2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT
Tested: Logic goes right out the window with a vehicle like the Grand Cherokee SRT. You start with a fairly capable off-road family vehicle and then slap on huge tires and slam the suspension. You take a 470-hp, 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 that should be in a lake roadster, pair it with an eight-speed transmission that just might tame its fuel appetite, and then stick both into a 5331-pound slab of hot pig iron that couldn’t get good fuel economy if it went everywhere six inches behind a FedEx truck.
The circles of utility and performance overlap just enough in the $63,990 Grand Cherokee SRT (the “8” in “SRT8” is gone for 2014) to create, well, a boulevard bomber of the sort that Arabian princes favor for their security teams. Asking it to feel agile or to drive well seems a bit unsporting, like asking the Hulk to use an iPhone. Eventually, everything’s going to get smashed.
Yet shockingly for such a big and heavy vehicle, you do get some impressive numbers. Next to the T-bar shifter of the new-for-2014 eight-speed automatic resides a simple button that allows for launch-control starts. When engaged, the SRT knocks out a 4.6-second run to 60 mph. This was BMW M5 territory not that long ago. It’s also 0.4 second quicker from 0 to 60 than the 2012 SRT8 model hooked to a five-speed automatic. As with the previous-generation 2012 version, we went 157 mph in the 2014 SRT, no speed limiter in sight. Making 0.88 g around the skidpad, the 295/45 Pirelli P Zeros (an $895 option) return grip on par with that of most German sports sedans.
The SRT will loaf around town making deep rumbling noises, the eight-speed changing gears with no more shock than if it were moving beads on an abacus. You have to push through the softness to untap the rage, or switch the Selec-Trac drive-mode control to the Track position. That primes the boosters, including the torque-varying all-wheel-drive system, for your thrashing, and you can shift manually via the steering-wheel paddles. But save that setting for running from terrorists. Or, well, actually, legging it out on a track.
Even then, the Grand Cherokee feels so large that the speed sensation is subtler than the numbers promise. It doesn’t give the impression that it’s as fast as it is, so you might be tempted to wonder if it’s worth getting only 14 mpg everywhere you go. Well, that’s between you and your credit card. One more note on that before moving on: Our longest trip between fill-ups was 347 miles. And then we pumped in 23.6 gallons. Of premium.
Thankfully, the brake pedal is firm and trustworthy and the Brembo calipers stop the big brute with less drama than should be possible (big points here for the meaty P Zeros, too). At 162 feet, the stopping distance from 70 mph to 0 is remarkable, and so we are remarking on it. Less remarkable is the steering, which is reasonably quick but highly insulated. However, we weren’t expecting miracles, and the SRT met our expectations.
Inside the Beast
The basic Grand Cherokee’s sophistication shines through all the go-fast gloss. That means a tight and rattle-free structure and a well-executed interior that puts the controls and display screens in short reach. This is the most expensive (Chrysler Group) vehicle to receive what is basically the same 8.4-inch Uconnect navigation/entertainment console as that in the Dodge Dart, with a few enhancements specific to the SRT, including track times and lateral acceleration. But the system works well enough once you learn the menus, and now you can load apps such as Pandora to make music streaming easier off your mobile phone. Unlike in some competitors, there is no superknob with which to control the screen; everything is by touch, which smears up the screen with fingerprints, especially if you like to eat and drive.