Downsizing an engine is not something the passionate folks at Fiat Chrysler’s SRT division like to do. In fact, all of their monstrous creations house either a 6.4L V8 or a 6.2L supercharged V8. And there’s no stopping them.
You see, the 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT high-performance SUV is just the undercard for next year’s main event, namely a Hellcat-powered Trackhawk edition. But let’s not get too carried away here. What we have right now ― the most powerful American SUV ever built ― still is a far cry from conventional 4x4s.
Compared to more plebeian versions of the Grand Cherokee devoid of that special badge, the SRT is fully dressed in sports attire so as to send a clear message to other road users. The front fascia is a bit more intimidating with a grille that does a better job of integrating the SRT-exclusive headlights. The bumper looks racier with horizontal LED daytime running lights and a more prominent intake below feeding cool air into the engine bay, while the hood panel up top incorporates a pair of heat extractors.
As is customary, the hooves on this wild stallion are larger and differently styled than those found on lesser beasts. We’re talking about 20”x10” alloy wheels, and behind those are upgraded disc brakes courtesy of Brembo. In the rear, styling remains fairly conservative, although the two oval-shaped exhaust tips suggest a potent engine lies at the other end of the pipes.
It’s mostly from these that you can hear the glorious sound of the naturally aspirated 6.4L HEMI. Cold starts produce a loud, raspy growl that fades away as the engine warms up. Don’t worry, SRT engineers managed to preserve its nasty side. With 475 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 470 lb-ft of torque at 4,200 rpm, this big brute has no reason to envy other V8-powered SUVs on the road today.
Unfortunately for the hard-working people at the Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit, Michigan, the models that have traditionally opposed the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT have taken the lead in recent years. Not to be outdone for long, they will bolt the supercharged V8 from the Challenger SRT Hellcat under the hood of the aforementioned Grand Cherokee Trackhawk and likely redefine the standard for performance SUVs yet again. The horsepower war will rage on with 707 ponies. Yes, 7-0-7!
The automaker has retained the services of a competent and dependable 8-speed automatic transmission. Manual shifts are possible using either the console-mounted shifter or the tiny paddles on the sport steering wheel. Naturally for an SUV of this calibre, all-wheel drive is a must and quite appreciated. Imagine when winter comes around and you start to lose grip…
Over the years, SUV manufacturers have found a way (several, actually) to improve handling and make their big boxes a lot more agile. Remember when these machines were prone to rollovers and often ended up topsy-turvy? Those days are long gone, thank God. Nowadays most SUVs are car-based rather than truck-based, and despite the brand’s legendary off-road potential, the 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT is mainly designed for street use.
The wide performance tires indeed limit the vehicle’s prowess off the beaten path. On dry pavement or even on a track, however, the Grand Cherokee SRT is by far one of the most skilled 4x4s in the entire industry. Sure, steering is a tad heavy for manoeuvring around town, but once you hit the open road this particular attribute really aids in high-speed stability. The Bilstein-backed adaptive suspension delivers a firmer ride, as well, while the Brembos I noted earlier positively increase braking power. After all, it’s not just about having a mighty engine; you also need to be able to slow down and slice a few corners.
Unsurprisingly, fuel consumption is this muscle truck’s worst aspect, especially in the city where repeated stops result in an average of over 20L/100km. Of course, you can significantly drop this number, say under 16L/100km, if you ease off the throttle and spend more time on the highway, but how can you resist the call of 475 horses and their intoxicating sound?
Drivers can adjust a bunch of settings via a rotary dial behind the shifter. Needless to say Track mode is a bit too much in normal driving conditions as gear shifts become extremely sharp. The “SRT” button also controls several vehicle functions, while Launch Control is the only way to go at the drag strip.
How much for such All-American madness? Well, the 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT starts at $71,695, but if you think that’s an astronomical sum you’re wrong. German competitors like the BMW X5 M, Mercedes-AMG GLE 63, and Porsche Cayenne Turbo all retail for more than $100,000. Granted, they offer about 100 extra horsepower, but the Jeep still has more than enough speed to make you lose your driver’s licence a few times. What’s more, interior fit and finish is far from shabby, while comfort and cargo room are both generous.
And let’s not forget the upcoming 707-horsepower Grand Cherokee Trackhawk I talked about earlier. We’re super eager to try this one out, but in the meantime the SRT model admirably represents Jeep in the high-performance SUV segment.