In this time of austerity and spiralling running costs, what could be more apt than a 6.4-litre V8 premium off-roader? Well, Jeep’s Street and Racing Technology branch has stuck two fingers up at the penny pinchers with its latest rival to the Ranger Rover Sport and Porsche Cayenne: time to review the new 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT.
Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT: the fastest and most powerful Jeep ever
Clearly the previous car’s 6.1-litre engine wasn’t quite enough to satisfy those at Jeep. Instead they have fitted the latest Grand Cherokee SRT with a 6.4-litre V8 producing 461bhp and 464lb ft of torque. This is up 43bhp over the last model and will go from 0-62mph in just 5.0 seconds, not bad for a car weighing 2.4 tonnes. This surge of power is coupled with a grown-up grumbling from the V8 engine and all adds to the drama of the huge car.
All this power is filtered through a five-speed automatic gearbox. This might sound as if it’s from the dark ages compare to auto ‘box offerings of its rivals, but in fact it’s smooth and the steering-wheel mounted paddles work well for a sharper change.
It's intriguing that Jeep blindly ignores the CO2 trend with this SRT model. While Porsche, BMW and others are busy launching hybrid SUVs, this 6.4-litre V8 4x4 seems quite an anachronism.
There is some good news for those worried about their wallets. The company has done something to add green credentials to the Jeep and bump the fuel economy to 20mpg: the V8 Hemi will shut off four cylinders when you’re cruising along at a sensible speed. Put your foot down and it quickly reverts to full eight-cylinder model, without any noticeable change.
So the Grand Cherokee SRT is fast, but what about the corners?
While all this power bodes well for straight-line performance, things are not quite as impressive when you hit the bends. A tall and heavy 4x4 is expected to lean a little when you go round a tight corner, but things are more cumbersome and less composed when compared to rivals such as the X5.
There are plenty of driver systems to try and help improve this, however. It is fitted with Active Adaptive air suspension that helps make the more bumpy straight-line stuff a lot more pleasant and comfortable. It deals with any major potholes or bumps with no problems, though can feel a little wallowy on roads with major cambers.
It also gets a drive select system that has five settings – Auto, Sport, Tack, Snow and Tow. Sport is you best bet for any enthusiastic driving. This tightens things a little, suspension and steering the most noticeable, and means that body roll is kept in check a little more. The Track setting goes all out and even takes off stability control but the car’s four-wheel drive system means you shouldn’t have any hairy sideways moments.
The star-spangled banner
The previous SRT model was an understated affair with just a few little touches to mark it out from the standard Grand Cherokee model. This time, however, things have all gone a lot more American.
Huge wheel arches house the standard 20-inch wheels and the air intakes on the bonnet help give it that added aggressive touch. Then there’s the huge grille and front bumper that looks as though it could swallow up small children and pets with ease.
Inside the car are the usual upgrades of a range-topping car over the standard model. There’s a splattering of SRT badges on the sports seats, some carbonfibre finishes on various items and plenty of soft touch and leather dotted around the cabin. Things are still let down a little with some scratchy looking plastics and it doesn’t quite shout premium, especially compared to the cars it’s going up against.
Based purely on straight-line performance and price, the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT ticks all the appropriate boxes. The V8 engine offers blistering pace and it undercuts all its rivals on price.
The problem is, however, that as you start to look in to the finer details things start to fall apart a little. It’s not quite got the high quality finish you would expect from a car that costs almost £60k, and its handling and general road manners aren't quite up to scratch for something so fast.
If you’re in the market for a performance-focused brash and brutal off-roader, but on a bit of a budget, then the Jeep is a sound choice. If you fancy things in a more premium package and a little subtle though, we'd look elsewhere.