Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 Review

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Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8
Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8
Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8
Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8

Road test: Guess what happens when you give a Jeep a giant dose of Hemi power...

Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 Review
Test: Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8

 

Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8

If you've seen the latest Batman epic,Dark Knight Rises- and given it was 2012's third highest-grossing film, I'm guessing you have - you'll be familiar with its villain, a masked monolith of a man called Bane. Looking at Jeep's new Grand Cherokee SRT8, I can't help thinking that if Bane was a car, this is what he'd be.

The immense size, heavily-muscled exterior and distinctive 'mask' (Jeep's trademark seven upright vents set in a body-coloured grille, rather than the chrome found on other GCs) all give this SUV a not-so-subtle air of menace.

Thankfully, the Jeep doesn't share the squeaky-toy vocals of the Batman baddie. Liberated from the layers of sound deadening found in the Chrysler 300 SRT8 that shares this engine, the 6.4-litre Hemi V8 sounds completely feral.

In fact, the engine dominates the experience. The throttle response is razor-sharp, and 344kW/624Nm shrugs off the Jeep's substantial 2336kg. But even when cruising, the mighty Hemi always makes its presence felt - feeding vibrations back through the wheel and seat, especially when it drops to four cylinders in an attempt to reduce its highway thirst.

Ah, fuel consumption. When the manufacturer's official combined claim is 14.1L/100km, the news won't be good, and the trip computer rarely dipped below 20L/100km during the SRT8's time with us. However, the Jeep's purchase price goes some way to excusing its drinking habit.

At $76,990, the SRT8 is substantially less than half the price of, admittedly much more accomplished, rivals like Porsche's Cayenne GTS and Merc's ML63 AMG. But while the American doesn't have the polished dance repertoire of its more exotic German kin, it still has a few moves up its sleeve.

There are five drive modes to choose from - selected via a rotary dial in the centre console - that alter diff, gearbox, suspension, throttle and ESP settings: Auto, Sport, Track, Snow and Tow. The SRT treatment throws away the regular GC's off-road modes, and Sport quickly becomes the default choice, Auto being too docile and Track too firm. Whichever setting you choose, though, it's still a heavy SUV wearing all-terrain tyres.

Accept its limitations and the GC SRT8 can even approach playful, the diffs shuffling all that grunt to the wheels that can use it best and ESP only stepping in when you've really over-cooked it. The brakes are superb - yep, like the 300 SRT8, another US car with benchmark brakes - but the five-speed auto frustrates if left to its own devices, too often getting caught between gears. The eight-speed 'box can't come soon enough.

So while the new SRT8 isn't without its flaws - it's fairly cheap inside, not very refined and as economical as a fire at an oil refinery - it goes hard, is great value, sounds sensational and, to these eyes at least, looks fantastic. It's got a bucketload of character - a rare commodity these days - and every time I drove it, or even looked at it, I couldn't help but laugh at its glorious absurdity.

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8

 

ENGINE: 6424cc V8, OHV, 16v

POWER: 344kW @ 6250rpm

TORQUE: 624Nm @ 4100rpm

WEIGHT: 2336kg

GEARBOX: 5-speed automatic

0-100KM/H: 4.9sec (claimed)

TOP SPEED: 255km/h (claimed)

PRICE: $76,000

 

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