doesn’t always have to be that way - in and around town the SRT doesn’t drive all that differently from a regular Grand Cherokee, able to amble gently around town with its more outlandish tendencies hidden (except for the threatening rumble at the exhaust).
The sports tuned air-suspension is a little more tightly buttoned down than you’ll find in a regular Grand Cherokee too, but never harsh or uncomfortable. It makes do with a little less 'travel', meaning rugged off-road jaunts are off the agenda.
More than just a bauble to fill the space between the impossibly thin spokes of the satin black 20-inch ‘5Ten’ alloy wheels, the Brembo brakes clamping down on huge grooved front rotors are well and truly up to the task of hauling the big Jeep down.
Sadly, some things are unavoidable, and as quick as the SRT is in a straight line, it struggles to mask its weight once a few bends are thrown into the mix. Then, you'll feel the weight shift as momentum fights the logic of physics.
Steering too lacks pinpoint accuracy, and on a series of flowing corners the Grand Cherokee tends to approximate its position between apexes, rather than threading them together, with little in the way of feel or feedback.
The SRT also features what Jeep calls ‘fuel saver technology’ shutting down four cylinders under steady-state light load conditions between 1200 and 3000rpm.
You’ll know when it's running thanks to a lumpy vibration shuddering through the car, but Jeep has been considerate enough to add an Eco switch, which turns the system off, meaning the unpleasantness can be avoided.
ANCAP rating: 5/5 Stars - The Grand Cherokee range scored 34.09 out of 37 possible points when tested in 2014.
Safety features: Dual front airbags, side airbags, curtain airbags and a drivers knee airbag, electronic stability control, trailer sway control, rollover mitigation and ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and rough road detection, active front head restraints, height adjustable pretensioning front seat belts, and tyre pressure sensors.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Want to carry the family as quickly as possible with a budget of around $100k? You won’t find another SUV with the SRT’s credentials. A Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S or BMW X5 M might be in the same league, but before options they’re almost double the price.
The Volkswagen Touareg V8 TDI R-Line has some similarities too, but you could be forced into something smaller, like the Audi SQ5, or maybe a Porsche Macan, if the family will fit.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Jeep has managed to blur the line between genuine performance hardware and family SUV with the Grand Cherokee SRT. Of course it won’t suit all tastes, but that’s hardly the point.
Although it isn’t quite what most family budgets would view as ‘cheap’, it certainly puts more horsepower underfoot than almost any other large SUV outside of the prestige market, while still delivering a solid level of equipment and technology.
Not only that, but if you’re quick you can secure the uniquely-styled Night Edition, with its ominous black-out exterior and sinister alloy wheels to give the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT a unique and sophisticated styling edge.
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