Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 2013: Road Test

words - Tim Britten
Jeep throws down the gauntlet to Germany with the new Grand Cherokee SRT8


Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8
Road Test

Price Guide (recommended price before statutory and delivery charges): $76,000
Options fitted (not included in above price): None
Crash rating: Four-star ANCAP
Fuel: 95 RON PULP
Claimed fuel economy (L/100km): 14.1
CO2 emissions (g/km): 328
Also consider: BMW X5 M (from $182,700); Mercedes-Benz ML 63 AMG (from $177,900); Porsche Cayenne Turbo (from $239,900) 

It is difficult to ignore the massive price differentials between Jeep’s new Grand Cherokee SRT8 and its stated rivals, the Mercedes-Benz ML 63 AMG and the BMW X5 M. Take approximately $100,000 off either of the German SUV powerhouses and you’re into ballpark pricing for the Jeep. And let's not even mention the Porsche Cayenne Turbo...

And make no mistake. The ballsy, brassy, bitumen-shredder from Detroit has the looks, luxury and lasciviousness to make it a credible alternative to the Germans. Benz and BMW may argue that they have a few extra kilowatts and an added Newton metre or two compared with the SRT8 but, on the road, there is not a lot to separate them. When you are talking about a few tenths of a second in zero to 100km/h acceleration times, the differences come down to circumstances and driver skill.

Yep, the Grand Cherokee SRT8 is a massively impressive, macho SUV at a spectacular price discount.

Just $76,000 (MRLP) will get you behind the wheel of the most manic Grand Cherokee SRT8 yet and, even if you wanted to, there’s not much more to spend. The only listed options for the SRT8 are a rear-seat DVD system, a high performance audio system and a glass sunroof (two sizes, depending on whether the rear-seat DVD is chosen).

So what’s the downside? Surely there must be something to justify the 100K or so price cut?

Well, yes, there is the fact that the Benz and BMW share an edge in refinement and build quality, and the same could probably be said of the on-road experience. But in truth the margins are not great and don’t really explain the pricetags. The bottom line is that the Chrysler Group in Australia is hitting the market with all guns blazing, making things difficult for its competitors and lifting its US brands into more prominence than they have enjoyed for some time. Maybe ever.

The new SRT8 heads the Australian model lineup with its new 6.4-litre HEMI V8 delivering more power, outputting fewer emissions and gulping less fuel than its 6.1-litre forebear.

It’s a big V8 not afraid to rev. Its normally aspirated maximum of 344kW comes in at a heady 6250rpm, and 624Nm of twisting power is developed at 4100rpm. Maybe behind the 4.4-litre X5 M’s 408kW/680Nm and the 5.4-litre ML63’s 386/700Nm, but produced without the aid of turbocharging and close enough, like we said, to keep both Germans honest in the zero to 100km/h sprint (the SRT8 takes five seconds even, while the BMW claims 4.7 seconds and the Benz 4.8 seconds).

As you would imagine, the Jeep, from behind the leather-rimmed, flat-bottom steering wheel, feels and sounds the part. There is the prerequisite throaty bark, a quick-shifting gearbox (five-speed where other Grand Cherokees get six) and the sense that there’s not much on the road that is about to challenge you, even if you are hauling around upwards of 2300kg.

It feels tough, like an irresistible force that will quickly shut down just about anything that challenges it. The “performance-tuned” hydraulic steering twirls the wheel from lock-to-lock in 3.4 turns and feels commensurately weighty, maybe too much so for some drivers. But the SRT8 nevertheless puts its meatier 295/45ZR20 Pirelli Scorpion Verde rubber (run-flat, although there is a space-saver spare as well), 25mm lower-set, adaptive Bilstein suspension, on-demand all-wheel driver system and Brembo braking to effective use, making it feel more like an overgrown MINI than a big, bulky SUV. In fact the Jeep’s dynamics, aided by the likes of Pirelli, Bilstein and Brembo, are a roll call of iconic performance brands.

The SRT8 uses a different all-wheel drive system to others in the Grand Cherokee range. Electronics apportion power where it is best suited, up to the point where it is able to direct 100 per cent of torque to just one rear wheel if the situation demands it. Dubbed Quadra-Trac active full-time AWD, it lacks the centre differential employed in regular Grand Cherokees and, not unlike other, now-common on-demand systems, uses electronics to distribute the power between all four wheels. An electronic limited slip rear differential aids back-wheel grip on the bitumen and, in the unlikely event of it going off-road, also gives the SRT8 extra bite in the rough.

The mighty, all-new 6.4-litre V8 is the heart of the SRT8. Jeep says it is about 10 per cent more powerful and torquey than the previous 6.1-litre engine and it certainly makes light work of lifting the big SUV by the bootstraps. Launching from a standstill, or moving out to execute a swift overtaking manoeuvre on the highway, it barks authoritatively enough to remind the driver that some restraint may occasionally be called for.

As it switches in and out of operation, the V8’s MDS Multi Displacement System can be audibly detected, but not in a negative way. As it drops from eight cylinders to four in light-throttle situations it develops a deeper note and transmits a bit more vibration – far from unpleasantly – as it flashes a small light on the instrument panel.

The end result for us was an all-up consumption reading of 12.8L/100km on test, maybe a bit unrepresentative given the large proportion of out-of-city work, but still indicating a not too shabby potential for a 344kW, 2.3-tonne powerhouse driving a lower-ratio differential than other Grand Cherokees.

As for the other aspects of the Grand Cherokee, the SRT8 brings the same levels of equipment, comfort and safety that so impress elsewhere in the lineup. Equipment levels largely echo the Overland-spec model, with blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, rear “Cross Path Detection” (that senses movement of an unseen, oncoming car when reversing), ventilated front seats and a power tailgate all included. Steering wheel paddle shifters make an exclusive appearance on the SRT8, augmenting the side-shifting lever on the centre console.

Truly, how could you not be impressed?

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Published : Thursday, 3 January 2013
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