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Driven: Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. Image by Matt Robinson.

Driven: Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT
Take a good look at the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT – cars like this won’t be around for much longer.

 



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Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT

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Good points: Brutal V8 engine, well-sorted chassis, largely decent interior, cheaper than rivals

Not so good: It's bloody thirsty, some cabin plastics a little ropey, living on borrowed time

Key Facts

Model tested: Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT
Price: Grand Cherokee range starts from £47,135; SRT from £68,950
Engine: 6.4-litre 'Hemi' V8 petrol
Transmission: all-wheel drive, eight-speed automatic
Body style: five-door SUV
CO2 emissions: 315g/km (Road tax: £2,000 first 12 months, then £450 for next five years, then £140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 20.9mpg
Top speed: 160mph
0-62mph: 5.0 seconds
Power: 468hp at 6,250rpm
Torque: 624Nm at 4,100rpm

Our view:

Environmental concerns mean behemoths like the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT will not be with us for much longer, and we think that's a pity. Oh, sure, you can get high-performance SUVs from any number of rivals, such as the BMW X5 M and X6 M twins, the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S, any number of Cayenne models in the Porsche range, and of course prestige vehicles like the Range Rover Sport SVR or Bentley Bentayga.

But the SRT is different, because - despite being owned by Fiat - it takes a very different approach to getting big power out of an engine. Rather than going the CO2-friendly forced induction route used by all the models listed above, Jeep reckons there 'ain't no replacement for displacement' and so slots in a motor that has no super- or turbochargers, but more cubic capacity than any rival: it's the 6.4-litre 'Hemi' V8, its super-cool name alluding to its hemispherical combustion chambers.

Yet while it's a colossal lump in a colossal lump of a car - the Gran Cherokee SRT clocks in at 2,418kg, placing it within 4kg of the Bentley Bentayga 6.0 W12 - it's actually not that powerful. Well, relatively speaking; 468hp and 624Nm are big numbers, and they bestow hot hatch-pummelling pace on the Jeep, as it's capable of a 160mph maximum and 0-62mph in five seconds dead. But when the ultimate performance versions of all the rivals are churning out at least 550hp and 680Nm, the Cherokee's stats don't seem that impressive any more.

Where the Jeep's appeal lies is that, while the German and British opposition are all £90,000 and more - significantly more in the case of the Bentley - the Grand Cherokee SRT is less than 70 grand. That's still cheaper than, for instance, the Cayenne GTS, which is not the Porsche's range-topper. So should you go for the Jeep ahead of its premium competitors and save a good wedge of cash in the process, or will you simply be cutting corners if you opt for the American battering ram ahead of the more desirable names in the segment?

The rapid Grand Cherokee has been around for a while in its current incarnation, as production started in 2011, and all it has lost in that time is the '8' in its badging that used to succeed 'SRT'. However, it remains a rare sight on UK roads, as practically all Grand Cherokees here are powered by the 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel. You can spot the SRT courtesy of its flared arches, smoked-grey 20-inch wheels, large-diameter twin exhausts, deeper side sills and front bumpers, and those vents in the bonnet. Oh, and the black mask it wears around its 'eyes' and the trademark seven-bar grille. It's a handsome, chunky-looking contrivance, that's obviously American without being gauche, so we thoroughly approve.

Same for the interior, which - naturally - many will lambast as being behind European standards for fit and finish, but actually it's really quite nice within; there are plush, suede-and-leather SRT-branded seats, the very good Uconnect infotainment, a smart instrument cluster with a TFT central display and some appealing contrast stitching to behold. It's also spacious enough within for five adults and practical. For reasons best known to ourselves, it spent a week in our company performing impromptu furniture removals, and thanks to its clever, easy-to-use, fold-flat rear seats and well-shaped boot opening, it was superb at hefting sideboards and console tables about the place.

There are interior niggles, like the cheap, scratchy silver plastic that clothes the lower console fascia, or the foot-operated parking brake, or the 'mushroom' gearlever which makes it all too easy to select 'reverse' instead of 'park' if you're not paying attention, or - the biggest crime of all - the simply ginormous steering wheel Jeep has foisted upon the SRT. It doesn't feel anything like the sort of item that should be gracing a sporting vehicle, instead having a diameter that would be more at home on the bridge of an ocean-going supertanker.

All is forgiven once you drive the Grand Cherokee. Make no mistake, this is an extremely well-sorted machine. There's a bit more body roll than you might expect from something with the best part of 500hp, and that massive steering wheel is connected to a rack that doesn't offer the last word in feel. But with its highly effective Brembo brakes, a slick-shifting eight-speed transmission and masses of mechanical grip, the SRT performs and handles far more vibrantly than you would expect. It's incredibly good fun to drive it hard and hear that glorious engine bellowing away up front; no need for noise synthesis here, because 6.4 litres generates a tremendous din that should put a smile on even the most anti-American of faces. Despite its mass, the Grand Cherokee SRT will blast along a back road in a composed fashion that belies its bulk.

It's not bad as a cruiser either, because it can shut off half of its cylinders to try and conserve fuel, while its healthy torque and instant throttle response make it a cinch to take advantage of gaps in faster-moving traffic. The ride's a little fidgety at times, but it's never outright uncomfortable. Oh, and just quickly returning to the economy, please don't expect incredible returns as a result of its cylinder deactivation - while it displayed high-20s consumption on the motorway at 70mph, for the rest of its week with us, and over 275 miles at 37mph, we saw an average 16mpg. Gulp.

However, we still feel the SRT is unfairly overlooked. This thing has a corking engine, an impressive chassis and reasonable refinement, with a spacious, attractive interior and chiselled good looks outside. It's not particularly cheap per se, but it is a lot less money than other similar hyper-performance SUVs, and it has the most fabulous engine. So, if you don't feel like going German with your rapid SUV, the SRT is a truly excellent alternative.

Alternatives:

BMW X5 M: Stupidly powerful, stupidly expensive. You'll enjoy a more composed chassis with the BMW but it's priced well beyond £90,000 - and that's way in excess of the Jeep SRT.

Mercedes-AMG GLE 63: A thunderous 585hp biturbo AMG V8 cannot hide the fact the GLE is just a rebadged ML, which has never been the greatest large SUV of all.

Porsche Cayenne GTS: Used to have a charismatic V8. Now has a characterless biturbo V6. Stunning SUV chassis but ugly looks and it's a lot pricier than the Jeep - and it's slower too.


Matt Robinson - 17 Mar 2017









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2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 drive. Image by Matt Robinson.2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 drive. Image by Matt Robinson.2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 drive. Image by Matt Robinson.2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 drive. Image by Matt Robinson.2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 drive. Image by Matt Robinson.

2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 drive. Image by Matt Robinson.2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 drive. Image by Matt Robinson.2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 drive. Image by Matt Robinson.2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 drive. Image by Matt Robinson.2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 drive. Image by Matt Robinson.








 

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