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First drive: Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. Image by Jeep.

First drive: Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT
An SUV that wants to be a muscle car? That'd be the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT.

 



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| First Drive | Turin, Italy | Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT |

Overall rating: 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

Jeep's SRT-tuned flagship model returns to take on Porsche, BMW and Range Rover in the performance SUV stakes. With its high-revving Hemi V8 engine delivering 468hp and carrying a price tag of 58,995 it offers great bang for the buck but is let down by an automatic transmission that is short on ratios and jerky when pushed.

Key Facts

Pricing: 58,995
Engine: 6.4-litre Hemi V8 petrol
Transmission: four-wheel drive, five-speed automatic
Body style: five-door SUV
Rivals: BMW X5/X6M, Porsche Cayenne Turbo, Range Rover V8 Supercharged
CO2 emissions: 328g/km
Combined economy: 16.7mpg
Top speed: 160mph
0-62mph: 5.0 seconds
Power: 468hp at 6,250rpm
Torque: 624Nmat 4,100rpm

In the Metal: 4 4 4 4 4

In its standard guise the Jeep Grand Cherokee is an imposing machine: a granite like slab in a sea of overly stylised posh 4x4s. It is a handsome car, in that square jawed, rugged Hollywood actor of old kind of way. The Street & Racing Technology (SRT) additions ramp the look up to the nth degree. Lowered by 25mm up front and 30mm at the rear the SRT also sports a deep front bumper with integrated daytime running lights and vents to cool the brakes; the aluminium bonnet has scoops to allow the V8 Hemi to breath and as standard the car runs on five-spoke 20-inch alloy wheels wrapped in Pirelli P-Zero tyres. It is unapologetic about what it is, which is a muscle car in the body of an SUV, without being too overly in-your-face.

Inside, the Italian influence from the tie-up with the Fiat Group is evident with Nappa leather adorning the dashboard and seat bolsters and suede inserts for added grip. The flat-bottomed steering wheel, with paddle shifters for the five-speed automatic gearbox, is exclusive to the SRT, as too are carbon fibre inserts. The package brings an air of exclusivity to the car but it still comes up short in comparison to European rivals. The quality of some of the plastics used seems at odds with the otherwise impressive interior and the UConnect infotainment system, while featuring a 6.5-inch touchscreen with a 30Gb hard-drive and Bluetooth connection with streaming capabilities, is let down by the satellite navigation, the interface of which already feels dated.

Driving it: 3 3 3 3 3

SRT (the division rather than the car) and Jeep itself is very proud of the fact that, for the money, the Cherokee packs the most bang for your buck. Underneath that long aluminium bonnet is a 6.4-litre Hemi V8 that churns out 468hp and 624Nm of torque - making it the most powerful Jeep ever. That power translates to a 0-62mph time of five seconds - an impressive result for a performance saloon let along a 2.3-tonne SUV. Unlike SRT models of old (and many American performance cars) the Cherokee does not shy away at the first sign of a corner. The Italian test route comprised of a lot of mountain driving in the hills surrounding Turin - sports car territory rather than high-riding SUV - but the Cherokee SRT never felt overwhelmed. Once you forget about the bulk of the machine it can be thrown into corners with confidence secure in the knowledge that the six-pot Brembo calipers and 380mm discs can pull you up.

Switch the Drive Select system (which allows you to choose between five driving modes) into Sport and the adaptive suspension is set to its firmest setting meaning body roll is kept commendably in check. The racier settings also allow the engine to go deep into the redline before the gearbox changes up, as opposed to the more relaxed Auto setting that will change up well in advance. It is when in the Sport or Track mode, which goes one step further by deactivating the ESP, that the SRT's biggest failing becomes apparent - the transmission.

With peak power not kicking in until 6,250rpm, on A- or B-roads, the SRT needs to be driven in second gear to truly make the most of the V8. Grab the right hand paddle to move up a cog and you are rewarded with a huge kick in the back and a drop out of the power band. There is just too much distance between the ratios of the five-speed gearbox for it to be smooth and enjoyable. A closer ratio six- or seven-speed unit would suit the Cherokee SRT's nature much better. When cruising on the motorway with Auto selected the changes are fine but for a vehicle marketed as a street racer it is let down.

When it is on song however the growl from the Hemi engine is glorious. When pushed, flaps in the twin exhaust system open to deliver a thunderous roar that increases in intensity the closer to the 6,500rpm redline you venture. When the flaps close again the well-insulated cabin is eerily quiet with a just a gentle hum from the engine up front.

Being a Jeep, four-wheel drive is standard and the Quad Trac II system does a good job of shuffling power around with a slightly rearward bias always maintained. The Snow or Tow settings on the Drive Select bring a 50/50 split but for the most part 60 per cent of available power is sent to the rear wheels and electronic limited slip differential, rising to 65 per cent in Track mode.

What you get for your Money: 4 4 4 4 4

As the flagship Jeep model, and also to better compete with Porsche and BMW, the 58,995 SRT comes comprehensively equipped with a Command-View dual-pane sunroof, UConnect infotainment and navigation system, Harman Kardon 825-watt surround-sound, adaptive cruise control and a variety of advanced safety systems including Forward Collision Warning and Blind Spot detection with Rear Cross-path detection.

Worth Noting

Officially the new SRT is 13 per cent more efficient than its predecessor despite having 10 per cent more horsepower and torque. This is, in no small part, thanks to the Fuel Saver Technology, that cuts the engine down to four cylinders under partial load. The savings are all relative however as Jeep states the Grand Cherokee SRT will use 14.1 litres/100km (20mpg) on a combined run. In the real world you will be lucky to see it.

Summary

The Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT is a niche model in the UK and Jeep knows this so will be offering it as a special order only. As a niche model in a niche segment it does make a compelling case for itself though. Ride quality, interior and refinement levels are verging on European standards and the rumble from the Hemi engine is intoxicating; it is just let down by a transmission that is not ideally suited to the otherwise sporting nature.


Paul Healy - 21 Jun 2012









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2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. Image by Headlineauto.co.uk.2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. Image by Headlineauto.co.uk.2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. Image by Jeep.2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. Image by Jeep.2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. Image by Jeep.

2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. Image by Jeep.2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. Image by Jeep.2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. Image by Jeep.2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. Image by Jeep.2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. Image by Jeep.



2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. Image by Jeep.
 

2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. Image by Jeep.
 

2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. Image by Jeep.
 

2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. Image by Jeep.
 

2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. Image by Jeep.
 

2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. Image by Jeep.
 

2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. Image by Jeep.
 

2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. Image by Jeep.
 

2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. Image by Jeep.
 

2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. Image by Jeep.
 

2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. Image by Jeep.
 






 

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