Monday, 26 September 2016

REVIEW – Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT

Since I first got behind the wheel of the new Jeep Grand Cherokee back in 2013 I have been itching to spend some more time with it. Little did I expect that when I got to do, it would be no ordinary Grand Cherokee. You see this was the fire-breathing, rip-snorting SRT. That means it has a whopping great V8 under the bonnet and the economic credentials of the average coal power plant. But then this a car designed for the hardcore petrolheads amongst us; something I would like to think I am. So I grabbed the keys, and went to see what all the fuss is about.

Looks – 9/10

The Grand Cherokee is a sizeable car, and with the SRT touches it has a remarkable presence. At the front you notice the gaping air intakes. The gloss black accents offer a wonderful contrast to the Deep Cheery Red paint. To the side you get 20-inch black chrome alloy wheels, chunky door handles and some of the biggest wing mirrors I have ever seen. The arches are bulging and broad, leading to the rear of the car (which is all that most people will get to see!) Only a small SRT badge and two flared exhausts give a hint to other motorists that this is a serious piece of kit. Overall the Grand Cherokee is a nice blend of bold chunkiness and some subtle curves. The SRT model looks fantastic from all angles, and is eye-catching in shop windows as you drive past.

Inside, the cabin feels somewhat smaller than the exterior would lead you believe. Part of this is down to the American-sized front seats. They do however offer nice support to the side and shoulder bolsters and, finished in half leather and alcantara, look very inviting. The controls are all very macho and chunky, from the gear selector to the steering wheel (which I could just about get my hands around!). The cabin is finished with carbon-effect and aluminium trim, which compliments the nice plastics and heaps of leather. The dials are relatively simple, but offer a wide range of customisation; from fuel economy to your best 0-60mph sprint time.

Handling/Performance – 10/10

The Grand Cherokee SRT is all about performance. Under the bonnet lies a 6.4-litre V8 HEMI. It’s an absolute beast, offering 461PS and 624Nm of torque. Sent to all four wheels via an 8-speed automatic gearbox this 2.4-tonne leviathan is capable of going from 0-62mph in 5.0-seconds, and will keep going all the way to 160mph. You get the traditional V8 rumble from under the bonnet, though overall the Jeep is a little quieter than you’d expect. There are numerous drive modes, and built-in launch control. This was my favourite feature on the SRT, and I was simply staggered at how quickly this car lurches off the line. It’s simply remarkable. Stay in normal mode and the Grand Cherokee is almost civilised. It’s not harsh on throttle response and is easy to drive round town. It site comfortably on the motorway, just waiting to be unleashed to overtake the car(s) in front.

Despite its size and stature, I think the SRT handles damn well. The 4WD grip is a big factor in dealing with such a large amount of power. The suspension is firm enough to prevent excessive pitch and roll in the corners (although there is still a bit if you get really keen), and works well on bumpier B-roads. The big seats ensure that you can’t call this car uncomfortable whatever the surface. There are also modes for Snow - to ensure that you don’t scare yourself to death in British winter- and Tow- so you don’t split the broken car in half! That chunky steering wheel offers a direct response, which comes in handy should you select Track mode, which makes the SRT a bit tail happy. Stopping power is provided by 380mm, six-piston Brembos all round which make deceleration almost as impressive as acceleration. More importantly they give you more confidence to unleash the SRT, safe in the knowledge you can rein it in again too.

Economy – 4/10

To some extent this section could be considered irrelevant. If you’re considering buying a 6.4-litre, 2.4-tonne SUV then I hardly think the Green Party will be counting on your vote. But in the essence of being fair, I will nonetheless talk about economy. It’s terrible. Quoted combined fuel consumption is 20.2mpg. The SRT has a clever system which can shut off a bank of 4 cylinders when driving gently, and this is still all you get. Be enthusiastic with the loud pedal, and watch this figure dwindle away. You’ll find yourself spending a lot of time at petrol stations, and with a 94.5-litre fuel tank these visits won’t come cheap. CO2 emissions of 327g/km put the SRT in VED band M (or “maximum”). That’s £1,120 in the first year and £515 thereafter. Ouch.

Practicality – 7/10

Now I will get the negatives out of the way first. This car is too big for British B-roads; meeting oncoming traffic is unnerving. You don’t want to take it on long drives because it empties itself of fuel very easily, and chances are this will lose more money than a Range Rover or German rival. But, the SRT is extremely well equipped as standard. Keyless entry and go, radar cruise control, power front seats, heated front and rear seats, 8.4-inch touch-screen multimedia system including satellite navigation and SRT Performance Pages, power tailgate and heated steering wheel. That’s just some of the goodies on offer, and all make the SRT an easy car to live with. Driving around town is fine, and parking isn’t too bad with front and rear sensors and a reversing camera. Cabin space is generous, and the boot is large enough for the dogs and the shopping.

Fun – 10/10

Whilst it lacks economical appeal, the SRT makes up for it with fun factor. Anybody who pushes that start button to hear the V8 burst into song will struggle to hide a smile. The SRT Performance Pages feature q whole host of gauges and timers, from a G-force meter to the 0-60mph timer, and ensure you can prove just how impressive the SRT is. Whilst the 0-62mph may be claimed as 5.0 seconds, I saw 0-60mph in 4.2 seconds, which is very impressive. The big SUV is not an image you would usually associate with petrolheads, but this car has so much charm that I wanted to drive it everywhere. And I did. Many people turned to look as you rumble past, and catching reflections in shop windows was a nice treat. All the while you can have your favourite music blasting out from the lovely Harmon Kardon Stereo, which is a nice output for the brilliant Uconnect system.

Concluding Remarks

So that concludes my week with the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. In many ways it is a pointless car. It’s too big, too powerful, too harmful to mother earth and- at £65,995- too expensive. And yet. It looks fantastic, with a true head-turning ability. The performance is exhilarating, and addictive. It still baffles me how fast this car is; not just for a big SUV, but full stop. And when you consider the alternatives (such as the Range Rover Sport V8, BMW X5 xDrive50i or Mercedes-Benz GLE AMG 43 or 63) then £65,995 is noticeably cheap, given that the Grand Cherokee is fully loaded as standard. So on that basis it’s a no brainer. And that’s definitely not how I thought this review would end! For more information visit the Jeep website or see a local dealer.

Total Score – 40/50

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