Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT
Cape Town - You could say a lot of negative things about the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, if you were so inclined.
You could criticise it for being too big in all respects. You could say it’s a heap of wasted resources, from steel and glass to the plastics derived from fossil fuels, that continues to waste more resources throughout its lifetime in the form of fearsome fuel consumption.
And yes, in a sense you’d be correct, especially politically. But being correct does not necessarily mean being right. Because there is so much good about this car, I believe it overshadows the negative.
A 6.4-litre V8 delivering 354kW and 637Nm of torque in a big, block-shaped wagon built for rugby forwards is no longer considered an acceptable package in certain polite circles.
But if you own one or are thinking of owning one, you’d be welcome in my circles. How polite they are, you’ll have to figure out for yourself. Because the Grand Cherokee SRT is some truck.
Let’s face it, there is no pretence about it being anything other than a grunting road-eater.
It’s not an off-road vehicle by any stretch of the imagination, although I suspect it might do surprisingly well in certain conditions when fitted with higher profile tyres. That said, the rubber with which it is shod appeared a bit higher in profile than that, say, of the Range Rover Sport, which is really useless in off-road conditions due to its footwear.
No, the SRT is all about American muscle. And then some. Here is a Jeep that has a “track” setting in its set-up system.
And no, we are not talking about a jeep track in the Richtersveld; we are talking tar, as in Killarney. Where, sadly, I could not go with this one. So I drove it like a daily driver instead, which was another interesting way of treating what is essentially a performance car.
Modern performance cars are more traffic-friendly than those of yore, when you only had one (mechanical) camshaft setting, one fuel (carburettor) setting, huge overlap on the air intake and exhaust valves, and almost no chance of a smooth idle. Then you’d have a recalcitrant gearbox that could only shift with the most violent of arm movements and a clutch that would keep trying to throw you over your seat’s backrest.
Those days are, sadly and gladly, long gone, unless you are an old-school classic and hot rod enthusiast.
The thing about driving a vehicle such as the SRT as a normal, daily driver is that it becomes really thirsty. For the duration of my 10-day urban cycle motoring, I could not get the vehicle to do better than 18.7 litres per 100km.
That shocked me - until I did a reality check. Not very long ago, I was the proud and loving owner of a 1981 Toyota Hilux single cab 4x4 with the old two-litre 18R petrol engine and four-speed gearbox, which returned about the same fuel-consumption figures as the SRT. In the 1990s I test-drove a Nissan Hardbody double cab with a three-litre V6, which ran through 23 litres per 100km. Now we have a monstrous V8 doing the same or less. Progress indeed. Long may it continue.
The SRT’s gearbox, a normal automatic with a paddle-shift function on the steering wheel, is ultra smooth and great to use in either full auto or manual shift modes. I preferred to use it in full auto most of the time because the engine is so powerful and yet so smooth that I didn’t see the need for telling the box when to shift.
The one thing you are not short of with this car is interior space. You can seat five big guys in luxury.
How the world has changed since Chrysler returned to these shores. Back in the day, the Americans did not display much of an appreciation for the finer finishes in their cars’ interiors. The SRT is not too shabby, even if it is not yet quite where the Range Rover and some other European SUVs might be.
BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, Land Rover, Audi - they all come to market with a powerful V8.
And those engines sound like magic. Absolute magic. But there is something about a big-bore American V8 that just overtakes it all. And get this: “Mindful of improving refinement while preserving the Grand Cherokee SRT’s high-performance character, engineers developed an Active Noise Cancelling system,” says Jeep’s PR material. “Using the vehicle audio system and four strategically located microphones, it automatically introduces sound to the cabin.”
The result is enhanced sound-system clarity and unfettered enjoyment of the Grand Cherokee SRT’s signature exhaust note.
Chrysler claims the 2015 Grand Cherokee SRT runs from zero to 100km/h in 4.8 seconds, zero to 160km/h and back to zero in 16.3 seconds, disposes of the quarter mile in the mid-13 second range, has a top speed of 257km/h, and brakes from 100 to zero km/h in 35m. For a big brute, that is all good stuff.
Be prepared to pay just about R1.1 million for all of this and then some more for the options.
Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT
Engine: 6.4-litre, V8 petrol
Gearbox: 8-speed automatic
Power: 354kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 637Nm @ 4300rpm
0-100km/h (claimed): 4.8 seconds
Top speed (claimed): 257km/h
Consumption (claimed): 14 litres per 100km
Price: R1 099 990
Warranty: 3-year/100 000km
Maintenance plan: 6-year/100 000km