With a whole lot of space and a whole lot of performance, the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT was built for long-distance trips.
There’s something incredibly romantic about the image of an American muscle car snaking its way along a ribbon of tarmac, the surrounding scenery consisting only of desert and dust. It’s the stuff of movies, the stuff of dreams. If you’re a true petrolhead, a scene like that will have you itching for the open road. It is also the sort of scene that has inspired the Grand Cherokee SRT. It takes everything we love about American muscle, and wraps it up in a cosy package that is far more practical and palatable than the burly monsters of the 1970s. Sure, driving a classic muscle car cross-country can be a lot of fun… for a short while. After that, the lack of refinement, air-conditioning and cornering ability will start getting to you.
Not so with the Grand Cherokee SRT. Most of the time, it is actually quite a comfortable and docile SUV. It is spacious, comfortable, well equipped and capable of cruising along at legal highway speeds with minimal effort. Jeep has even equipped it with an ‘Eco Mode’ and ‘Fuel Saver Technology’ that keeps it fairly frugal when you’re in the mood to just waft along. Put your foot down, though, and its character quickly changes. Like Clark Kent transforming into Superman, the SRT will shed its sensible suit and show you what it’s really made of. Under that SUV body, which doesn’t look terribly different from that of the standard Grand Cherokee, lurks a HEMI V8 engine that provides the SRT with sports car-levels of performance. The 6 417cc engine delivers 350kW of power and 624Nm of torque, which is enough to get this heavy SUV to a top speed of 257km/h, and provide a 0–100km/h time of around five seconds. The Grand Cherokee SRT also has an eight-speed transmission that delivers power from the engine to the ground via a fully electronic automatic mode, or through steering-wheel paddle controls for manual shifting. The package delivers acceleration with quicker shift speeds and the ability to keep the V8 in the sweet spot of its power band for longer.
You’ll also be happy to hear that, unlike those muscle cars of old, the SRT can handle a corner. It stays impressively composed, even when you chuck it into a corner with force. The suspension is firm – as you’d expect from a performance vehicle – but not so hard as to be uncomfortable. Indeed, the SRT is surprisingly comfortable, even on gravel roads. When it comes to choosing our ideal SUV for the open road, the SRT is very close to the top. The Jeep can provide plenty of fun when the mood strikes you, but it isn’t so uncompromising that it becomes difficult to live with. It’s quick, sure, and it has a great soundtrack, but it’s still a fairly sensible all-round SUV. It’s a good tool for most jobs. It rides on 20-inch rims, but still has enough rubber to deal with your average gravel road. Of the three performance SUVs on this trip, the SRT was the one we were least worried about once we left the tarmac. It’s still a road-oriented SUV, of course, and you definitely don’t want to take it on off-road trail, but it will keep a smile on your face all the way from Johannesburg to Cape Town.
Open-road rating 9 out of 10.
The good Fast and fun. Well priced for a performance SUV.
The bad Can be thirsty.
Specifications – Jeep Grand Cherokee Srt
Engine 6 417cc Hemi V8
Power 350kw @ 6 250r/Min
Torque 624nm @ 4 100r/Min
Transmission Eight-Speed Automatic
4wd System Full-Time 4wd
Fuel Tank 94 Litres
Fuel Consumption 14 Litres Per 100km (Claimed)
Tyre Size 295/45 R20
Luggage Space 782–1 554 Litres
Price R1 313 900