2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT HD Video Review
If Jeeps were people they would be that friend who rock climbs every weekend. Anthropomorphizing further, the Grand Cherokee is the stylish one dressed in Arc’teryx clothing and kicking everyone’s butt scaling granite faces.
The new 2014 Grand Cherokee SRT is not Woodsy Owl’s Jeep, shedding the Gore Tex parka for a Nomex suit. It’s not so much a camper as it is a triathlete. While a mix of sport sedan and sport ute sounds like an odd mix, the SRT (for Street and Racing Technologies) manages to get the best attributes of both vehicles. It tows 7,200 pounds, it carries five passengers, it hauls ass. Looks good doing it too.
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Of Course It Does. Really? You have to ask if it has a Hemi? The 6.4-liter V8 pumps out 470 horsepower at 6,000 RPM and 465 lb-ft. of torque at 4,300 RPM. Coupled to that is an all-new eight-speed automatic with on-the-fly shift-map gear changes. The new ratios and rear differential allowed the engineers to keep the V8 in its torque sweet spot. SRT’s AWD system can channel 70 percent of its power to the rear wheels. Does your sport ute top out at 160 miles an hour? Didn’t think so.
Worth noting is the “eco” button on the center console if only for a chuckle. Chrysler engineers insist that it definitely increases fuel economy by putting the V8 into four-cylinder mode more often. A sober reminder, the EPA fuel economy rating is 13 city/ 19 highway. A Prius this is not.
Jeep is targeting the Porsche Cayenne, BWM X5 and Range Rover Sport. Seriously. And to prove it really can run with vehicles 20 grand pricier, Chrysler has invited auto writers to the Circuit of Americas near Austin, Texas.
Evolution of a breed. Grand Cherokee has been adapted to this habitat by lowering the ride height a smidge, adding a new spoiler (the standard GC gets it too), and bolting on 20-inch wheels shod with grippy Pirellis. Like all 2014 Grand Cherokees, there’s a new grille (black on SRTs). Headlights get LED signatures, same with the taillights.
My first hour with SRT is spent driving to CoA on city streets where it proves to be a pretty docile rig. The throaty sound stays well in the background until the pedal hits the carpet. Ride quality is firm but forgiving. SRT could easily be a daily driver if not for the hefty gasoline bill.
At the track, JGC SRT has no problem living up to expectations, surpassing them actually. It’s easy to believe this top-heavy sport ute with way too much power would handle like a house equipped with three jet engines. Nu-uh. It corners much better that you’d ever expect with almost no body roll. Closing in on 125 miles an hour feels like cruising at 70 on the highway. Very controlled. Yes, it rides higher and isn’t as lithe as a 911 but think about how poorly the Porsche would do dragging a boat and family to the cabin.
Don’t think it measures up to the Cayenne and X5? Think again. SRTs chassis is vault strong and 0-60 happens in 4.8 seconds according to Chrysler (it feels faster). I prefer the interior of the Porsche ute (it’s one of my favs) but think of it this way when it comes to handling- you can’t really test the limits of these high performance machines on city streets and the fringes of performance are the places you’ll find the difference.
For argument’s sake let’s assume the two Germans have superior precision and refinement in 10/10th mode. The rational mid-western boy in me (writing about irrational vehicles mind you) believes that twenty grand saved by going with the Jeep is better in the kid’s college fund. Or the fuel kitty.
Advice from a driving coach allows me to keep the butt-saving stability control intervention to a minimum (though when it works, it feathers in very nicely). The eight-speed transmission does an uncanny job of shifting quickly to the proper ratio. Pushing it hard into a sweeper, it’s possible to forget this is a vehicle capable of towing a large boat.
The Hemi’s baritone note is aural nirvana inside the cabin. Brembo brakes front and rear seem to be fade-free, even after being taxed all afternoon by over eager auto writers. Grand Cherokee’s brick-like shape probably keeps performance down a bit as speed climbs. The (slightly) sleeker Chrysler 300 SRT8 manages a top speed 15 miles-an-hour faster.
What the driver sees most of. With it’s cut-and-sewn instrument panel, SRTs cabin looks mighty familiar. It’s much the same as the standard model save for carbon fiber trim, alcantara-like headliner, and deeply bolstered chairs with grippy suede-like fabric. They’re heated and vented too. The Select-Trac knob has a different mission, gaining dedicated sport and track modes while shedding some of the off-road programs found on regular Cherokees. There’s also launch control that sets the SRT up for maximum drag strip velocity.
All 2014 Grand Cherokees get a crisp and configurable 7-inch TFT display in the gauge cluster. The 8.4-inch Uconnect screen has excellent touch control and a simple elegant interface. An SD slot can record performance events for review later. The 8.4-inch center screen has a lot of driver’s aids such as g meters that I don’t have time to explore. The terrific leather-wrapped wheel feels like a substantial tool. It’s heated and there are paddle shifters. Of course.
The back seat gets the same set up as any Grand Cherokee. Comfortable for three average adults? Yes, but not enough room to really stretch out. Cargo space and features like heated cushions and multiple USB ports are also the same. It would be easy to get a set of four racing tires, tools and helmets in with the seats folded flat. If you want a good look at it, check the video review of the EcoDiesel version here.
Obviously not for everyone. The MSRP for the SRT is just under 64 grand. That includes shipping but not gas guzzler tax because… there isn’t one. Grand Cherokee is a truck. Not cheap but still easily $20,000 less than X5 or Cayenne. And with approximately 4,000 copies sold in the US annually, you won’t see Grand Cherokee SRTs coming and going like so many Camrys and Accords. Included with any SRT vehicle is a day of professional driving instruction just so you know how to maximize your driving skills on the street and track.
It might be hard to get your head around a Jeep that isn’t about camping and rock crawling but it’s proof that a 5,150 pound sport ute can still be an athlete. Undoubtedly the hybrid crowd will find it perverse, maybe obscene. So be it. Grand Cherokee SRT is not a rational vehicle but it sure is fun. Just know you’ll need a racetrack to find out its full potential.
If you have not guessed, Tom attended a manufacturer’s press event sponsored by Jeep.