- Goes fast
- Sounds loud
- Offers comfort and space
- Thirsty around town
- Rivals have fewer rough edges
Looking for a big, fast and lairy SUV? The 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT is hard to ignore, especially when it has a 6.4-litre Hemi V8. But does the American Brute make sense in the UK and can it flourish on European soil? Ben Griffin drove from London to Bruges to find out.
Let's be honest, you buy a big SUV to make a big impression. Few of us actually live on a farm and even fewer need a car capable of wading through a river. The draw is the commanding seating position, spacious interior and level of superiority, sorry, comfort.
But there is a breed of buyer that wants all of that in addition to ridiculous performance, which is why we have the Range Rover Sport, BMW X5 M and various other souped-up Chelsea tractors. Jeep's interpretation is the Grand Cherokee SRT-8, which was given a slight refresh to keep it competitive.
We loaded up enough luggage for a long weekend and headed towards the Belgium city of Bruges – and then loaded up on Belgium beer and French wine on the way back – to see how the SRT performs on the road, having already given it a track workout.
Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT: What is it, exactly?
This is no ordinary Grand Cherokee – this is the sporty SRT version of the standard Cherokee that uses a 461bhp 6.4-litre Hemi V8. This is a heavy-duty engine that sounds as good as it goes, with 0-62mph coming and going in 5 seconds before topping out at 160mph.
To help keep all those ponies in line, the Grand Cherokee SRT is also fitted with Pirelli tyres and six-piston Brembo brakes, which can manage 60mph to standing in just 116-feet (35.3 metres).
Even though it is focussed on performance, the Grand Cherokee SRT can also do the off-road thing nicely, thanks to the generous level of ground clearance and a clever all-wheel drive system.
A touch of noise cancellation, meanwhile, helps reduce the impact of road and wind noise although at idle that big V8 sometimes fill the revised (and more attractive) cabin with a boomy grumble, which causes a couple of the cheaper plastics to vibrate.
Another new addition is a Valet Mode, which is useful for keeping attendants or younger drivers who borrow the car from seeing how fast it can go before wrapping it around a lamp post.
Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT: How does it handle?
The SRT is surprisingly agile and grippy for such an imposing vehicle. There is a firmness to the ride that encourages you to push it without being dangerous as it is easy to tell when you are entering understeer territory.
Petrolheads may dismiss the idea of such a large vehicle having any sort of track capability, but these big SUVs make up for weight with serious power and beefy brakes. You do get body roll in the Grand Cherokee SRT, but it is nothing too out of the ordinary..
The main thing is that the Grand Cherokee SRT's 2,418kg weight actually has the benefit of helping initiate a bit of sideways action, which subsequently causes the tyres to shriek at you. Even when not going hell for leather, it can make you feel as if you are so you are less likely to crash it.
Not that it ever stops being an SUV you treat with respect. Without any turbo lag, it is easy to reach dangerous speeds and the noise of the V8 makes you want to do so time and time again.
As for suspension, the smaller undulations could be handled better but the plush seats and usually forgiving suspension take up some of the slack. The balance of comfort and sportiness is good, but definitely leans towards comfort.
In comparison, a BMW X5 M feels more refined while the Range Rover Sport is more accomplished in the corners, but the Grand Cherokee SRT shares the same ability to make the vehicle feel much smaller and nimble than it should. Until it comes to parking, that is.
Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT: What about running costs?
Anyone buying this sort of car to save the planet or reduce their monthly outgoing is a bit of an idiot. All cars in this class, including the Range Rover Sport V8 5.0, cost a lot to keep running and will be even pricier when you factor in the £310-a-year road tax supplement from April 2017 onwards.
As effortless as the V8 Hemi is, moving such a big machine drinks fuel so it is rather expensive around town. But at 70mph on a motorway, the ridiculously long eight-speed Selec-Trac transmission keeps revs at a very low level, alliwing you to achieve fuel economy in the late teens. Providing you engage the cruise control and stay away from the accelerator.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT comes with a few fancy extras befitting of its higher price tag such as 20-inch Black Vapour Chrome SRT alloys on the aforementioned Pirelli tyres, Sports leather and suede seats (that are soft and supportive), bi-xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights and a touch of carbon fibre trim.
It also comes with a 19-speaker Harmon Kardon system powered by an 825-watt amp, the sound quality of which is stellar, and navigation, which does a reasonably good job of guiding you home although it could be less fiddly when it comes to inputting the destination.
Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT: Is it practical?
As you would expect from such a big vehicle, the answer is yes. It can seat five comfortably with plenty of head and leg space and the boot is a mighty 782 litres with the rear seats down, rising to 1,554 litres with them down. The automatic tailgate and sheer width of the SRT makes loading items easier.
Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT: Should I buy one, then?
It is rougher round the edges than the equivalent Range Rover, but the Grand Cherokee SRT is a whole lot cheaper, faster off the line and not necessarily that much less luxurious, even though the interior is less impressive to look at.
If you crave a cut-price SUV with a V8 punch and care little about running costs and badge prestige, the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT is, therefore, worth considering because it is a competent handler and nothing in its class offers quite the same bang for your buck.
- 6.4-litre Hemi V8
- 461bhp at 6,250rpm
- 460lb/ft (624Nm) at 4,100rpm
- 0-62mph in 5.0 seconds
- 315g/km of of CO2
- 20.1mpg (combined)