After all 16 vehicles safely made it to Cape Town, we returned to Gauteng on the snazzy Blue Train. This two-day journey gave us some time to ponder the best road trip vehicle of this lot. Please note that this took a lot of pondering.
First, we needed to define what makes for a good road trip car. For some drivers, it could be the vehicle that sips the least amount of fuel. Other drivers may prefer a more rugged vehicle so that they can take in more gravel roads along the route. Comfort plays another key role in long distance travelling. Safety plays a vital role, too, of course. There are also the sporty, performance options, too. The one that puts a smile on your face when you just start the engine. Traditionally such vehicles are not exactly fuel fairies, so you’ll get to stop more (for refuelling) in small little towns and take in the sights and sounds, instead of just roaring past. During our prolonged discussions on the train, we decided that the best long- distance vehicle should combine all the above qualities. At least in some measure, anyway.
We had eventually whittled the field down to three vehicles: the Ford Everest, for its practicality and suitability for more hardcore off-road detours along the route (and also because it’s not a Toyota Fortuner, because everyone drives a Fortuner and yes, that’s because the Toyota is a great option); the Volvo XC90, because it’s safe, technologically advanced, comfortable and the modern turbodiesel engine drinks remarkably little diesel; and lastly, the mad Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, mostly because it’s mad. Sadly the BMW X6 M didn’t make our top three those low-profile tyres ensure that it can only stick to tar. In the end we chose the R1.3 million Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT as our favourite road trip vehicle.
It’s powered by a 6.4-litre HEMI V8 engine that produces 350kW, but it also has a system called MDS that shuts down four of the eight cylinders when they’re not needed. It’s like driving a fuel-efficient four-cylinder sedan. Sort of. Rugged roads are also not an issue for the fast Jeep. Thankfully the 20-inch tyres have much higher sidewalls than especially the BMW’s items, so the chances of puncturing are greatly decreased. And do you really need low-range if you have 624Nm of torque? We don’t think so. You can tick the comfort box, too. The interior offers a blend of sporty leather and suede, and there’s even a heated steering wheel. Safety? Although the Jeep does not feature as many safety party tricks as the Volvo XC90, it does have forward collision warning, blind spot monitoring and electronic roll mitigation, in addition to a raft of airbags and the ABS braking system with suitable braking power.
Ah, and then there’s the ‘sport’, and what a lot the SRT’s got. The 350kW HEMI V8 is linked to an eight-speed automatic gearbox with paddle shifters. The Selec-Track 4×4 system is specifically tuned for performance: you can select between Auto, Sport or Track Mode. In the latter setting, up to 70% of the HEMI’s grunt is sent to the rear wheels so you can even drift this SUV! It has a launch control system, too. Ultimately, though, it’s the way the SRT sounds and feels that makes it so special. The V8 howl, the steering feedback, the way it stick in corners (even on gravel). It’s a-smile a-mile type of SUV. We’d have it for a road trip any day.