New car review: Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8New Car Reviews Motor Reviews Motor News
Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8
Jeep's new high-performance model - the Grand Cherokee SRT8.
- Grand Cherokee
- WK MY2012
- Badge Description
- Sports Automatic
- Engine Configuration Description
- Gear Num
- Build Country Origin Description
- Car Size
- Fuel Type Description
- Petrol - Premium ULP
- Drive Description
- 4X4 On Demand
- Warranty KM
- Mighty performance
- High driving position
- Keen price
- Mighty thirst
- Poor visibility
- Firm ride
Anyone who believes in electric vehicles, hybrids, global warming or any other form of automotive political correctness might as well stop reading now. The Grand Cherokee V8 is all about size, performance and a huge V8 engine. And it's all wrapped in an in-your-face SUV body that screams conspicuous consumption in the most brutal fashion imaginable.
This is Jeep's most powerful vehicle ever, fitted with the same 6.4-litre V8 that powers the Chrysler 300 SRT8 sedan. It weighs 2.3 tonnes, produces 344kW of power and accelerates to 100km/h in about five seconds. Its specifications read similarly to other uber-SUVs such as the Mercedes ML63 AMG or Porsche Cayenne Turbo, but the kicker line is that at $76,000 it costs less than half as much.
The whale-huggers might think the SRT8 is an anomaly of limited appeal, but they'd be wrong. All 300 allocated to Australia this year have been spoken for from a global production run of 4000, and next year Jeep hopes to put another 1000 on Australian roads. Clearly, it's a vehicle that many have been waiting for.
Price and equipment
The SRT8 is based on the same Grand Cherokee released last year that already comes with either V6 petrol or diesel or 5.7-litre V8 engines. It's a mid to large-sized wagon, conceived in the United States but built in Austria for right-hand-drive markets.
The SRT8 adds quite a bit to the Grand Cherokee mix. As well as the upgraded drivetrain (more later) it's had plenty of attitude ladled on in the styling department. Wider wheel arches wrap around 20-inch wheels, the front airdam incorporates extra cooling slots and LED daytime running lights, and the bonnet has air-extracting vents. It ain't subtle, and isn't meant to be.
Despite the keen pricing, the SRT8 is fully loaded with dual climate control, a touch-screen display including satellite navigation, leather and nappa-trimmed seats with power adjustment, a heated steering wheel, cruise control, Bluetooth, keyless entry and ignition and automatic wipers. A full-length sunroof is offered as an option.
Active safety is looked after by blind-spot protection, and frontal collision warning, and the four-wheel-drive system has various modes for different surfaces. There are seven airbags (knee bag included) and, let's face it, the Grand Cherokee's size and weight will make it the winner in many a collision with smaller cars.
Under the bonnet
There's no doubt about it, if anyone's in a hurry to get somewhere fast, the SRT8 will deliver. That big V8 responds with almost alarming gusto to throttle inputs: one passenger was even regularly retrieving her sunglasses, formerly mounted atop her head, from the back seat when this driver accelerated hard.
Light throttle inputs still give an effortless surge for that unmistakable V8 feeling that there's always more in reserve. That's despite maximum torque (or pulling power) of 624 stump-pulling Newton metres being developed quite high in the rev range at 4100rpm.
Maximum engine power is developed at 6250rpm or 1000rpm higher than the 5.7-litre V8, but we'd suggest anyone accessing this power at full throttle is going to be exceeding any speed limit fairly rapidly.
The automatic gearbox is a five-speed unit and not as sophisticated as some more modern six or eight-speed units, with the occasional clunky shift. Even if the engine's power delivery is able to mask gaps between the ratios well enough, it could make do with a three-speed.
The payback though is in high fuel consumption. Despite fuel-saving technology that at cruising speeds cuts cylinder activation so the V8 becomes a V4 (albeit a massive, 3.2-litre one) our combined country/city figure of 14.8 L/100km was not great. Jeep's own city figure of 20.9 L/100km is roughly twice that of the diesel Grand Cherokee and gives a scary indication of how quickly the 91-litre fuel tank is likely to be drained.
How it drives
The SRT8 benefits from adaptive control of its Bilstein dampers to automatically correct for pitch under acceleration and body movement over bumps and when cornering. The driver can furthermore select either Sport (firmer) or Track (very firm) modes to attenuate the suspension, as well as transmission, throttle input and stability control.
Add to that extremely wide tyres and the traction afforded by the all-wheel-drive system and there's never a hint of the engine's massive power spinning the wheels on bitumen, although on gravel the ESC is working overtime. Big Brembo brakes do an admirable job of hauling back all that mass.
Cornering grip is high and body movement is well controlled, but there's never any doubt this is a high and heavy SUV, not a sports car or even a V8 muscle sedan. The steering is almost overly sensitive (it has a quicker ratio than ordinary Grand Cherokees and, interestingly, gives a tighter turning circle) and requires constant re-adjustment to overcorrect too enthusiastic inputs. But the main impression is that the SRT is tightly tied-down and has plenty of cornering grip, unlike your average wallowing SUV.
The payback is in ride quality which, while not savagely harsh, is definitely jiggly over most surfaces and far from supple. Ride comfort deteriorates further if the suspension's higher performance modes are selected, but that's perhaps only to be expected.
Comfort and practicality
American cars are not usually known for the quality of their interior design and finish, but the Grand Cherokee is an exception. This is not a cheap looking car inside: the leather, plastics and general layout are enough to indicate it costs far more than it does.
You don't get seven-seat capacity, but the five seating positions available look after their occupants pretty well. At 482cm long it's not a compact vehicle, but that length has been well used to allow sprawling space in the rear along with a commodious — if somewhat elevated — cargo area.
The SRT8's tailgate is power-operated and the window opens separately, but the natty chrome strips on its floor tend to allow luggage to slide around.
The driver (and all passengers) sit high with a commanding view through the windscreen in comfortable seats, although wide pillars hamper vision in almost every other direction. The wide transmission tunnel also cramps foot space a little.
The steering wheel-operated menu functions and the single wiper/indicator stalk hark back to the days of corporate ownership by Mercedes-Benz, but the touch screen display is Chrysler's own and does a fine job of accessing the stereo, trip computer and sat-nav controls.
It goes without saying the Grand Cherokee SRT8 is not going to be for everyone, given its aggressively brash styling, intimidating size and thirst. The ride quality is also short of being comfortable, it is difficult to see out of and the five-speed transmission is not state of the art.
In many ways it is a blunt weapon that has been massaged by technology (cylinder deactivation, blind-spot warning) to overcome its shortcomings. But there is also something deeply addictive about the SRT8's vast reserves of V8 performance, the convenience of all that equipment and, of course, the money saved by choosing it over much pricier rivals.
Just don't back over a dolphin on your way home from the OPEC meeting.