The steering is serviceable - not pin sharp but not vague either. Photo Gallery
Stuart Martin road tests and reviews the new Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 with specs, fuel economy and verdict.
After some effort, The Speaker of the House and I have convinced our near-five-year-old son that there is no such thing as monsters. I am going to have to tell him I was wrong.
There are monsters in real life and I'm driving one - the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8, the most powerful, technologically-advanced (that wouldn't be hard), high-performance Jeep ever.
Snorting, snarling, stupendously quick and somewhat silly, the SRT8 flies in the face of frugal, fiscally responsible and economical motoring. Bring it, baby.
If you like the idea of sitting above the traffic and yet still having the ability to bellow belligerently away from the lights at pace, then this is your bus. At a $76,000 starting price (almost $10,000 cheaper than the preceding model), the hottest Grand Cherokee yet is incredible value for money - an SUV with similar abilities and outputs is going to cost at least twice as much.
For not much more than a top-spec Pajero or Pathfinder, the SRT8 has Nappa leather and suede sports seats (heated and cooled),a paddleshifter-equipped sports leather steering wheel, carbon-fibre trim bits, dual-zone climate control with rear vents, rear seat heaters, power-folding auto-dimming and heated exterior mirrors, a powered rear tailgate, a touchscreen-controlled 40-gig hard-drive and USB-port equipped Alpine nine-speaker (10 if you count the subwoofer) infotainment system, Bluetooth phone and audio link, 20-inch forged alloy wheels wrapped in wide Pirelli run-flat tyres, although with a 45-series profile you'll want to steer clear of the rough stuff.
There are clever touches like a rechargeable pop-out torch in the boot is a neat and handy touch for any unplanned night roadside stops.
What puts the Grand into this particular Cherokee is the 6.4-litre HEMI V8, with an active intake manifold and active exhaust, which produces 344kW and 624Nm of torque - up 37kW and 61Nm (and almost 200kg) over the old car. The clever intake and valve system teams up with the cylinder dropout mode (to run on four of the eight cylinders) to drop fuel use by 12.4 per cent to 14.1 litres per 100km.
Body control and ride quality (more so the former than the latter) is controlled by a Bilstein adaptive damping suspension, which offers five modes - Automatic, Sport, Tow, Track and Snow - and the all-wheel drive system shifts drive to the best-suited wheels, although there's no low-range - yet another concession to being a bitumen burner as opposed to an off-road warrior.
There's not a great deal of scope for body sculpting when you're dealing with a big boxy off-roader as a starting point, but the SRT8 is certainly heavy with purpose.
Lower, with the now-common as muck LED running lights, it is more muscular thanks to body add-ons and venting through large bonnet apertures, the hi-po wagon has dual exhausts at the outer edge of the rear diffuser, which makes towing now feasible to the tune of just over two-tonne braked capacity.
The boffins claim the new platform (shared with Mercedes-Benz and Maserati) has played its part in improving torsional rigidity by 146 per cent.
You'd think with a long list of safety features it would have blown NCAP away but it's only scored (albeit in standard LHD Grand Cherokee turbo diesel guise) a four-star NCAP rating. Top of the list is an epic set of stoppers - Brembo in origin, the big ventilated discs are gripped by six-piston (up from four) front and four-piston rear calipers, enough force, says Jeep, to give it a 0-160km/h-0 time in the mid-16 second range.
Also on the SRT8's extensive safety features list is adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning system, stability control (including anti-rollover function), emergency brake assist with forward collision warning, front and rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera. The spare is an 18in steel, with 245/65 rubber - it doesn't quite match the 20s on the SRT8 but also doesn't quite fit into the temporary spare either.
Rain-sensing wipers, bi-xenon headlights, an automatic brake drying system, auto-dimming headlights, trailer sway control, seven airbags (including a driver's knee), a tyre pressure monitoring system, but in a nod to its limited 4WD application the hill descent control is deleted.
Ferocious is the first word that springs to mind for several aspects of this car. The engine is feral and powerful, leaving little doubt as to the intent thanks to the active exhaust and living up to the noise with pace. The manufacturer claims five seconds is all it needs to reach the state limit and its own performance computer tows the company line.
Not bad for something that tips the scales at 2.3 tonnes, but you pay for such outlandish bouts of right-foot brutality at the pump, with a thirst that can go close to 20 litres per 100km, but it's not like you're shopping this leviathan against a Prius.
The weak link in the chain is the five-speed auto, which doesn't always respond with the alacrity of the six-speeder bolted to the back of the turbodiesel - using the paddles is a better option given the high (for a V8) torque peak in press-on driving.
Track mode on the adjustable suspension offers good body control but super-rigid ride and the latter doesn't soften as much as it should when the dial is turned back to Auto mode and the runflats probably don't help the ride either. The steering is serviceable - not pin sharp but not vague either, but it feels like it is left alone when the suspension modes are changed.
The big, comfortable and well-bolstered seats fight lateral forces admirably - it's the tyres that complain first - but the more-expensive European super SUVs show their class in the corners. The Jeep's stopping power also elicits some expletives - the big Brembos haul the wagon to a standstill remarkably well, giving credence to a claim (not tested on our public roads of course) of a 0-160-0km/h “go to whoa” time in the mid-16-second range.
Even moderate braking force can halt this demon from 100km/h in 40 metres, although some extra pedal force can apparently bring that down by another five metres. Unlike its more sedate Grand Cherokee siblings, this is more Mount Panorama than Mount Kosciusko - a deep front spoiler and 190mm of ground clearance, not to mention the absence of low range and the least "off-road" compatible all-wheel drive system mean this Grand Cherokee is unlikely to hop over any rocks.
What it can do is blow by a whole stack of purpose-built performance cars from standstill - and probably out-brake some of them as well. A tighter machine than the old one, the rocketship Grand Cherokee is a rough diamond - try going faster in an SUV for the money.
Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8
Price: from $76,000
Warranty: 3 years/100,000 km
Service interval: 10,000km/12 months
Safety rating: n/a
Engine: 6.4-litre V8 petrol 344kW/624Nm
Transmission: 5-spd automatic, constant 4WD
Body: 4.8m (L); 1.9m (w); 1.8m (h)
Thirst: 14.1 L/100km; 95RON; 328g/km Co2
BMW X5 M
Price: from $183,200
Engine: 4.4-litre, V8 bi-turbo petrol, 408kW/680Nm
Transmission: 6-speed auto, constant AWD
Thirst: 13.9L/100km; 98RON; CO2 325g/km
Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG
Price: from $177,900
Engine: 5.5-litre, V8 bi-turbo petrol, 386kW/700Nm
Transmission: 7-speed auto, constant AWD
Thirst: 11.8L/100km; 98RON; CO2 276g/km
Porsche Cayenne S
Price: from $151,300
Engine: 4.8-ltre, V8 petrol, 294kW/500Nm
Transmission: 8-speed auto, constant AWD
Thirst: 11.1L/100km; 98RON; CO2 263g/km